Recently, I replaced the radiator on my 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan. The minivan is a two wheel drive (2WD) vehicle with an engine size of 3.8 liters. The radiator was purchased new from a local Autozone located in Sacramento, CA. While it was not the least expensive radiator, it certainly was in stock whereas other parts store had similar items in stock but required shipment from a warehouse located outside of Sacramento. The warranty was defined as Limited Lifetime Warranty which means that so as long as I continue to own this vehicle (the registration is under my name) and the part should so fail on its own accord, not from damage caused by an accident, misuse, mishandling, etc., then Autozone will replace the part with an appropriate part at that time. Here are the steps I took to replace the radiator on this particular vehicle.
Things You Will Need
Safety glasses or goggles
Clean sweep material (for any hazardous liquid waste cleanup)
Basic tool kit
Drain pan (3 gallons)
Regardless of what piece of machinery your are working on, it is always best practice to disconnect the battery. The reason for this step is to prevent any unforseen accidents that may happen to involve electricity. This step will prevent such things as, but limited to the following, accidental car start, accidental start of the radiator fans, electrical shock when working within the engine compartment, etc. Once the negative side of the battery has been disconnected, you may wrap the negative wire in a rag to prevent the wire from inadvertently coming in contact with the battery.
Drain the cooling system into the drain pan; ensure that your drain pan will hold at least 3 gallons. If the coolant appears to be in relatively new and in good condition, you can save it and resuse it - which is what I have done in this case. Otherwise, please dispose of your used coolant at the appropriate waste disposal facility - Do not dump this waste into your sewer system as it is poisonous to all living animals. In the event of a spill, you can use the clean sweep material to pickup any spills and dispose of at the appropriate waste collection centers. When complete, detach the coolant reservoir hose from the fitting.
Remove the plastic shroud and place the bolts in a secure location. Take care in where you place the bolts as you will begin to accumilate screws and bolts in various sizes as it will be very important that you return the appropriate bolt to its appropriate place. You can take a moment to find a box with compartments and place bolts from each step into a new area while writing
on a piece of paper where they belong to - believe me, you'll be thanking me later for this advice!
Remove the enging hood latch and be sure to carefully unlock the plastic clips holding the cable in place - you can reuse the clips but take care not to break them. Once removed, you can unbolt the panel crossmember from the front of the engine compartment - this will allow you access to the upper radiator hose and upper radiator crossmember.
You will need to resposition the drain pan immediately under the radiator hose that you will be disconnecting to catch any residual coolant left in the lines. Disconnect the upper radiator hose and while you are there, inspect the hose for any damage before moving it away from your work area. If needed, replace the upper radiator hose with a new one. Disconnect the lower radiator hose and inspect this item as well to determine if it is in need of replacement.
Before removing the fan modules, you will need to disconnect it from their individual wiring harness. Remember that many wire disconnects are two-part systems where you must first move or slide the lock into the unlock position then depressing a clip to allow the harness to be removed from the module. Remove both fan modules and place away from the vehicle as you did with the other items removed from previous steps.
In this step you will be removing the lights to get to some of the bolts that hold the front panel (plastic bumper cover) to the actual front of the frame. It is necessary to remove this piece so that you have appropriate space to remove the radiator from the air conditioning system. You will begin to encounter items connected to the air conditioner system but you will not need to disconnect any object pertaining to this system. Take care in ensuring that the condenser and lines are supported when you remove the radiator. When you have removed the radiator, reverse your steps to put everything back together.
While replacing the radiator could be something left for a local auto mechanic or local Dodge dealership to do, it is quite satisfying to do it yourself. In my case, I have replaced many radiators in the past when I was in the United States Army as a Heavy Construction Equipment Mechanic but by no means is this a task reserved for a select few. With the necessary information at hand, a Chilton manual, and the help of your local parts store, you too, can perform alot of automobile repairs at home - just practice safe habits and know your limitations. May you find satisfaction in everything that you do!
Tips & Warnings
Before starting any work in the engine compartment of any vehicle, engage the parking brake. An additional safety precaution would be to use a wheel block to prevent the vehicle from moving. You will also need to ensure that you have sufficient area to work. Make sure that transmission is in Park and that the engine is turned off.