The national cost for a radiator replacement in 2023 is between $246 and $1086 with an average of $586​

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National average cost of a a Radiator Replacement
for popular vehicles:

Car Model

Avg. cost


What is a radiator and how does it work?

A radiator is a central component of your vehicle's engine cooling system. It is made up of a series of thin metal tubes that weave their way back and forth across a matrix of even thinner aluminum cooling fins. The radiator is located ahead of the engine, just behind the front bumper and grille where air can pass through easily.

In order to mitigate the heat caused by combustion and help your engine to operate within a designated temperature range, liquid coolant (a mixture of ethylene glycol and water, also referred to as “antifreeze”) is forced through the engine block. On its way through, the coolant absorbs some of the heat and exits the engine. From there, the coolant travels through a rubber hose to the radiator. Heat is transferred again, this time from the coolant to the radiator’s metal tubes. As air passes across the cooling fins, aided by the engine cooling fan(s), the heat dissipates into the atmosphere. This not only keeps your engine running at a relatively constant temperature, it also serves to prevent overheating.


How do I know if my vehicle needs a new radiator?

The most common - and concerning - symptom of a failing radiator is engine overheating. If your engine overheats, you might notice a dashboard warning light come on, or the temperature gauge climb above the normal level. If overheating becomes severe, the check engine light might also illuminate or even begin to blink. If the radiator is leaking coolant, you might smell a syrupy odor and see a leak on the ground at the front of your vehicle.

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How is a a Radiator Replacement done?

To replace a clogged, damaged, or leaking radiator, a technician will first need to let your engine cool down for about a half an hour to prevent injury from scalding hot coolant. Your vehicle might need to be lifted and supported off of the ground for access. From there, common steps will include the following (although they might differ depending on your vehicle make and model):

  • Open a valve on the bottom of the radiator or remove the lower radiator hose to drain the coolant from the system
  • Detach the upper and lower radiator hoses and the hose leading to the coolant reservoir
  • Disconnect the electrical connector to the electric cooling fan assembly
  • Remove the bolts securing the fan shroud to the radiator and remove the fan assembly (if necessary)
  • Disconnect the transmission cooling lines from the radiator
  • Unbolt the radiator mounts from the vehicle body structure
  • Remove the AC condenser mounting bolts (if necessary)
  • Pull the radiator out of its mounting location
  • Insert the new radiator
  • Reinstall the condenser mount bolts and radiator mount bolts
  • Reconnect the transmission cooling lines and radiator hoses
  • Mount the cooling fan assembly and reconnect the wires
  • Refill the coolant and bleed the air from the system (this can be quite an involved process)

Other questions customers ask

Is it hard to replace a car radiator?
Replacing a radiator on a modern vehicle can be pretty tricky. Vehicles made decades ago featured huge engine compartments and easy access to the radiator. Not so today. In many cases, other components must be removed for access. The amount of space to work in is extremely tight. Not to mention that your vehicle must be lifted off of the ground to get at the radiator in most cases. And then there is the job of bleeding the air out of the system once the radiator has been replaced. Failure to do it correctly (a thing not easily accomplished on some models) can result in serious engine overheating issues.
Can you drive with a broken radiator?
Driving with a damaged, plugged, or leaking radiator can be extremely harmful to your engine. The radiator is a key component for keeping your engine cool. Overheating can cause catastrophic engine damage and cost thousands of dollars in repairs. That is to say nothing of the nuisance of getting stranded if overheating does occur.
How long does it take for a mechanic to replace a radiator?
The length of time it takes for a professional mechanic to replace a car radiator really depends on the vehicle make and model. Some radiators provide easier access than others. Some cooling systems are quite difficult to bleed the air from after repairs have been made. While some radiators can be swapped out in an hour or so, two to three hours is closer to average. Expect the job to take significantly longer if you try to do it yourself. And understand the risks to your engine if you do not do the job properly.

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