I need to replace the radiator

  • 3.4L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • 160,000 MILES
I have been told the chevy van I have has an unusual coolant system in how it interacts with the engine. I can tell the radiator is shot but I have thrown so much money at the situation, I do not trust anyone to replace it. I want to do it myself to make sure nothing else gets broken. I even asked why they did not put another new thermostat in as it could have come from the factory bad. Then they said the gages we just sending erroneous messages but they could not fix that. I have been to the dealer, Big O Tires (they showed me the bad radiator but never fixed it though they said they did) and Sundance in Lakewood, CO. Sundance was going to replace the radiator but then said they saw a puff of black smoke when they went out to put it in the shop and advised a new engine. Now I am scared to take it to them for the radiator for fear they will break something else.
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have the same problem?
Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 AT 3:22 PM

1 Reply

I don't know how you came up with these ideas but this is what every reputable mechanic and shop owner fears. Once they so much as look at your van, you blame them for everything that goes wrong from then on.

First of all, you didn't say what is happening. There's no symptoms or observations to go on. All you said is everyone else is incompetent and only you can fix it right. When you assume everyone is going to break something, or when you are suspicious of everyone, it shows, and that is how you are going to be treated. That's not because they're doing it intentionally. It's because based on your tone, they know you don't trust them. How would you feel if someone asked you to do something for them, then implied they new you wouldn't do the job right?

As a former instructor, I've been asked many times to interpret repair bills and repair estimates, and in most cases, it was the same people who were always suspicious and accusatory until I explained what likely happened. Had they not come to me, they would have shared their incorrect opinion of that mechanic with anyone who would listen, and that is not fair to the 99 percent of them who have your best interest at heart.

You've been to three different shops. Each one has to start over from the beginning. You don't run to a different doctor each time you don't like the diagnosis. You go back to allow him to continue trying to find what's wrong. I'll bet you don't look at the doctor as your enemy either. People who think of their mechanic as their advocate, not their adversary, get the best results.

You never said what is wrong with your radiator; just that one shop said they fixed it. How do you suppose they could intentionally lie to you knowing you were going to drive away and the problem is still there?

You haven't listed the symptoms. You didn't say why the radiator needs to be replaced. You didn't say what they were supposed to have fixed. You didn't say what was supposed to have gotten broken. You didn't say why someone would say you need a whole new engine based on a puff of smoke. I'd sure want to know more about how they came up with that diagnosis. All you've said so far is you don't trust the people with the training and annual retraining, and that you can do it better yourself. If that is correct, don't even bother trying until you get a copy of the manufacturer's service manual, and read through the procedure first. Any special tools needed will be listed at the end of the section. Many auto parts stores rent or borrow tools. GM likes to use specialty tools that don't find use on any other car brands, so for those, you might have to visit one of the guys who drive the tool trucks to each shop once a week. The dealership I used to work for was very good about borrowing special tools to regular customers, as long as no one in the shop had a job scheduled that might require that tool. If the service writers weren't busy, they would also search for service manuals and with the owner's blessings, would photocopy pages for customers and for other local dealers.

Be aware too that GM likes to use the red Dex-Cool antifreeze in their cooling systems. That stuff has caused a lot of problems. GM advertised it as "lifetime" coolant to trick people into thinking the cost of maintenance was lower than it really is. On the stickers on the vehicle it says to replace the coolant every three years. Even the Dex-Cool company says to replace it every two years since that's about how long it takes for the rust inhibitor and water pump lubricant additives to wear out. If you still have that coolant in the system, consider switching to something else.
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Friday, January 24th, 2014 AT 4:31 AM

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