by William Zane
Front of vintage car image by Xavier MARCHANT from Fotolia.com
Your car’s radiator is an important part of the cooling system that ensures that the engine receives a constant circulating supply of coolant. As radiators age, the paint can fade and become dull from being in the hot and dirty confines of the engine compartment. This, in turn, can make the engine compartment look worse from wear and tear. Painting a car’s radiator is a straightforward process, although doing it correctly means that the radiator will need to be removed from the vehicle’s engine compartment.
Drain the coolant from the radiator. This procedure varies by car model, but generally involves opening a drain located at the bottom of the radiator. Drain the coolant into a suitable container and discard or save it for reuse.
Remove the radiator from the engine compartment. The radiator is bolted to the engine compartment, but the way it is installed will vary greatly depending on the model. Consult your vehicle’s workshop manual or examine how the radiator is installed to determine how to remove it. You will also need to remove the coolant hoses that connect to the radiator.
Scrub the exterior of the radiator with a wire brush and a cleaner such as Simple Green. Dry the radiator with a shop rag. Since the radiator is outside of the car, this is also a good time to take it to a radiator shop and have it inspected and pressure tested for leaks. The radiator shop can also fix the bent cooling fins on the radiator if necessary.
Peel off old paint with paint stripper. Apply the paint stripper according to the instructions on the container. Let stripper sit until paint bubbles, then wipe or rub. Repeat until all paint is removed.
Clean radiator with mineral spirits and a shop rag until free of oil and residue. Apply a light coat of radiator spray paint. Radiator spray paint is specially formulated to block engine heat and is black in color. Let the paint dry for a few minutes, then apply three to four solid coats of paint. Let the paint dry for at least several hours (or overnight if possible) before reinstalling the radiator in the engine compartment.
Reinstall the radiator and reconnect the hoses that were removed. Fill the radiator with coolant, start the engine, and check for leaks.
Articles will need
- Socket and ratchet set
- Drained Coolant Container
- Wire brush
- Household Cleaner
- Mineral spirits
- Buy rags
- Radiator paint