Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Cheap Fix for Collapsed Radiator Hoses.

I've been working on cars since for nearly three decades and have learned there are things better left to a pro. However, there are times that we really can save money if we do the work ourselves if we know what we're doing. Saying this, I'm not in control of your work or situation and you should approach any repair with a degree of respect. Working on the cooling system can be dangerous and unless the engine you're working on is completely cool, you could get hurt. I had to replace a valve cover gasket on a 1975 Nova 20 years ago with a hot engine and broke a heater hose. The result was a first degree burn on my forearm that could have been much worse. Do not work on any engine or any part of the cooling system unless you're sure it's completely cool (overnight is best).

The car was and still is a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am with the 2.2 liter four and the original issue was a leaking cam (or valve) cover. This was a simple straightforward job that still took me a couple hours because of trying to figure out the hose issue and cleaning the cover in Simple Green. The hose problem was that they were collapsed, and I assumed that the hoses were bad. Any time, I would say that after five years the hoses and belts need replacement. With the way car parts are now, we need to try and maximize their use. I replace them when they start to weather check or swell and as long as they're resilient, I leave 'em on unless I have to take on off to replace another part.

These hoses looked fine, but they had been on the car since 2004 and it is 2010. So my friend and I went to Autozone and the clerk priced out the upper and lower rad hoses for this beast. The top hose was $10.99, but the lower one was $65.00.

Talk about sticker shock, but this was a pretty convoluted part. Still, money's tight this week and I never have the money to swap out parts on a whim. Off to NAPA and I purchased what I needed for about $7.50 at the advice of the counterperson there.

I removed the surge tank cap and at once, the hoses returned to their rounded shape. The problem was the cap wasn't equalizing the pressure and once the engine cooled, the pressure in the cooling system became lower than that of the surrounding air. I replaced said cap with a new aftermarket and saved a lot of money and frustration. Admittedly, the hoses and belts in this car are going to need to be done soon. However, it makes no sense to replace something before it's time. This is much like getting a new humidifier pad every six months instead of annually. It definately makes no sense to replace the wrong part and still have a problem. Maranatha!

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