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How to replace your upper radiator hose

Updated on May 19, 2014

Upper Radiator Hose

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How to change your top radiator hose

You have made an incredible journey across unexplored land (at least to you). There have been several sleepless nights in your quest to reach home, but, fortunately your trusty steed has held together. The skies are blue and the air is crisp as your GPS indicates that you are 90 miles from home. All of a sudden you come upon a fellow traveler going rather slow on the interstate. This isn’t a problem for you as you turn on your blinker to pass. You quickly pass him and return to your lane when all of a sudden you hear a slight pop under your hood. It doesn’t take long for you to notice that some sort of fluid is spraying out from under the hood. After several seconds while holding a puzzled look on your face, you look into your rearview mirror only to see your fellow traveler being smothered in what you believe to be radiator fluid (antifreeze). You here a ping emit from the dash and it is telling you to “check gauges”. It comes as no surprise that you are now overheating. You pull over to the side of the road only to see smoke coming from under the hood. You turn off your vehicle and open the hood to instantly see the culprit; the top radiator hose has exploded.


Your no mechanic and already fear the worst. You begin you checklist of phone calls which inevitably ends with a tow truck. Now, this is where I urge you to take a step back and relax. First look at what you’re dealing with; a hose is broken. The next question you need to ask yourself is; “Do I have anyone that could bring me the parts I need?” If you have answered yes, then fortunately you’re in luck. Have them go to your local Autozone, Advanced Autoparts, O’Reillys exc. You don’t really need to know what you’re buying as they have a system that can tell you exactly what you need as long as you can answer a few basic questions about your vehicle. First you will need to tell them that you need a; Upper radiator hose, (2) Hose clamps, a Flat head screwdriver, a knife or box cutter, a funnel, a flashlight (optional), possibly a pliers large enough to remove the factory hose clamps and lastly, radiator fluid/ anti-freeze (It may be beneficially too buy the kind where you don’t need to mix water otherwise you will need water). Ensure that you buy enough radiator fluid; the store clerk will be able to find how much your vehicle will need. All of this will cost you around $70.00 to complete yourself (which is much cheaper than a tow truck).

Top Radiator Hose

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Replacing your radiator hose

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of saying I’m no mechanic and didn’t take the time to rationalize my options. I first resorted to the tow truck rather than calling someone I knew for the parts I needed to repair it myself. If I had taken that time to think, I most certainly could have saved myself $284.00 as well as several hours of waiting and towing. Okay, now that you have your parts. You will first need to remove the radiator hose. You shouldn’t have to worry about draining fluid at this point as it is all over someone else’s car. Now, you may have to use the pliers to squeeze the factory clamps then pull them away from their connecting points. Frankly, it sounds easier than it is as your clamps may be rusted and stubborn. But, after several minutes of yanking you should be able to remove the clamps. You’ll then want to remove the hose from the end closest to you (This should just slide off with a little muscle without the clamp). The hose that connects to the engine I believe is glued on. So at this point you will need to cut it off, don’t be afraid of cutting the steel you’re not going to harm anything. Once you remove it, you’re 1/3 of the way done all within 15 minutes.


Next you’ll have to place the new one on, notice the curvature of the tube and try to replicate how the old one was. Slide on the engine side first and then put a hose clamp over your hose. You’ll tighten it at the hoses connection with your flat head screw driver. Now, place your second hose clamp on and connect the hose to the connection closest to you. Tighten your second hose clamp in the same fashion as the first. All you have left now is to fill your radiator with the antifreeze (and possibly water). Make sure to follow the directions indicated on the label. Just like that you are done! You have hopefully managed to save yourself a bit of money and prolonged the life of your vehicle.


That being said; we now know that parts need to be replaced once they are old. I had purchased my truck, a 2002 Dodge Ram which did not come with an owner’s manual. We may have been able to save ourselves the heartache if we had just known when to have changed it sooner. Moral of the story refer to your owner’s manual on what to service if you are nearing 100,000 Miles. As I indicated above, I do not have an owner’s manual and mine went out at 127,000 miles. So if your hose has not been changed or you do not know, it may be time to replace it before my story happens to you. Please keep in mind that if you service it before it fails on you, you will need to drain your antifreeze before servicing. Another note, if the top one fails it’s probably a good time to replace the lower radiator hose as well.

When was the last time your hoses were replaced?

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