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Radiator Removal/Installation Instructions

Discussion in 'Stock 2002 - 2005 Explorers' started by SyberTiger, September 26, 2016.

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    1. SyberTiger

      SyberTiger Active Member

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      I finally got about to changing out the radiator on my 2002 4.6L. I thought I'd provide a fresh thread with the instruction manuals and my observations/tips on how to change out the radiator. Here are the manuals for a 2002 or 2003.

      2002 Ford Explorer - Radiator Removal/Installation Manual - Chilton
      2003 Ford Explorer - Radiator Removal/Installation Manual - Factory Instructions
      2003 Ford Explorer - Radiator Removal/Installation Manual - Chilton

      First, let me say that "YES" the engineers could have designed the radiator system in a manner lending it to easier replacement. For their sins they should be forced to spend an eternity changing out radiators on 3rd generation Explorers in car maintenance hell. However, it's not the end of the world ... please read on ...

      Despite what has been posted in numerous threads about this job being a PITA requiring you to break into the A/C system, contort your body or spend endless hours on a certain bolt I'm going to alleviate concerns about this job by informing you that it isn't "that difficult". You do not have to disconnect your A/C system nor do you have to bust your knuckles to get the radiator out. If you simply follow the Chilton or Factory Instructions instructions you'll find this job is not difficult at all. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate this job as a 5 or 6 on difficulty.

      1 = checking the air in the tires
      2 = cleaning the MAF
      3 = changing the oil
      5 = changing the front wheel bearings
      6 = changing the radiator
      7 = changing the rear wheel bearings
      10 = rebuilding the engine

      Access to all the bolts and connections is easy. With the exception of the transmission cooler line connections and the fan clutch (both referred to in the Factory Instructions) you do not need any special tools, just basic sockets, ratchets, pliers and screwdrivers. The fan clutch removal tool can be rented for free at O'Reilly or Advanced Auto. You cannot use a standard fuel line disconnect type tool for the tranny cooler lines as they have a collar near the connection that requires a stepped design. I would recommend using the steel version of the tool as the plastic version bends easy and does not allow you to provide enough pressure if you find you have a "difficult" tranny line connector. Go ahead and order the steel version before you start this project...you'll thank me later. Yes, you need to disconnect the tranny cooler lines. This is very important in making sure this job is relatively easy and not a PITA. If you don't then expect this job to be a lot more difficult.

      My observations are that the Chilton instructions are better overall although both manuals are VERY similar. I will provide the following tips as though you are using the Chilton manual. Before you get started, disconnect the positive and negative battery terminals. The negative battery terminal wiring will get in the way if not disconnected.

      For Step #1: the upper air deflector is removed by pulling straight up 1 inch on the driver's side of the air deflector. It is simply held in place by a rubber grommet. Next pull the entire upper air deflector 1 inch towards the driver's side. The passenger side is also held on by a rubber gromment but it is slotted.

      For Step #3: the inner air deflector pulls straight up. It is not held by anything but friction as a slot in the plastic slides down onto of the radiator when installing it ... therefore, just pull straight up.

      After Step #6: use the special fan clutch tools to remove the fan clutch. By removing the fan clutch and the attached fan you will end up with more working room. You can actually access the tranny cooler connectors from the top side when the upper fan shroud and fan/clutch are out of the way. Otherwise, you'll need to access the tranny cooler connectors from under the car which is a little more difficult and is part of the process documented in Step #9.

      As an additional note, I would highly recommend you install a new water pump and fan clutch when performing a radiator change. It is very easy to change the water pump and fan clutch at this time since you now have easy access.

      For Step #7: expect about 2 gallons of coolant to come out of the radiator petcock. Don't forget to take off the reservoir cap to allow the coolant to drain quickly.

      For Step #8: at no time do you need to raise, lift or jack up the vehicle. It may be convenient to do so but not necessary.

      For Step #9: the tranny cooler connectors may have a plastic safety retainer over the top of the connector. Simply pop these off by pushing sideways.

      [​IMG]

      For Step #10: expect to see about 8oz of tranny fluid come out after disconnecting the tranny cooler connectors. You are supposed to top off the tranny fluid when this job is all done. I really didn't feel like messing with the tranny pan since there is no tranny filler. When the radiator assembly was bolted back together and prior to installation in the engine compartment I filled the tranny cooloer with 8oz of fresh MERCON V ATF. With the cooler filled I jammed some Saran Wrap into the tranny cooler tubes then put tips from blue rubber gloves over the fittings and held it in place with rubber bands (see pic below). After the radiator assembly was installed it was easy to cut the rubber bands, pull out the Saran Wrap and quickly reconnnect the tranny cooler lines from the top.

