Replacing a Corvette radiator
Any year Corvette can have high power and reliably low temps!
Story Earl Duty - May 01, 2011 09:00 AM
No matter what generation of Corvette you drive, DeWitts has a radiator to help keep your car cool — literally!
There are many companies out there that have Corvette radiators that will fit Corvettes. DeWitts is the only company that specializes in Corvette aluminum radiators and they have Direct Fit high-performing aluminum radiators for C1 to C6 Corvettes. They also have correct restoration radiators like our special high-horsepower (270hp) top-tank equipped unit. DeWitts also carries surge tanks for 1960-’72 Corvettes that are reproduced from original tooling and licensed by General Motors.
The term Direct Fit means that their radiators are designed to install into the stock mounting and use the factory connections without any modifications or adapters. They feature two-row cooling tubes with serpentine fins, and unlike the temporary fix on our ’60s old unit, they don’t contain any epoxy. DeWitts also sells copper and brass components for a correct restoration of those earlier Corvettes that used these materials from the factory.
If more performance is important over factory original, DeWitts also offers electric fan kits that complement their easy-to-install radiators, complete with shroud and wiring kit! If your Corvette’s radiator’s performance is starting to slip, you can be sure that DeWitts will have a radiator to suit your needs.
A radiator leak can disrupt anyone’s schedule, plus create major engine problems for any given vehicle. And, of all the places you wouldn’t want the radiator on our 1960 Corvette to start leaking, just a few hours before a scheduled 150-plus mile “Fun Run” tour in Kingman, Arizona.
Truly one of those “this can’t be happening” situations, this was a worst case scenario. We had hauled the little guy all the way from Ohio to Kingman in anticipation of another great run, only to pull into the line-up of participants and see those dreaded wisps of steam emitting from under the hood, accompanied by the inevitable puddle of coolant on the ground.
After allowing the radiator to cool down, an inspection revealed numerous pinholes (and metal disintegration) at the radiator neck, allowing pressure (and coolant) to bypass the seal on the radiator cap. This time, as our luck would have it, we were within walking distance of an auto parts store where a five-minute epoxy kit saved the day.
We scraped off as much of the decayed aluminum as possible with a small screwdriver, cleaned the area as best we could with towels, and right there on the main street in town, mixed the two-part epoxy. While the epoxy was still in liquid form, we quickly applied it to the damaged area … and waited. Roughly 10 minutes later the epoxy became rock solid and provided enough of a seal to get us through the Fun Run tour.
Additional leaks on the ’60 Corvette have progressed to the point that five-minute epoxy is no longer an option. Radiator replacement time is at hand. For that, we contacted our friends at DeWitts Reproductions.
The project started, as would any radiator replacement, by placing a proper drain pan under the vehicle and draining the remaining coolant from the old unit. While the coolant was dribbling into the pan, my assistant Bob Alexander helped me extract the four bolts holding the fiberglass hood and we carefully sat it off to the side out of harm’s way.
With the hood off, it opens up lots of uncluttered working space for any and all items such as the upper hose, cooling fan bolts, radiator fan shroud, etc. The four bolts holding the fan blade to the water pump were removed, and the fan and clutch assembly lifted away from the pump. This gave us even more room for an easy removal of the water pump pulley, the upper fan shroud and upper radiator hose. After accessing the four lower shroud bolts to include three center screws (holding both sections together), we removed the lower shroud and lower radiator hose. At this point in the game, two additional support screws were all that were left for releasing the old radiator from its mounting.
After the radiator was out of the car and on the floor, our next step was to remove the four bolts, nuts and washers that kept the radiator mounting brackets secured to the side tanks of the old radiator. With those bolts out of the way, we carefully pried the side-mounted brackets off of the radiator. They would be cleaned and reinstalled on the new unit including new nuts, bolts and washers.
With the side brackets attached to the new DeWitts radiator and our drain petcock in place, a reversal of the removal prepared us for many more miles of trouble-free cruising America’s highways and byways. For added life to the new radiator, we treated the cooling system to a power flush, new coolant, a new radiator cap, and a much needed new thermostat and gasket.