How Much Does a Radiator Replacement Cost?

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Not to be confused with the home radiator, an automobile radiator works to keep an engine cool and prevent overheating. It’s an essential part of a car’s cooling system since it utilizes outside air as a means to remove heat from coolant fluid. If the radiator in your car is bad or becomes damaged, you won’t be able to drive until it’s fixed.

Today, you’ll learn all you need to know about how a car radiator works, how much a new one costs, and how to replace it yourself. Having more information about radiators will give you peace of mind in case something happens.

Automobile radiator illustration
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What’s the Price of a New Radiator?

The cost to replace a radiator ranges from $13.91 to $2,869.22. The price of the part depends on a variety of factors such as brand, the location of purchase, and the type of vehicle that the part is made for. Radiator sizes may range from large to small depending on the size of the engine and the car.

Manufacturers price parts differently, so depending on which physical location or online site that the radiator is purchased at, the cost will change. Some of the most popular brands are Crown, Denso, Eurospare, Goodmark, Koyorad, Mishimoto, and Sherman.

Standard aftermarket radiators that are made with lower-quality materials will carry a subsequently lower price. For performance enthusiasts that love the push their cars to the absolute limit, higher-quality parts are available for purchase. These parts, however, will be more expensive than standard parts.

Another factor to keep in mind is the labor fee that you’ll be paying for a trained mechanic to do the physical work. Take a look at the prices below – these are the total radiator replacement price for different vehicle types including the labor charge:

VehicleTotal
2005 Subaru Outback$334
2010 Chrysler Sebring$521
2007 Chevrolet Colorado$470
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK350$720
2012 BMW 535i$820
2005 Porsche Cayenne$686

Once you’ve purchased a new radiator, you’ll need to decide on the best way for you to have it replaced inside your car.

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Where to Get A Radiator Replaced?

It may have already crossed your mind to check your telephone directory or yellow pages for local auto shops. If you haven’t done that yet, try to see if there’s any nearby. Almost every city in the US has multiple auto repair shops that can replace a radiator. Dealerships are also widespread.

If you purchased your car at a dealership, it’s recommended to bring your car back there, especially if it’s still under warranty. This way, you won’t have to pay for the repair. Some examples of good dealerships are for brands like Chevrolet, Hyundai, and Toyota.

Local automotive centers generally offer more competitive labor pricing than dealerships, although their staff isn’t guaranteed to handle every car issue. In some cases, they can turn down a job if they deem a vehicle to be unrepairable.

A few well-known and popular ones include Boca’s Best Auto Repair, America’s Best Automotive, and Sierra Tire Shop & Auto Repair.

The labor cost to fix a coolant leak can range from $77 to $182. Any of the aforementioned shops’ labor costs may lie somewhere in this range. When it comes to the total repair, the majority of the cost will come from the price of the radiator itself.

An option that you have at your disposal if you have extra time and the tools to do the work is to replace the radiator by yourself straight from your garage. If you’re interested, we’ve created a step-by-step guide for you to follow in the last section.

mechanic checking car radiator

What’s A Radiator Used For?

A car engine works by igniting fuel and air with the use of a spark plug. The resulting controlled explosions that are created produce a large amount of heat will destroy an engine if not kept in check.

A cooling system works to keep the engine from overheating. There are many components involved in a cooling system. The most prominent are the water pump, bypass system, thermostat, head and intake manifold gaskets, hoses, coolant reservoir, and the radiator, radiator cooling fans, and freeze plugs.

Arguably being the most important part of the cooling system, the radiator is, however, an often-misunderstood car part. In order to understand its role, you’ll need to understand how a cooling system works.

In general, a cooling system uses a system of hoses and tubes which circulates coolant through the engine, absorbing the heat and then sending it somewhere to cool off before it’s sent back to the engine. Where does it go to cool down? The radiator.

Coolant is usually a mixture of 50% antifreeze and 50% water. It’s circulated through the cooling system by a high-powered water pump. The radiator is located at the front of the vehicle. Once the coolant absorbs engine heat, flows through the tubes, and enters the radiator; it becomes cool due to the presence of incoming air which enters through the car’s front grill.

When an engine is in gear and in motion, the air from the outside is enough to remove the heat from the coolant. But when an engine is idling while parked, there is no airflow and thus, the engine would quickly overheat.

For this reason, one or two fans are mounted on the back of the radiator. Most radiator fans on modern vehicles are electric and are monitored by a sensor and controlled by the vehicle’s computer system.

The radiator is made out of aluminum tubes with strips called “fins” that go between the tubes. The coolant that enters the radiator passes through these tubes. As it does so, incoming air comes into contact with the fins and works to remove and disperse the heat in the coolant.

The aluminum tubes may run horizontally or vertically depending on the vehicle. Most modern cars use aluminum and plastic in the construction of radiators, although older types may use brass and copper.

A car with a malfunctioning or non-working radiator will not be able to cool down the engine sufficiently and will soon overheat and cease to work. For this reason, you’ll need to learn how to identify the symptoms of a bad radiator in order to hopefully fix the problem before it becomes worse. Keep reading to find some ways of diagnosing your dying radiator.