      For Step #12: on the lower shroud there are two plastic circular hose ties ... unclamp the hose ties for the lower degas bottle hose and the hose for the power steering cooler (see pic below).

      [​IMG]

      For Step #17: there was a cable tie holding a wire bundle to the radiator support bracket. I cut it and discarded it.

      For Step #24: you may need to unplug the electrical connector on the A/C pressure sensor near the negative batter terminal (see pic below). The wiring may get in the way when you moved the radiator assembly off of the mounts and onto the car frame.

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]
      For Step #24: The instructions call for removing the radiator and tranny cooler as one unit still bolted to the radiator brackets. It is a VERY tight fit in there and you'll need to figure out which way to tilt or turn the assembly to pull in out from the top of the engine compartment. If you find that it's a real PITA to get the entire assembly out you can pull it out in pieces ... to do this, unbolt the tranny cooler by removing two bolts then pull it out, then remove the two bolts on the driver's side bracket connected to the radiator and pull it out. You should now more easily be able to remove the radiator with passenger side bracket out. PLEASE NOTE: If you decide it is easier to remove the assembly out in pieces you need to understand when installing the new radiator you should install it as a complete assembly per the Chilton instructions. It's one thing to remove the assembly in pieces but to install it, it will be much better to install as a complete assembly. Yes, it will be a tight fit and it could take you 20 minutes to figure out how to tilt/turn it to get it back in. Just take your time and push stuff out of the way as needed. For example, you may want to unbolt the power steering reservoir to give you more room.

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      That's pretty much it ... a number 6 on the difficulty scale, not so much because it's hard but because of all the things you need to disconnect, drain, refill, etc. This is not a knuckle buster job so don't worry.

      With regard to changing out the water pump and fan clutch ... this is the best time to do it ... also a good time to install a new serpentine belt. It's very easy to do when the radiator assembly is out as the four bolts on the water pump are easy to access. Pretty much all you need to do is loosen the four bolts holding on the water pump pulley. Don't remove them just yet, just loosen them up. Then remove the serpentine belt using a 1/2" drive ratchet or better yet a 1/2" breaker bar by pushing clockwise on the breaker bar as inserted in the 1/2" square located on the belt tensioner then slip the belt off. Then remove the four bolts you already loosened on the water pump pulley. As a note, when you remove the water pump expect to see as much as 1/2 gallon of coolant come pouring out so have a bucket on the ground under the pump.

      For me, the most difficulty I had was with one of the tranny cooler connectors (the one on the top of the other one). Because all I had was the plastic version of the special disconnect tool it was difficult for me to apply sufficient pressure to insert it deep enough. This is why I suggest you purchase the steel version well ahead of when you start this project so you have it on hand. The second most difficult part of the job was reinserting the entire radiator assembly because of the tight spaces. It took a while to figure out which way to tilt it and slide it past all the hoses and wires, etc that get in the way. Again, you do not need to cut into your A/C system and that "infamous PITA fourth bolt behind the tranny cooler" isn't an issue at all if you follow the manual instructions.
       
      Last edited: April 1, 2017
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    3. apenland01

      apenland01 Active Member

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      Did you go with a stock fan clutch or aftermarket?
       
    4. SyberTiger

      SyberTiger Active Member

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      I went with an aftermarket fan clutch from CNS, sold on eBay and Amazon. It is marketed as "severe" duty which is what the Explorers use. My original fan clutch has 150K miles on it but it seems like it's fine but I changed it out anyway. I'll keep it just in case the CNS one exhibits any problems but for now it appears to work fine.
       
    5. pami9899

      pami9899 New Member

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      what size hose would fit over the steel line of the transmission cooler?
       
    6. Marcelo Sanada

      Marcelo Sanada New Member

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      I made a lot of research and here is the most clear way to get the job done.
      I have a 2003 4.0 V6 explorer XLT.
      It was not necessary to remove the trans oil line BUT you need to remove the LH bolt from the trans oil Bracket to pull it up a little bit and access the LH bottom radiator bolt.
      Took me total 2 1/2 hours to have it done.
       

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