Can I do this car repair myself? Or is that a bad idea...

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by mattsk42, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    2004 Cadillac SRX V8 w/towing package. 111,000 miles. Mostly Dargie Delight and Reggie Hamilton passengers, not really any towing at all.

    So coolant has been leaking slowly, and just yesterday it leaked all the way gone in just 1 short 5 min. drive. "Engine hot" thing came on and it said to pull over. I let it cool down and went back and filled it again, and it did the same thing to me. I managed to get it to the dealer, and they say it's needing a complete replacement of the radiator, not the coolant tank like I thought. Well they want $900 after parts and labor. I can get one for like $250 it looks like (suggestions welcome) so I could save a ton by doing it myself. I have another car to use in the meantime.

    My question is: Is this something a mostly novice should attempt? Are aftermarket radiators ok or is there a reason to get factory?
  2. Aftermarket parts have to meet guidelines and regulations, so there shouldn't be a problem there. If you're that worried about the part itself, go to a scrapyard and get one from a car that was totalled from a rear or side hit collision. As to whether or not you'd be able to fit the part yourself? That's another story altogether, but it's not impossible to find a garage or an acquaintance to fit the part cheaper than the dealer.
  3. Texan

    Texan 667 Neighbor of the Beast.

    Aug 15, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Make sure that you don't just need a new radiator hose. I've seen shops replace want to replace the entire thing when all that was needed was a hose.

    If you can identify where your leak is coming from your half way there.

    If you do have to replace the entire radiator, depending on the design of the car, it can be very simple or have lots of stuff in the way.
  4. I replaced a radiator on a 1991 GMC Sierra with ease. We also went to a shop and bought a radiator for $185.00. It wasn't that hard of a job at all. They want your old radiator back for the core charge.
  5. Old Fart

    Old Fart

    Mar 11, 2011
    Examine the radiator yourself, along with the hoses. Also examine the water pump. A tired water pump will leak. The water pump is bolted to the front of the engine. If the fan is not electric, if it is driven by a belt, it is probably attached to the water pump. The water pump will have an aluminum body with 6-10 bolts holding it onto the front of the engine. If the leakage is coming out of that water pump area, then that is the problem. Water pumps are NOT simple to replace, because of the corrosion of the fasteners (bolts, nuts).

    The point is to identify, for yourself, where the leaking is happening. It is not unlikely that the problem is the radiator. Radiators are made of plastic and aluminum, and those two materials expand and contract at different rates, under heat. Eventually, the plastic/aluminum joints loosen and leak.

    Check to see what things might be in the way of removing the radiator. If there is not much in the way, then it should be fairly easy to replace. Get a shop manual for that vehicle (available at auto parts stores for about $20). Read the entire procedure at least once, thoroughly. Then start. Go slow.
  6. blastoff99

    blastoff99 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2011
    SW WA, USA
    I did not know this. Whose guidelines and regulations?

    OP, radiator replacement itself is unlikely to be all that difficult. It's the "getting to the radiator" part that may be a challenge.
  7. Just do it and learn. It shouldn't be that difficult.

    Like others have said, though, you need to find where it's leaking from in order to fix it. And the way you say it's leaking, it shouldn't be that hard to find the general location to start from.

    It just might be as simple as finding the hole, cleaning it, and putting on some radiator epoxy.

    Good luck
  8. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    All of this is correct. If the water wasn't leaking as you were pouring it in (as is the case with a defective radiator) I'd get the car home, fill it, then allow it to warm up and you first visually assertain where the leak is from, then proceed from there.
  9. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    One complicating factor is that with the towing package you may have extra plumbing up there for a transmission cooler or similar. It would certainly make removing the radiator a longer process because those are usually bolted on the front of the radiator.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Not a big deal, other than getting TO the radiator. You can check prices at

    BUT - if you call it an "Engine Hot thing", I'm wondering if you have the mechanical skills for the job. The phrasing does not imply familiarity with mechanics. I'm not talking down to you, but stating a fact.

    Whenever you have a problem, the most critical part is doing an accurate diagnosis so that you know what action to take. Radiators aren't that hard to do, but you need basic mechanical aptitude, knowledge and patience to do it right.
  11. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Inactive

    Jan 20, 2011
    I'm changing my radiator this weekend. Luckily it's a simple car & easy to get to (MIata). Radiator was aftermarket middle of the pack expense $100 not $250. My homeboy has all of the tools I need; my only other cost is coolant. $10/gal.
    Search web & youtube they will likely have instructions for your make/model if it's in fact the radiator you need to change. I stay away from budget super cheap parts.
  12. Truktek2


    Sep 5, 2008
    Queens, NY
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The only reason to not do it yourself is if you have to disconnect the AC condencer to replace the radiator. Its a stupid design but on some vehicles you cant get one out with out removing them both. On my Dodge Ram I had to diacharge the AC just to replace the AC fan motor.
  14. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    That'll teach you for wimping out and buying a car with AC. I get cool like a man, with a pick and an open window in front of me.
  15. Check for parts. Often times they can beat almost everyone.

    The replacement itself is fairly straight forward, but getting clearance and access so you can remove it can take time and may involve more disassembly and unplugging of wires than you may be comfortable reassembling if you are new to this. If you have additional coolers with your towing package you may need more time to make sure you get everything reconnected without contaminating your fluids.

    Buy the Chiltons. Take pictures and make notes on what went where and in what order and you should be fine. (take special note of longer or shorter bolts too)
  16. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Yep, the one I tried had a ton of pulleys in front of it. Let's just say once I was done with it there was no question of whether or not it was going to the mechanic. Not trying to scare you off though, just saying it can be tricky on some cars.
  17. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    Did they pressure test the entire system? Is the dealer sure that you don't have a cracked block or warped heads? A used replacement engine will be around 7K, new about 11K.
  18. I remember my 73 ford took 4 hours just to get down to the radiator. (After further contemplation, it was the water pump that too so long to get to, not the radiator. I never replaced the rad on that car)

    On my Jeep it took 10 minutes, not counting draining and filling/burping it.

    I'm sitting 15 feet from a a new radiator and set of hoses for my MG. If I tried, I bet I could do the entire job carefully in less than an hour including draining and filling. But It is the original radiator so I'll be doing some cleaning while it is out.

    It's the work needed to get to the job you are trying to do which will give you trouble.
  19. Indiana Mike

    Indiana Mike Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    You can do it...

    Just be patient and take your time . You may find you do or won't have to unhook/remove a lot of other items to get it out/in

    Do it when the car is cold ,like after it hasn't ran for 12 hours or more .
    Burnt hands and arms aren't any fun.
  20. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Take that original radiator to a REAL radiator shop and have it rodded out, then re-install. Today's aluminum radiators are not anything like as solid as those original brass ones.
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