Changing radiator end tanks without breaking tabs


I didn't actually replace this end tank with a new one because this radiator is no good. I just removed and then reinstalled the end tank so I could take pictures of how I did it. I've gotten good enough at it that I can now do it without breaking tabs or breaking away the old tank. I can do the job in less then an hour.

The first picture shows the tools you'll need. Notice that the screwdriver is skinny enough to fit between the tabs. The smaller hammer is a body hammer. It's not necessary, and any other type of light weight hammer will suffice.

The socket shown in the first picture is 36mm. Use it to remove the nuts that secure the transmission cooler in the second photo. You may want to use some liquid wrench/pb blaster, etc if they don't want to move easily. You can also use a 36mm wrench for this job. In a pinch, you can probably use an adjustable, but if your tool box is that limited, you should probably pay someone else to do this. It may be easier to place the radiator on the ground and have it vertical so you can put some weight down on the ratchet/wrench to remove the nuts.

The third picture is after the nuts have been removed.

Take the screwdriver and insert it between the tabs as shown in this picture. Use the hammer to LIGHTLY tap it in as far as it will go. Then pry up slightly. You'll need to repeat this step all the way around the radiator.

This is how it should look when you finish prying up all the tabs.

This picture gives an idea of how much the tabs need to be moved back. Those on the left have been lifted.

The corners can be a little tricky, but you'll figure it out.

Once it looks like you have enough clearance slide a small screwdriver in and behind the edge of the plastic tank and pry it off. As the tank comes off, it should push any tabs that hadn't been moved enough, out of the way.

This is what you'll see when the tank comes off. Notice the old gasket in there. Remove it. The new tank should come with a new gasket.

Notice there are no broken tabs.

This is the transmission cooler. You'll need to replace the two o-rings. I believe the o-rings I used had an O.D. of 1 3/16". Reinstall the transmission cooler in the new end tank. Make sure the o-rings stay in place and tighten the 36mm nuts, but don't go overboard as you can crack the tank.

Place the new tank gasket on the radiator as shown. Standing the radiator up on its end will help keep the gasket in place.

With the radiator still on its end, put the tank back on. Rather then try to bend the tabs more to give extra clearance, try and get one end down and in then move to the other.

Once the tank is below all of the tabs, place the radiator back on the workbench. You'll need to have something to clamp the tank on. I used some woodworking clamps. Make the clamps snug, but don't go too far and risk cracking something.

Use the dolly from the first photo to support the bottom side of the radiator. Support it on the retainer strip. Then use the hammer and tap straight down as shown in the picture. Tap down as much as you can, and then do the ends. Remove the clamps and tap down any remaining tabs. Then flip the radiator over, reinstall the clamps, and tap down the other side. I used the larger hammer, but if you're not comfortable hitting your radiator, use the smaller one.

This is how it should look with the retainer strip back down. Notice, no broken tabs.

To make sure you don't have any leaks, give each tab a squeeze with a pair of pliers. I used a vice grip, so I could set the clamping force and have each tab bent to the same position.

Use the needle nose vice grip to squeeze this hard to reach tab.

Finished. Notice there are no broken tabs. The tabs received minimal stress. You could probably do this job 2-3 times before the retaining strip starts to develop problems and cracks. Reinstall the fittings for the oil and transmission coolers, the temp sensor, drain plug, etc. Reinstall in the car, fill with coolant, then top off the oil and transmission fluid. Check for leaks.

J Howell
You don't bend the tabs. You pry them back!

I found channel locks worked best for the final step to tighten the tabs down.

I also used a (simply fabricated) press so that a 2x4 distributed the pressure across the whole of the tank ends.

Dan Perez