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.

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3. Detach the passenger-side fan connector.

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4. Disconnect the supply and return transmission fluid lines from the transmission. If your transmission is manual, this step is not necessary.

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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.

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6. Disconnect the ECT wire harness strap from the strap mount. Then disconnect the ECT wire plug from the water temperature sending unit.

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Water Temperature Sensor
Water Temperature Sensor
Water Temperature Sensor

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.

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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.

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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.

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Comments 28 comments

Brent 4 years ago

Huge help with the numbered steps AND nice pics! Just did mine today using this and one other DIY as pre-job references and it went well. Thanks!

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hardlymoving 4 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


Glad it worked out for you.

STeve Peele 3 years ago

How long should I expect this to take? .

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hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


If you've done it before and with the right tools, around an hour. If for the first time, 1.5 to 2 hours. Hard part is removing the transmission supply and return hoses. Have a pair of needle nose pliers that are rounded on the tip to remove hoses.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Better to remove 2 trans. hoses at the top near the engine, and then slide the whole radiator up and out with fans and temp sensor in place. It saves a lot of time and effort.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Also, you can leave the bottom rad. hose connected and still slide up the rad. with fans in place.

cam95guy 3 years ago

When you put the old temp sensor in the new plastic/aluminum radiator, use one wrap around of teflon tape on the the threads. That will make it easier to remove the temp. sensor at a future time w/o cracking your plastic radiator tank. Also prevents coolant leaks. Don't put a lot of tape or the plastic might crack when you tighten the fitting.

cam95guy 3 years ago

To remove hoses that seem stuck in place, you can use a thin flat screwdriver or better a thin and narrow piece of plastic or metal. Push it between the hose and the metal the hose goes around. Then the hose should be easier to remove.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Beware when you bolt your new radiator in place with the top clamps. You don't want to warp the radiator. You might find that one of the rubber rings on the bottom of the radiator is worn more than the other (or the hole it goes in is rusted) and that could cause uneven mounting of the radiator. Clean out the holes that the rubber rings go in. Get new rubber rings if necessary. Make sure the radiator is jimmied in place properly so that when you mount the top brackets, you're not warping the radiator or the seams will fail early.

cam95guy 3 years ago

After you pull out the radiator w/ the fans still on and the bottom radiator hose and the bottom trans. hoses still connected, you can lay the old radiator flat and put the new radiator protective caps on the old radiator hose connections. Then you can easily pour the remaining transmission oil into a clean pan so you can pour it back into the engine. Also you can pour the remaining antifreeze in to a container for recycling. You may be able to recycle your old radiator as scrap metal at your county recycling center or a junk yard that accepts junk metal

cam95guy 3 years ago

A lot of your bolts might be so rusty that you can't fit a socket over them properly. Just take a pliers and open it so it grabs the sides of bolt head and that will remove the rust. Repeat for each pair of bolt sides. Also, use penetrating fluid before removing the bolts, but after letting it soak in, clean the bolt heads so the socket doesn't slip when turning it.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Be careful when putting on your new hoses. The old hose clamps may not be big enough to easily slide on the hose when the hose is mounted on the radiator. Too much force could break the plastic. You might need to use screw tightened hose clamps or get squeeze clamps that open more than the originals do.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Put in the new antifreeze 50/50 mix w/distilled water but make sure it is without "minerals added for taste", which some companies are adding. Don't expect to be able to fill more than you removed, which is probably 1 gal due to the rest of the antifreeze sitting in the engine in places you can only get at if you remove the engine drain plug.

cam95guy 3 years ago

The hardest part about removing the radiator can be removing the wire strap on the drivers side to allow you to slide the radiator w/fans still mounted. Simply take a small narrow flat screwdriver and push the wire strap end so it gets forced back from where it came from . See figure 6 above. Then, to completely remove the other strap on the bottom of the radiator after you remove the radiator with the fans intact, you can squeeze its grippers that go through the rectangular hole in the old radiator and jimmy the entire strap holder out of the hole. Then you can mount it on the new radiator.

cam95guy 3 years ago

Expect your radiator and transmission hoses and hose clamps to need replacement, so get them in case you need them.

Al 2 years ago

what a good kind of radiator brand for my toyota camry 99, I need something that is no more than $70 dollars, I bought one on line for $50 but it leaked transmission fluid from the bottom of the radiator, turned out the the quality of the fitting was bad

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hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


Denso is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). They are available on Amazon for slightly more than $70. Here's the link:

Sarah 18 months ago

Just wondering if it is possible to put a radiator from a 1999 manual Toyota Camry into a 1993 automatic Camry. Hoping you can help.

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hardlymoving 18 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


Unless the radiator has a suppy and return fitting for the automatic transmission oil line, no.

Randy 15 months ago

one of my Automatic transmission lines (drivers side of radiator) has a leak. I found coolant leaking from this line at the radiator. The locking but that holds the adaptor in the radiator has rusted off the adaptor threads.!! Can I buy a new nut? Or do you think the threads are gone also.

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hardlymoving 15 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


I'd recommend replacing the radiator and be worry fee. They're not that expensive if purchased off the net.

sc 14 months ago

Great instructions. I replaced the OEM radiator on my 1999 Camry LE with a Denso 221-0500, and air bled the cooling system. But the cooling fans do not come on even with the heater set to HOT and cycling the system for 30 minutes. Can someone post links to the correct Water Temperature Sending Unit and ECT Wire Harness/Plug in case I need to replace those two?

MoreCowbell 2 months ago

Thanks for the article. I just bought a 97 Camry and it is missing both lower rubber bushing supports. It seems that the upper bushings (Dorman 926-279) are everywhere but I cannot find even a reference to what the lower bushings are supposed to be. Are they the same part number as the uppers?

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hardlymoving 2 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


Did you check if the lower bushings was stuck to the radiator after you took it out?

MoreCowbell 2 months ago

Thanks for the quick reply. Yep, as I was lowering the new one down into the car and noticed that there were no rubber grommets, I checked the old one and it had none. The old one was a replacement itself by the previous owner. I suspect that he lost them the first time the radiator was replaced.

I'm thinking that if I cannot locate the actual part for this car, I can just find a similarly sized one (the uppers don't fit the bottom- I checked)

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hardlymoving 2 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


Suggest you take a quick trip to your local junkyard. the rubber bushing is a unique part and without it or with a make shift version, I believe, will cause un-dampened vibration of your radiator.

David McMullen 4 hours ago

What is the other radiator for?

My car has another in front of this one.

David McMullen55 profile image

David McMullen55 4 hours ago

My Toyota Camry seems to have two radiators.

What does the one in the very front do?

Mine is busted and I only got the other one from the store.

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