DIY Toyota Camry Radiator Replacement
Replacing a Radiator
Most radiators in modern automobiles, including the Toyota Camry, are made of aluminum and plastic. Their average lifespan is seven to ten years when properly maintained.
When you detect a leak in your radiator, you should replace it, instead of trying to repair it or adding a stop-leak fluid to the cooling system. Hairline cracks in the plastic cannot be repaired and usually indicate that the structure of the plastic has been compromised by the heat and pressure of the coolant. Also, a leak may appear where the plastic is connected to the aluminum. The glue or sealant used to maintain a watertight seal may break down, causing a leak even while the radiator appears perfectly fine.
Most non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) aftermarket radiators can be purchased for approximately $100. If you want the absolute best radiator, perhaps better than the factory original, get Koyo brand. Koyo is an OEM supplier for Toyota and Honda. Of course, Koyo is not cheap.
You can remove the old radiator and install a new one in approximately 1.5 hours with no special tools. In addition, you can do the removal-and-installation process outlined here above the car; that is, you don't need to lift the car up and get under it to remove the splash pan and lower radiator hose. If the radiator failure was due to contaminated, worn-out coolant, drain any residual coolant from the engine block and consider replacing the thermostat. The upper and lower radiator hoses, in most cases, do not need to be replaced on the Camry.
Use Toyota (Pink) Coolant, Not Green Coolant
All the Camry radiators I have seen that failed and had to be replaced had been using at least some green coolant (ordinary non-brand-specific), rather than Toyota brand pink coolant. Some had some original pink coolant in their coolant reservoir, while the cooling system itself was green with signs of residual pink. If you have switched from the factory pink to green, flush the system thoroughly with water before introducing a different-colored coolant. Better yet, stick with the Toyota pink coolant. I believe mixing different colored coolants causes a reaction that reduces the anti-corrosion and water-pump-lubricating properties of the factory coolant.
Choosing a Radiator
When purchasing a replacement radiator, ensure all the ports on the replacement match those on the original radiator, with new brass fittings for the transmission supply and return lines. Ensure the bracket mounts for the two fan shrouds match as well. Some replacement radiators do not come with a drain port and plug, but the better ones do.
Radiator Component Details
Step-By-Step Instructions for Radiator Replacement
1. Remove the radiator filler cap and detach the radiator reservoir hose.
2. Detach the driver's-side fan and the ECT switch connector. The ECT (Engine Coolant Temperature) sensor measures water temperature.
3. Detach the passenger-side fan connector.
4. Disconnect the supply and return transmission fluid lines from the transmission. If your transmission is manual, this step is not necessary.
5. Remove the four 10 mm bolts that secure the two cooling fan shrouds. Then pull the cooling fan shroud up and out to expose the ECT temperature control wire harness strap.
6. Disconnect the ECT wire harness strap from the strap mount. Then disconnect the ECT wire plug from the water temperature sending unit.
7. Drain the coolant. Reach under the driver's side of the radiator and twist off the drain plug. Leaving the drain plug partly inside the radiator will direct the coolant flow through the drain port.
8. Disconnect the upper radiator hose from the radiator and the lower radiator hose from the engine/water pump.
After the upper hose has been disconnected, remove the driver's-side fan shroud by pulling the shroud up.
9. Unbolt the two upper radiator support mounts, remove the mounts, and pull the radiator up from its lower support mount.
10. With the old radiator out, disconnect it from:
- the lower radiator hose
- the supply and return transmission oil lines
- the water temperature sending unit
- the lower radiator support mounts, if detached from their sockets.
11. Transfer items from the old radiator to the new radiator. Screw on the brass fittings for the transmission supply and return connections at the same angle as the original fittings. Do not over-torque. Re-check the tension and check for leaks after the radiator has been installed with the ATF lines. Do the same for the water temperature sending unit. Use plumber's tape or gasket seal on the threads for a leak-free seal.
12. Reverse your steps to re-install items you disconnected.
- Connect ATF lines.
- Connect water temperature sensor plug and wire harness plug.
- Drop in the driver's and passenger's side fan shrouds and bolt them onto the radiator.
- Connect the fan electrical connectors.
- Connect the upper and lower radiator hoses.
- Make sure the drain plug is installed and pour in the new coolant. Squeeze the upper hose to remove air pockets.
- Start the engine with the drain cap off and add coolant if needed.
- Check for ATF and coolant leaks and ensure all electrical fittings are connected.