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How to Replace a Radiator in a 2002 Saturn L200

Dan Ferrell writes about DIY car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in Automation and Control Technology and Technical Writing.

A Potential Weekend Project

If you learn how to replace a radiator in your 2002 Saturn l200 or similar model, you'll save close to $200 in labor charges. You just need to spend a couple of hours to install it and between $80 and $180 dollars on the new radiator, depending on the particular brand and quality replacement you want to install.

In rare cases, it's still possible to repair a radiator, but more often than not you'll need to replace it. Most modern radiators are composed of an aluminum core and a couple of plastic tanks. Over time, aluminum passages fill with rust; road debris stick between fins, diminishing the radiator's cooling efficiency and increasing heat pressure; then, the seams corrode, and the plastic weakens and cracks. Soon, coolant begins to leak.

If you want to replace the radiator yourself, you can do it as a weekend project. This guide gives you the necessary steps to replace the radiator along with the torque specifications for your l200 model. If you have a different model, the specs aren't much different. Still, you'll find the specifications in your service manual. If you don't want to buy the manual, check your local library website to see if they subscribe to an online shop manual.

The next procedure applies to the 2002 Saturn L200 with the L4, 2.2L engine and similar models.

Tools You'll Need:

  • Floor jack
  • Two jack stands
  • Two wheel chocks or wooden blocks
  • Combination (open/end) hand-wrench set
  • Ratchet
  • Ratchet extension
  • Socket set
  • Trim pin removal tool, if necessary
  • 1.5 ft Clear plastic hose – 3/8-in inside diameter, if necessary
  • Drain container – 5 quarts capacity
  • Standard screwdriver
  • Container to store used coolant, if necessary
  • Line wrench or flare-nut wrench for L200 models with automatic transmission
  • Two small plastic sheets and rubber bands, if necessary
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Piece of wire, about two feet long
  • Torque wrench
  • Antifreeze if you're planning on replacing the coolant as well

Draining Your Radiator

  1. First, try to make room in your garage so that you have enough room around the front of your Saturn and keep your tools on hand, if possible. Working inside an enclosed garage would be the ideal place. If not, choose an appropriate level surface to park your car.
  2. Once set up, pop the hood open and make sure the engine and radiator are cool to avoid serious skin burns.
  3. Loosen the cap on the coolant reservoir tank, jack up your car and support it safely with a couple of jack stands and block the rear wheels with chocks.
  4. Towards the bottom and left (driver's side) of your radiator, you'll see a semicircular shield blocking access to the lower part of the radiator on that side. Crawl under the front of your Saturn, unbolt the splash shield screws with a ratchet, ratchet extension and socket, and move the shield to the side (some models come with a plastic shield you can remove by pulling off the plastic pins using a trim pin removal tool). This will give you access to the radiator’s drain plug.
  5. Connect a length of hose of 3/8-in inside diameter over the radiator drain plug and point the other end of the hose into a clean, drain container with capacity of at least five quarts (skip the hose if you can drain the radiator without splashing coolant all over the floor). If you were planning on replacing the radiator fluid, now will be a good time to do it.
  6. Now open the radiator’s drain plug. Rotate this valve about 2 turns counterclockwise using a standard screwdriver. On some models, you just turn the valve by hand about a quarter of a turn and pull it out slightly. Loosen the radiator cap to speed up coolant draining. After draining the radiator, close the valve and move the container with the coolant out of the way. If you plan on reusing the drained coolant, cover the container to keep dust and other foreign matter out of it. Or store it in a closed container in a safe place for later recycling.
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How to Remove the Radiator

