Fitting a Car Radiator: Getting the Right Size and Type

January 27, 2012

When fitting a radiator to your car, it's important to have one that's the correct size and type for the vehicle. If you don't do this, then the radiator simply won't work in the car without a great deal of ingenuity and work. It's much simpler to get the correct radiator for your vehicle to begin with, and save a great deal of trouble and money.


Measuring the radiator size will mean checking the dimensions, so fitting it will be a great deal easier. Begin by measuring the radiator's height, going from the bottom to the top, on the side which has the top hose outlet. This will give you the greatest height of the radiator.

The width needs to be measured from the outside edge of one tank to the outside edge of the other tank. By measuring the thickness of the radiator at the top you'll be able to ascertain how many cores are in the radiator; it's important to have the correct number when fitting a radiator. Also measure the core between the tanks of the radiator.


It's important to have the hose outlets on the correct side when fitting a radiator, because they won't have enough room to reach in the engine compartment otherwise. There will be two outlets, one at the top and the other at the bottom. Make a careful note of which sides these outlets are on.

Is there a radiator cap or does the radiator use a reservoir in what's known as a closed system? Having the right radiator type for the different systems is vital in order for it to operate correctly.


On the driver's side of the tank, look to see if large hoses go to the tank. If so, there is an oil cooler and you'll need a radiator that can accommodate this. It's important not to mistake these for radiator hoses.

On the passenger side of the tank there might be a transmission cooler. It's easy to identify by a pair of smaller hoses going into the radiator. Again, if these are there, note it because you'll need the same configuration for fitting a new radiator.

Air Conditioning Condenser

The air conditioning condenser attaches at the front of the radiator. Note exactly how it attaches, because it will need to be the same for the new radiator; this will be the only way that fitting this on the radiator will be possible.


The electric fan, or in other cases the fan shroud, will attach to the radiator. You need to note which you have and how it mounts on the radiator. When shopping for a new radiator, ensure that it will support the fan or shroud you have. If everything above matches properly, then fitting the radiator will be a straightforward, if lengthy, task.

By Model

You can eliminate most of the work by simply researching and buying a radiator that's made specifically for your make and model of car. Before fitting the radiator, however, check that all the hose outlets are correct for your needs.