“So there I was..,” with only a radiator to replace and a whole day to do it, and in my own driveway to boot. Not a bad start to a Sunday, and a lot better spot than the last time I had to do such a job. I knew there was still some coolant sloshing around in the engine block, so I laid down a tarp, set up a pair of service ramps on top, and drove the van up onto the ramps for better under-car access.
Now, replacing a car’s radiator is not a terribly complex job as car repairs go. There are essentially four big steps to take: drain the fluid from the system, remove the old radiator, replace it with the new one, and refill the system. The devil, as they say, is in the details: gaining access to well-concealed fasteners; breaking loose umpteen thousand miles of accumulated grit, corrosion, and good old surface tension; dropping tools and tiny fasteners into deep crevasses of the engine bay, requiring extensive search-and-rescue operations; and getting covered, layer by layer, in a strange amalgam of solvents, grease, antifreeze, and driveway grime. Now I remember why I gave up doing this for a living.
Yet for all that, this job proceeded rather smoothly. I had good music playing and a decent supply of disposable vinyl gloves. I even got to set up my little camping stove to make tea, for the cold that day was of the raw, damp kind that seeps into a person, dying them sore and blue. All was going well until I went to fit the new radiator into the van.
It was the wrong size.
Not by much; not so much as you could tell by looking; I think it measured out to 1/4-inch. Still, there was no way it was going to fit the way it was. I took a break then to go inside and give an update to my wife on the situation.
“You’ll think of something,” she reassured me with a smile.
“Yes, I will, won’t I?”
Even as I responded to her, the plan was forming in my mind; what to measure, where to cut, and how to cut it. I ended up making two modifications to the new radiator, and they came out rather nicely. (I wish I could find the pictures I took of the finished work.) I was then able to fit the radiator in properly, if rather snugly; button it back together; refill the system and purge the air from it (very important); and get cleaned up and “home in time for supper.”
While refilling the system, I had the van’s engine running, and I took the opportunity to get out my multimeter and check the electrical system voltage. Readings were in the normal range, from 12 to 14 volts. The lights were not flickering. I had checked and tightened all the connections to the alternator while the van was up on the ramps, and now that seemed to clear things up. I didn’t have the full set of test equipment to fully check the electrical system, but isn’t that what the shop had done? I should be all set for tomorrow, then. Good thing, too. Downtown early to job-hunt, then that interview out in Beaverton at 2 pm…gonna be a full day.
I had no idea then how full it would be.