Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Replaced My Radiator . . .

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , — mikewb1971 @ 5:26 AM (05:26)

Last Saturday (8 March 2008), as I arrived for the day job, I noticed a cloying, sweet smell. When I backed into my favorite parking spot, my engine was smoking. After turning off the engine and getting out of the car, I noticed coolant fluid (“the green stuff”) gushing out of the front left side of the car. When I finished my shift, I took a look and thought I saw that the radiator drain plug was missing. (I later found out that the plug is on the right-hand side of the radiator. Ha-ha — very funny.) Hoping for the best, I called Pep Boys, Autozone and Checker, all of whom have stores within walking distance of where I was parked. I asked each of them if they had on hand a radiator drain plug for a 1996 Saturn SL-2 — I figured that I’d replace the plug, refill the coolant, and be on my way. No dice — none of them had the plug in stock.

So I was stuck bumming rides for a few days. On Monday, 10 March, I called the Saturn dealership on Lomas here in Albuquerque — their parts guy said “No problem — we’ll overnight it in.” On Wednesday, 12 March, I picked up the drain plug (5 bucks) and went up to check on my car. One of my co-workers recommended checking local junkyards for replacement radiators — I called about ten such places after getting back home, and none of them had what I needed. So I went up to the Checker store at the Montano Plaza — not only did they give me the best price, but saved me ten bucks off that price (140 bucks).

On Friday, 14 March, I walked over to Home Depot before reporting to work and picked up some J.B. Weld from the glue section (in the Paint Department). I figured that if I could plug whatever leak there was, I could return the new radiator and save 140 bucks. On Monday, 17 March (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!), I applied the stuff before going to work. J.B. Weld is one of those two-tube kits, where you have to squirt out some from each tube and mix equal amounts of each together, then apply it with something disposable (I chose toothpicks). Just squeezing the stuff out of the tubes was a workout, and it starts to harden fast. Hey — the tube said it was rated to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and there were testimonials on the package about people who used it to fix their engines . . . . I was rather surprised that the stuff came off extremely easily in the shower. The package said to allow the stuff 15 hours to cure before using the item it was used on, so I went to work.

The next day (Tuesday, 18 March), I went out and poured a bottle of water into the coolant fill port. When it didn’t come out of the bottom of the car, I assumed that everything was OK. So I poured some coolant in . . . and watched it gushing out about a minute later, from the same area that it had on Saturday, 8 March. That’s when I started pulling things apart to swap out the old radiator for the new one.

Actually, I was surprised at how easy the whole operation was — I only needed one socket (3/8-inch), one wrench (1/2-inch), a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of channel-lock pliers. The hose connections and mounting brackets were easy to access, and the hardest part was the actual extraction of the old unit, and the placement of the new one. The whole job took me about three hours, blasting Overkill CDs the whole time. And I saved myself about the 300 — 400 bucks that a mechanic would charge for the job in the process.

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