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TJ Radiator Replacement

Most folks that read the on-line TJ forums are not surprised to hear when someone reports that their TJ with 20k or 30K mile on it had to have the radiator replaced.  The upper and lower plastic tanks are crimped onto the radiator core itself and it only seems to be a matter of time before this style of radiator starts to leak at the crimped seam.  Mine recently did it....and the timing could not have been worse.  The TJ was parked at the City Market parking lot when my wife mentioned that "we have steam coming out of the grill".  Now normally a radiator problem in a parking lot is not a BIG issue.  But, this was THE City Market parking know, City Market in Moab, Utah.  THE place where 4 wheelers meet up each morning to decide on which trails to run that day.  And on top of that, it was a Sunday morning.  Luckily, the seam held and once the plastic and metal parts stabilized (i.e., they finally heated up and expanded enough to seal the leak) and I was good to go.  It all held long enough for me to finish the entire week of Jeepin' and make it home to Phoenix.  I ordered a replacement radiator from a local shop and installed it on the following Saturday.  Having never been involved in a radiator swap, I decided it would make for a good write-up.  I solicited the help of my buddy, Scott, and was lucky enough to have Les show up at the wrenching party too.  Les had a new Currie Anti-Rock to install so we did both projects at Scott's place.  Replacing a radiator on the Jeep Wrangler is a project that most Jeepers should be able to handle.

The first task was to drain the radiator.  The 4.0L cooling system holds a bit over 10 quarts.  I put a bucket under the petcock on the radiator and cracked it open until a steady stream was running in to the bucket.  

While the radiator was draining. we pulled the rubber hose from the radiator's filler neck and then removed the coolant overflow bottle.  The bottle sits in a couple of slots.  Pull the bottle upwards to remove it from its mounting location.  You will want to dump the contents into the bucket and rinse the bottle out.  I had some fine sediment in the bottom of mine and certainly did not want to introduce it back into the system once everything was replaced and refilled.

The fan shroud is held on with 4 bolts.  Scott handed me a 3/8" air ratchet and it made pretty easy work of those bolts.  While it could be done with a conventional ratchet, it was nice to use the air ratchet.  Remove the two bolts located on each side of the fan shroud, near the top and bottom of the shroud.

With the fan shroud bolts removed, you can push the fan shroud back towards the engine.  By doing so, you will be able to make enough room to be able to remove the 6 bolts that hold the radiator in place.  

Here is a view of the driver's side of the radiator.  You can see 2 of the 3 bolts (the closest one is a bit out of focus) that you need to remove in order to free the radiator.  I found that the 3 bolts on the passenger side are best reached with a 3" socket extension.

Note:  I got an e-mail from a Jeeper who had recently changed his radiator.  He noted that the bottom two mounting bolts on his TJ's radiator did not have to be removed since the mounting holes were slotted.  He as able to loosen them (without removing them) and then slide the radiator off of the bolts.  You may want to check and see if yours is setup this way as it will save you some time. 

Remove the bottom and top hose (shown above) from the radiator.  I was going to change out the hoses but after getting a chance to examine them closely, I decided to leave the factory hoses in place.  I carry a spare upper and lower hose in the back of the Jeep so I am not too worried about it.

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