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Old 03-07-2022, 06:16 PM #1
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Need advice on radiator replacement: DIY or Shop

Hi everyone,

I need to replace my radiator on a 2006 V8 sport, near Chicago.

Dealer quoted me $923.39 to:
-replace radiator
-replace lower and upper hoses
-coolant

Nearby shop quoted me about $350 if I supply my own parts:
-replace radiator
-replace lower and upper hoses
-coolant flush

I did a bit research and found a few videos on youtube that show how to replace the radiator and found all the parts I need on Rockauto. I was thinking if I do this on my own, then I can also replace the thermostat any gaskets as well.

How hard would you say is the job to tackle for someone that's in the beginner to intermediate category? Most of the work I've done in the past on my other cars were oil changes, brakes, and spark plugs. However, dealing with coolant and possible trans fluid makes me a bit nervous.

Would you say the best route is to buy the parts and have the independent shop do the work? If I do decide to do it myself, any tips or pointers on how to make the job easier?

Thank you.
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Old 03-07-2022, 07:59 PM #2
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If you have any experience turning wrenches you should be able to do a radiator swap....as long as you have the tools to do it with, mostly basic tools, wrenches, pliers, socket set, etc....but I would highly suggest having a set of "line wrenches" to remove the fittings on the transmission lines so you don't round over the fittings.

Numerous videos out there on Youtube as you have seen to help you along with the job,

I would rate the job at a 3-4 if that on a 1-10 scale.

Make sure you have pans to drain fluid/coolant in, you should lose very little ATF when disconnecting the transmission lines.

Also need shop cloths as usual when dealing any kind fluid/oil/coolant and also for cleaning surfaces, etc.

Since you're replacing hoses I would suggest just slicing them with a razor knife length wise where they're attached to make removing them very easy....but only slice the hoses you're replacing, any others use a pick to help loosen the hose while twisting it
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Last edited by AuSeeker; 03-07-2022 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 03-07-2022, 10:44 PM #3
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For what it's worth, I have a 2006 as well and just had radiator replaced. Shop charged me $350 labor plus parts. I forget what the parts were/cost.

I also don't work on my car anymore. Wife, kids, house, job take all the time. Easier to drop car off and get it back working in a couple days.
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Old 03-08-2022, 02:56 AM #4
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i did the radiator job myself two years ago and it was my first job ever. the only tools i needed was a 20 dollar socket set, a wrench set, and i bought a pair of channel locks because i struggled getting some of the hose clamps off. no surprises on this job, very straightforward. you just disconnect a few hoses and the radiator is held in with 4 bolts and nuts and then it pulls right out. i used a tyc rad from rock auto and there are some good videos on youtube. draining the coolant was easy too - most folks here seem to agree to use the pink concentrated toyota coolant which you can get from the dealer. i didn't do the thermostat. i progressed to oil changes and brakes from there so i'd say you're good to go. 2005 v8 sr5

Last edited by hankd; 03-08-2022 at 03:11 AM.
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Old 03-08-2022, 09:18 AM #5
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I agree with @hankd above. There are many great tutorials, like this one from TRQ, so maybe watch that all the way through then decide if you feel comfortable doing the job. Between resources like that and the excellent writeups and advice on our forum and others (Google whatever you're doing to find those), I've done complex work on my 4th Gen I never would have attempted in the past. The confidence and peace of mind that comes with doing your own work is as nice as the $ you save. I know good parts were used, no corners were cut, the correct torque is on the bolts, and so on.

If you decide to do it, or even just plan to change out your coolant at some point, the Lisle no-spill funnel system is golden. Bonus: it comes with the parts needed to use it on other vehicles and worked perfectly on my other car too.

Last edited by Bluesky 07; 03-08-2022 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 03-09-2022, 04:47 AM #6
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Thank you all for the helpful suggestions and feedback, I really appreciate it! I've decided to tackle the job on my own and starting to order parts.

I'm just hoping I get a lucky day or two of warm weather here in Chicago soon to do the work
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Old 03-09-2022, 06:34 AM #7
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I just want to add, if it hasnít been said, be very careful when installing the new radiator. Mind the fan and the front end components. Bending up the fins on a new radiator is frustrating.

Other than that itís a fairly simple, straight forward task. Take your time bleeding the system afterwards. Donít rush it.
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Old 03-11-2022, 01:59 AM #8
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Great point, thank you!
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Old 03-11-2022, 10:34 AM #9
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I will add a few other thoughts here.

1) Get a Denso radiator. That's essentially OEM. Given most of these last 150k+ its worth it to stick with a Denso for the one time you need to do this unless your going with some kind of performance option.
2) Replace any hose that touches the radiator. For the transmission line hoses, make sure you get transmission line hose. I believe it uses 3/8 ID hose.
3) You will have to replace some clamps too when you replace the hoses. Toyota hose is thicker than most of the newer Continental, Gates, etc. Make sure you get spring clamps. Old timers will tell your screw on worm clamps are better, and they are right for *low* temperature systems. For high temp systems, you need a spring clamp that can expand and contract with the hoses.
4) While you are at it, I would recommend draining coolant from the block via the drain cocks on the sides of the engine, and if it's never been done I'd change out the ATF as well. Ideally use OEM fluids, but if your dealer charges full price they get stupid expensive. I did Zerex Asian Red for coolant (~21/gallon) and Valvoline Maxlife ATF (18/gallon at walmart).
5) For the ATF, make sure you do a full exchange via the lines. You want to run it until some comes out the outlet port on the new radiator, top off the transmission, and repeat until you've run enough through it. Then do the temperature set procedure and check the level.

Hope all that helps. It's really not that bad to do. I haven't swapped mine, but I did remove it for my timing belt and have been having to replace all kinds of hoses. Just comes with the territory.
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Old 03-11-2022, 06:11 PM #10
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I just replaced mine last month. It's a DIY for sure. HOWEVER, you would do well to invest in some hose clamp pliers. regular pliers are terrible. Knipex makes a cool one with jaws that won't slip off the tabs on the hose clamp and has a ratcheting lock so once the pliers are clamped on, they'll stay so you can manipulate the hose so it can get un-stuck. Very spendy, though. There's another style I found later (of course) that is cable actuated and designed to be used in tight spaces. That would be cool I think. They get mixed reviews online, but it has to be better than regular pliers. A hose pick would help as well. Oh and if you don't have a Lisle spill proof funnel, get one. Makes getting the air out of the system easy.

The biggest PIA, by far, was the lower radiator hose. Don't try to unhook it from the lower connection on the radiator. Unhook it from the thermostat and take the old unit out with the lower hose on it, then transfer the hose to the new radiator and drop it back in. That will save you time and cursing, LOL.

I agree with draining the block water jacket. I did, just with the idea that I'll get most of the coolant out and have less of an issue with spills. But, I did still have some small spills. At least I used by floor pan. I had recently changed my coolant, so I just had it drain in a clean bucket and reused it, otherwise this is a perfect time to change it.

+1 on a Denso radiator. I got mine at Rock Auto. It will probably come with "splits" in the upper and lower aluminum frame of the core. It's not damage. Its for thermal expansion of the aluminum. I did follow a member's advice and put distilled water in it before install to ensure there wasn't damage from shipping, or a defect, etc.

I didn't change my hoses. Maybe I'll regret that, but they seemed fine. They are still pliable with no cracking or splitting evident. I figured I'll just change them later.
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Last edited by bob3dsf; 03-11-2022 at 06:18 PM.
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