For the moment it looks like the white 850 sedan needs more attention than the red wagon. The car was here for Christmas and I hoped to tackle a few things on it. Daughter complained that the coolant level warning light was on so I inspected the cooling system and as expected the level was low. No major leaks but I did observe a shiny spot on the radiator. At first I thought it was dripping down from the upper radiator hose connection but the moisture started lower. Uh-oh. May be a cracked radiator.
To confirm this I tried my trick of pressurizing the cooling system with the Motive Products brake bleeder. This caused the coolant in the radiator to seep out and be more visible. Unfortunately the cracked side tank was leaking.
Appears to be the original radiator for this car (18-19 years old) so I guess it’s had a good run. After those many years of heat and vibration I guess the plastic gets weak. I didn’t want to mess around with leak seal products so was determined to replace the radiator.
After pricing a genuine Volvo radiator I chose to go with an after-market replacement from the local auto parts store. I had only a day or two to get this done and I don’t expect the car has more than five years left in it anyway so no sense spending a lot of money for a factory part.
First order of business is to remove the leaky radiator. Started by driving the car up on ramps to give me some elbow room (and drop the radiator out).
If you have a lower splash shield installed it should be removed first but this car doesn’t have one so I didn’t need to do this.
The coolant must be drained so after removing the reservoir cap I drained the radiator into a clean container to re-use the coolant (it was fairly fresh and clean).
While the radiator was draining I removed the upper hose
Once the radiator was empty I removed the lower hose and, as expected, got a little wet from coolant remaining in the hose and radiator.
This being a manual transmission car with normal aspiration (non-turbo) there are no more connections to the radiator so it was ready to be removed. Automatic transmissions have an oil cooler loop to one side of the radiator and turbochargers have an oil loop going to the other side. This car is easier than most others.
To pull the radiator out requires that the fan shroud be removed and that is somewhat involved.
First you remove the engine control unit cooling snorkel and the engine air intake snorkel.
Then we need to disconnect all the wires and vacuum lines from relays and and valves located on the fan shroud just below the front of the hood. This involves unplugging many connectors and moving wire harnesses out of the way and pulling vacuum elbows out and such. Some low and most higher up. Basically disconnect anything that is tethered to the fan shroud.
Once the shroud is liberated from the spider web of wires and vacuum lines it gets unfastened from the radiator with two screws near the top (body attachment) and two bolts just below them (radiator attachment.) The shroud with fan attached is simply lifted up and out. This is easier if you remove the throttle body cover.
The lower part of the shroud has two tabs that nest in slots in the radiator to keep it in place down below.
Now to get the radiator detached, which is secured to the frame below and the air conditioning condenser on four corners. First we need to support the AC condenser so it doesn’t drop and strain the refrigerant hoses.
Then we can unbolt the radiator from the frame underneath.
While underneath to detach from the frame, you can unbolt the two lower bolts securing the radiator to the condenser.
With the radiator free from the frame it can tilt back to gain access to the two upper screws attaching it to the condenser.
Some instructions suggest four bolts up here instead of two. Not sure if this is a variation dependent on radiator type or what but it should be obvious.
Now the radiator is free and can be removed. Instructions make it look easy. It was not. A lot of fussing and maneuvering was involved and I had to unbolt the air pump bracket to give a little clearance for radiator removal.
Only way I could move the radiator was down; another reason to have the car raised. Not sure how some people lift it up and out– the mounting frame is really in the way.
With the radiator out we can get a closer look at the cracked and leaking radiator. In addition to multiple cracks there appears to be a general bulge in the leaking area. Risky to repair this with epoxy or other sealants.
There is an excellent radiator replacement tutorial video by FCP located here. It was useful to me and includes details about turbo and transmission cooler connections to the radiator.
So now we have to do a little prep work before installing the new radiator. A comparison shows them nearly identical with one different feature on the replacement. The new part has a pair of transmission oil coolant connections which we won’t use and can ignore (leave plugged).
The prep work involves transferring the fastener clips from the old radiator to the new part.
With the fasteners clipped onto the new radiator we can install it back in the car in reverse order of removal.
Minor details to report here. First we replaced the upper radiator hose just out of precaution because it was readily available and fairly inexpensive.
The lower hose is much harder to replace and costs a lot. It was in good shape (no cracks, splits or bulges and reasonably pliable) so we just re-used it.
As mentioned before, the new radiator has transmission cooler ports which we don’t need so they simply go unconnected. Left the plugs in place to prevent debris from entering.
The other thing to report is that it was a pain to get the radiator and condenser back together because things didn’t quite line up and I had to push, pull and pry to get the clips and screws in place. Same for re-installing the fan shroud; lots of moving parts and lining up holes. All in all it wasn’t so bad, just not as easy as advertised.
Last thing to do is pour coolant back into the system via the reservoir. Re-used what was removed because it was in good condition (clean, clear, no rust.) Filled to the high level before running the engine.
While filling coolant I was checking for leaks around and under the radiator. Happy to find none.
Ran the engine until hot and watched the level drop with the reservoir cover removed. As expected it dropped a little and then a bit more when I switched the engine off. Topped off the coolant reservoir to the high level again and ran the engine some more while checking for leaks. It takes a few hot-cold engine cycles to get the coolant level stable.
$166 for auto-parts store direct replacement radiator.