Annoyingly my radiator developed a leak recently. It’s strange too, as I’ve owned more than 20 cars in my life, and I’ve never had such a recently-built car have a leaking radiator.
I know why this happened, and it’s not because of overheating or hard driving, it’s just because the roads in Slovakia are quite poor and the base of my radiator has been shaken to pieces. I try to avoid as many pot holes as possible, but on Slovak roads you can’t always miss them all.
It seems driving in Slovakia is really tough on cars.
Finding replacement parts for Suzuki Swifts was a piece of cake however, and within a couple of days I had a brand new radiator in my hands for €147 from the supplier AutoKelly. Next comes the fun part: replacing it. First of all, remove the car’s bumper.
It’s actually pretty easy to remove, and even the non-technically minded could do this.
As you can see, there are actually two radiators in the picture below. This is normal. The bigger radiator at the back is the one that keeps the engine cool. The smaller radiator in the foreground is the air conditioning condenser.
To begin, first you must drain the radiator. Do this by taking off the top radiator cap, then unscrew the plastic plug behind the radiator at the bottom. You can see where it’s located on the third picture on this page. The water will pour out, and you should really catch this and bottle it so it doesn’t go down the drain (it’s toxic). A quick phone call to your local council will tell you where you can drop it off for recycling next time you’re out & about.
Once your radiator is empty, undo all the bolts you see in the above picture, and put them aside. The red bolts hold the radiator to the car body; the purple ones hold the condenser to the radiator, and the yellow ones hold the hood release mechanism. You will probably need a little lubricant on these bolts if they haven’t been undone recently.
The next step is to undo the three hoses connected to the radiator. There are two at the top, and one at the bottom. Use a pair of pliers or poly-grips to squeeze the clamp, and move the clamp back down the hose. Let go, and it’ll stay there. Then you can wiggle off the rubber pipes.
Once the hoses are moved aside, you can move the hood release mechanism out of the way, and move the condenser up and away too.
The last step before removal is disconnecting the electrical plug on the far right. After everything’s disconnected, and the condenser is wiggled out of the way a little, the radiator (with the fan still attached) should lift straight out.
With the old radiator out of the way (which still looks in very good condition – grrrrr!), you can remove the four bolts which hold in the cooling fan & its metal casing.
When you have replaced the fan & fan casing, reverse the entire process and re-install all the bolts. I recommend spraying all the bolts and holes with lubricating oil to prevent rust.
With all the hoses reconnected, it’s time to add fresh coolant with distilled water. Try not to use tap water as the minerals & metals in most tap water will lead to corrosion in your engine (which means spending lots of money in the future).
The anti-freeze coolant will have a guide to the correct dilution on the back. In my case I used one part coolant to two parts distilled water.
When you’re confident all the hoses are connected properly, the coolant system is filled up, and your radiator cap is on securely, you can start your car and warm it up until the engine is hot, and the radiator is run in. I let mine run for 30 minutes to be safe it can handle the heat.
Once the car has cooled down again (the next day for example), check the coolant levels again. You might need to add another splash if there was a little air in your car’s cooling system.
I’m confident I’ll squeeze a few more years out of that radiator. The only thing that worries me now, is what else the harsh Slovak roads could do to my poor car! Time will tell.
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