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What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Radiator?

A radiator’s main function is to help cool down the engine. If it can’t fulfill its primary purpose, the engine will eventually become damaged due to the intensity of the explosions that are occurring in the combustion chamber. Here are some of the symptoms of a bad radiator for you to watch out for:

  • Overheating – Obviously, if a radiator can’t do its job, the first thing that’s going to happen is that the engine is going to overheat. You’ll be alerted to this in a variety of ways.

An indicator light will illuminate on the dashboard. Smoke may begin to billow from the hood or the engine could suddenly turn off by itself. If you experience any of these symptoms, turn off the car immediately, wait for everything to cool down, and inspect the radiator.

  • Leaking – A radiator with a leak will eventually lead to a dead engine as well. You’ll be able to tell if there’s a leak if you see puddles of coolant on the ground under the car. Attempt to trace the drip and see if it’s coming from the radiator. Be aware that a leak can form while driving or parked, and if it’s only a small one, visible symptoms may not be seen right away without a little bit of investigation.
  • Warning Light – This symptom is somewhat connected to the previous one. In cases where the radiator has a leak but you haven’t identified it yet, the low coolant light on the dashboard will turn on.

If you’re on the road and need to get to a repair shop fast, you can add more coolant to the reservoir just so the engine will survive while you drive home or to a mechanic. An engine running without a cooling system will overheat very quickly.

  • Debris Buildup – A bad radiator can cause coolant that enters it to become contaminated. Normal coolant is usually green or yellow-colored. If you notice that the color of the coolant has changed, it’s probably been polluted due to excessive debris buildup in the radiator. This means that the coolant is not circulating properly in the system and you’ll need to get it checked out.

Replacing a car radiator is considered to be an intermediate job. It’s recommended that you have some experience with performing automobile repairs before you try.

It should take you less than 45 minutes to replace the radiator. You’ll need basic mechanic tools such as a set of sockets, wrenches, as well as a container to catch dripping fluid, a bottle of new engine coolant, and clean towels or rags to mop up spills and perform spot cleaning.

The replace Replacing a car radiator is considered to be an intermediate job. It’s recommended that you have some experience with performing automobile repairs before you try.

It should take you less than 45 minutes to replace the radiator. You’ll need basic mechanic tools such as a set of sockets, wrenches, as well as a container to catch dripping fluid, a bottle of new engine coolant, and clean towels or rags to mop up spills and perform spot cleaning.

The replace ment radiator that you bought should be compatible with your vehicle. You will also need a special clamp removal tool for the cooling hoses.

Once you’ve donned your protective attire, it’s time to prepare the car for the job. Disconnect the negative battery cableand prop up the hood cover. Make sure the engine is cold and the car is parked with the emergency brake engaged. Continue following the steps below:

  1. Find the radiator and remove the cap by pushing downwards on it and turning counter-clockwise. There may be a hiss as a bit of pressure is released.
  2. Remove the shielding from the radiator by using your wrench to take off the mounting bolts keeping it in place. You should now be able to access the bottom of the radiator. After you’ve got the shield off, look for the radiator drain plug and loosen it. As soon as you remove it, coolant will begin to drain out, so have your container ready underneath.
  3. Once all the coolant has drained out of the radiator, take off the mounting bolts or clips that are holding the air intake and plastic fascia in place. After all the fasteners are removed, take the cover off the engine bay. Set the air intake into place in another location.
  4. Find the mounting bolts keeping the coolant reservoir in place and remove them. Next, take off the overflow tube that’s connecting the coolant reservoir to the radiator. This hose can sometimes become stuck over time, so twist it gently. You should now be able to remove the coolant reservoir from its slot.
  5. Next, you’ll need to remove the cooling fan. Find its electrical connector and remove it. Use your clamp removal tool to loosen the upper radiator hose clamp. You can now twist off the upper hose. Remove all the mounting bolts keeping the cooling fan secured. Take out the cooling fan and housing.
  6. Now that you’ve got most of the other parts out of the way, it’s time to work on the radiator. Use a wrench to take off the two automatic transmission cooler lines from the radiator. Remove the radiator mounting bolts. Move the radiator forward to expose the air conditioner condenser. Disconnect the two parts. You don’t need to remove the condenser from the engine bay, though.
  7. Take off the lower radiator hose using your clamp removal tool again. If coolant drips out, have your container ready once more.

Once you’ve got any other hoses and clips removed, you should be able to pull the radiator out of the engine bay. Take the new radiator and match it up with the old one so you can slide it into the same position. Be careful not to damage the aluminum fins when lowering the new radiator in. Replace any mounting clips or bolts.

  1. Follow the steps above in reverse in order to hook everything back up the way it was before. Refill the system with fresh coolant and run the engine for a few minutes until it warms up. After the thermostat opens, close the radiator cap and make sure the coolant reservoir is at an optimal level. Close the hood and take the vehicle for a test drive to see if any symptoms are re-occurring.
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Author Bio

Eddie Carrara

Eddie Carrara

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