Every car and truck with a gas or diesel engine uses a cooling system to shed excess heat generated by the engine as it runs. Coolant absorbs engine heat and carries it to the radiator, where a fan is used to pull air through to draw heat off. This is most important when the vehicle isn’t moving, and when it’s under heavy loads such as acceleration or climbing a grade.
Most modern engines use one or two electric cooling fans. Most shops will replace the radiator cooling fan and the fan shroud as one assembly, as most aftermarket cooling fans are made as a complete assembly. If OE parts are used, it’s often possible to replace just the electrical cooling fan motor. The cooling fan and cooling fan shroud are located on the radiator. This means that in order to remove the fans, sometimes, the radiator must be removed, the front bumper may have to be removed, or the front core support may have to be removed.
In trucks and some other vehicles, it’s still common to have a cooling fan driven by a belt. Usually, a belt driven fan will have a fan clutch to engage or release the fan, reducing the amount of energy the fan uses when not necessary. In most cases, this is run off the front of the water pump.
Cost of Radiator Fan Replacement
The average cost of a cooling fan replacement is about $600, but costs can vary widely. depending on the number of components required to be pulled out to be able to remove the cooling fan from a vehicle.
As for the cost of the parts, it is dependent on the type of vehicle being serviced and the type and quality of the replacement parts to be used.
For some estimates on the cost of replacing the radiator fan on some different vehicles, using $150 an hour as a typical shop labor rate:
|Car Model||Labor Time & Cost||Aftermarket Radiator Fan Assembly||Factory Radiator Fan Assembly|
|2016 Honda Pilot||$330 (2.2 hrs)||$180 for a GPD part||$250|
|2006 Volkswagen GTI||$345 (2.3 hrs)||$200 for an SKP part||$430|
|2011 Dodge Charger, 3.6 liter engine||$135 (0.9 hrs)||$180, for a Four Seasons part||$389|
|2017 Honda Civic, 1.5 liter engine||$270 (1.8 hrs)||$400, for a TYC assembly||$434 (motor only)|
Signs that you might need a radiator fan.
If your cooling system is topped off and not leaking, but doesn’t maintain a steady engine temperature, your cooling fan may not be working properly. One way to verify if the fan is working is to turn the AC on with the engine idling; the fan should be running. If there are two fans, they should both be running. If there is a variable-speed fan, it should be on high.
If an electric fan isn’t running when it should be, there are several possible causes, such as the fuse, sensors, switches, relays, and control modules. A diagnosis is usually required to ensure that the right parts are replaced. In many cases, an electric cooling fan failure will trigger an engine code and a “check engine” light on the dash. That then has a set of diagnostic steps to verify the failure.
Another sign is that with the AC on, the air conditioner might not be as cold as usual. The AC system relies on airflow across the condenser to operate, and there will be little to no AC cooling at idle if the fan or fans are not running.
What else could go wrong?
The first obvious thing to check would be the coolant level. If that’s okay, then the next step would be to make sure that the radiator isn’t blocked. Dirt or debris can build up on the radiator and condenser and block airflow, interfering with cooling even if everything else is fine.
In the cooling fan system itself, there are several different components that all work together. The control module usually monitors the coolant via two temperature sensors; one located in the radiator and the other somewhere on the cylinder head.
When the engine control module determines that the coolant is at the specified temperature, it then commands the fans to turn on, usually at low-speed first if this is a fan with two speeds, or at low speed if it’s a variable speed fan. If one of the coolant sensors is not functioning properly and is reading a much lower temperature than the actual temperature, the control module may not turn the fans on, and your engine may overheat.
Technicians can usually diagnose this problem by checking to see whether the coolant temperature sensors are reading accurately in the PCM, which monitors it. If the sensors are good, they will then check to make sure that the cooling fan has proper power and ground and also check for any possible failed relays. A fuse or fusible link issue can also cause an inoperative fan.
In some cases, the cooling fan motor itself might not be an issue if you have a cracked or broken fan shroud that can decrease the cooling efficiency. This would be so because the air would be escaping through those cracks instead of traveling through the radiator fins. A broken fan blade can also cause a decrease in cooling efficiency, as it would not be drawing the proper amount of air across the radiator fins. If the fan has stopped working altogether due to an electric motor failure, the motor would need to be replaced.
The most common “generic” code is P0480, though different manufacturers will have a number of other possible codes.
The easiest way to tell is to compare the turning resistance of the fan (engine not running) between the problem vehicle and a known-good vehicle. It’s not always possible to be certain.
It depends on the vehicle; some are easy, some are difficult. Doing some research on the specific model is a good way to decide. Sometimes you can guess based on the amount of labor time the job calls for in a shop estimate. A cooling fan attached to the front of a water pump usually requires a special tool to remove.
Not really; it’s fairly easy to damage a modern engine by overheating it, and it’s easy to overheat an engine with a bad cooling fan motor.