  1. Disconnect the battery and the two fan electrical connectors located on top of the fan assembly shroud. Move the fan wiring harness out of the way by carefully releasing the wiring from its routing tabs. On some models, you'll need to remove the air filter box, air duct connected to the filter box (if necessary), and the plastic, resonator box in front of the radiator.
  2. Now, if you have an L200 model with an automatic transmission, on the upper section of the radiator tank — to the right of the radiator (driver's side) — you'll see the upper transaxle steel cooler line connected to the tank. Disconnect this line from the radiator using a line wrench. When disconnecting the line, a bit of transmission fluid will flow out of the line. Place a small container under the line to catch the oil. Then, cap the line using the plastic sheet and secure the sheet with the rubber band. This will prevent contamination of the transmission oil.
  3. Place a drain container on the floor, towards the upper radiator hose, and disconnect the hose. Use a pair of slip-joint pliers to slide the hose clamp towards the engine. When ready, carefully twist the hose back and forth at the radiator fitting to loosen the grip and slowly pull the hose off the radiator fitting.
  4. Unbolt the radiator shroud and move it to the side.
  5. Place the drain container on the floor and disconnect the lower radiator hose. Then, move the drain container to a safe place.
  6. If you have an automatic transmission, disconnect the lower transaxle cooler line from the radiator tank using the line wrench and cap the line as you did with the upper cooler line.
  7. Unbolt and remove the upper radiator mount brackets and, using a piece of wire, secure the condenser cylinder (towards the right and bottom of the radiator) to the chassis or another safe spot on your Saturn.
  8. Right in front of the condenser cylinder, on the engine side, you will see a small metal block which one of the condenser lines connects to. Unbolt the screw securing the condenser block to the radiator assembly. Then remove the bolt holding the liquid line to the condenser cylinder-mounting bracket. You'll find it behind the condenser cylinder—do not disconnect the line.
  9. When ready, unbolt the condenser unit from the radiator. Be careful not to disconnect any of the lines connected to the condenser or condenser cylinder itself.
  10. Separate the condenser from the radiator by pushing the condenser down to disengage the tabs.
  11. Now, look for the remaining bolts holding the radiator to the rail and unbolt them. Double-check that you're not missing any other bolts or wires that may interfere and carefully lift the radiator out of the engine compartment.

How to Install the 2002 Saturn L200 Radiator Replacement

Once you get the radiator back from the shop—or received the new unit—install it by following the removal procedure in reverse order. Carefully lower your new radiator into position so as not to crush the radiator fins.

Use the following specifications when mounting your radiator using a torque wrench:

  1. Torque the radiator-to-rail bolts to 53 lb-in (6 Nm).
  2. Torque the radiator-to-condenser bolts to 35 lb-in (4 Nm).
  3. Torque the liquid-line-to-condenser bolt to 35 lb-in (4 Nm).
  4. Torque the condenser-block-to-radiator-assembly bolt to 35 lb-in (4 Nm).
  5. Torque the lower transmission cooler line to 18 lb-in (2.5 Nm).
  6. Torque the fan-assembly-shroud-to-radiator bolts to 35 lb-in (4 Nm).
  7. Torque the upper transmission cooler line to 18 lb-in (2.5 Nm).
  8. Torque the lower splash shield to 44 lb-in (5 Nm).
  9. Finally, secure all electrical wires away from moving parts.
  10. Refill the radiator with coolant. If you are reusing the drained coolant, use a spout to pour the coolant from the drain bucket. Then, top off the radiator with fresh coolant if necessary.

    If you want to add new coolant instead, check your vehicle repair manual for the antifreeze to use in your particular model.
  11. And don't forget to check the coolant level regularly and add as necessary.
  12. Store used coolant in a closed container in a safe place for later recycling.
  13. Drive test your Saturn and check for coolant leaks.

Learning how to replace a radiator in a 2002 Saturn L200 is not difficult, but it gets confusing at times, especially if you have not much experience in car maintenance and repair. However, it's still within the reach of the average car owner. If possible, get a copy of the repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model. The manual covers most maintenance tasks you need to do in your 2002 Saturn and many of them don't require special tools. Overall, you'll save hundreds of dollars in maintenance and repairs by doing these jobs at home yourself.

Saturn Repair Manuals

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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