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Do-It-Yourself radiator repairs?

13452 Views 24 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  gears
Has anyone attempted radiator repairs on their own?

So... Here's the story.

The strap (that holds the radiator together) on my8N's radiator had broken (at the seam, lower right side)... and I welded it back together. That broke (again) on Saturday, while using it, and the core fell into the fan... and viola I'm now sprinkling coolant everywhere I go.

My first thoughts were to drain the coolant, take the radiator out, and find a radiator shop (the radiator for the 860 leaks, too... and I was going to take both), but then...

What if I were to take some acid core solder... locate the holes... and solder them (I have been formally trained in soldering... that doesn't mean that I'm any good at it, though :hide:)... and re-weld (again) that strap? Has anyone tried this? Any thoughts on if it would (or wouldn't) work?
I'd have to get a new gas cylinder... mine is empty... but otherwise... I've got acid core solder and flux... somewhere (assuming I can find it :hide:).
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Hi Steve.. Just how many holes did the fan make in the radiator? The key to any soldering job is cleanliness cleanliness & cleanliness.. If you can get the area clean you should be able to solder things up nicely.. Remember that solder 'flows to heat' and patch things up.. As I only live 5 miles from an excellent radiator repair shop that's where mine would go.. If in a pinch I have fixed a few over time.. Once the repair is done I would reinforce that strap weld so this will never ever happen again.. :goodl:
I say go for it. Depending on how bad it is. You have nothing to loose. If you fix it great if not you would still have to pay someone to fix it anyways and they would be doing the same thing. Just make sure the metal is really clean before you start.

take some before and after pics to show us how you did it.

Good luck
Thanks guys...

Just wondering if I was missing anything in my thought process.

I haven't gotten the radiator off of the tractor, yet, to determine the extent of the damage (I was going to do that yesterday, but... dang it was hot and humid... I was already drowning in sweat... and I'd already missed ¾ if the Texans' game :( ). I need to get the tractor going, though, and... particularly if I can cut the cost and do it myself, I need to get to it sooner rather than later.

In retrospect... I'm glad I didn't fill up the gas tank before I started... there's not THAT extra weight to worry about... :ROF
The only difference between you and the guy at the shop is equipment, knowledge, skill and experience. If you have enough determination to make up the difference between you and him then you can probably do it. If there are only a few tubes leaking you should be able to pinch them off and solder with minimal problems. If there are too many leaks too deep into the core it might restrict the water flow and cause overheating.
I'd probably try it myself, but I have been known to fix on simple things to the point that they cannot be fixed by anyone. :fing20:
Good luck and let us know how it comes out..take pictures.
I'd say give it a shot. Success will depend on, aside from your skill level, how clean, as was mentioned, you can get the damaged area, what kind of shape the radiator is in (how thin the tubes and tanks are after years of use) and how bad the damage is.

It's been my experience that most old radiators really need to be boiled out and cleaned up before a good job of soldering can be done. Not always the case but pretty much what I've seen. The crud on the outside can be scrubbed off but when heat is applied and flux added the junk inside the tubes or tanks tends to migrate to the heat and flux messing things up.

That broken side strap could turn out to be an ongoing problem unless braced up with some reenforcing of some kind. I don't remember how the N's were built in that area so can't offer any suggestions.

I do remember Dad had to replace the radiator in the one we had around here. Course it had been run into a cultivator by a hired man. Took a new grill as well and the one side of the hood had to be fixed in a body shop. Old man was not a happy camper.

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I have made basic repairs such as soldering a strap to a tank and pinching and soldering tubes. Do any welding first, it takes more heat. As mentioned, it is easier to pinch the tubes. Soldering is soldering, just more heat and acid required for the radiator. Cleanliness is paramount. I don't know if you can get solder with much lead content today or not. Good luck. Pictures would be nice.
Go for it, you can always take it the radiator shop if you don't fix it. Just make sure you have it VERY CLEAN before you start. GOOD LUCK!!!
I have made several repairs like that and have had good luck if you already have soldering exp. it should be easy for you.
Did the same thing to mine taking it off the trailer - found out my new purchase didn't have the lower mount bolts! I ended up using plumbing solder & flux from Lowes - my lil propane torch did it up a treat!

My only advice is don't get it too hot - if you're not happy with how its working out, LET IT COOL DOWN before trying to fix ugly blobs or you'll just make things worse - go ahead, ask me how I know....
Could use Dual Adhesive System called "Rapid Fix" for radiator repairs:
- see following YouTube & web site link:

Beaumont { :>))
Golden Rule - "he who has the gold, makes the rule"
1992 JD 318 original paint w/484 hr. on P218g Onan & #49 snow blower / 1998 JD GT262 w/brand new Kawasaki OHV & 48" rebuilt deck
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I'd go for it. The only advice I got is to use a small torch, propane is a bit more forgiving than oxy /acetylene. I've gone a bit overboard with a torch and unsoldered more than I was trying to fix. Keep it small and cool it off regularly and it should be good to go.
I wonder if you cleaned it with acetone or lacquer thinner and poured JB weld on the open tubes? JB weld says it good up 500 degree constant temp and is not harmed by any automotive chemicals.
I've gone a bit overboard with a torch and unsoldered more than I was trying to fix.
That's me:banghead3
if the core looks halfway salvageable.. I'd go for it.

I routinely solder pennies and tin tabs on tanks for pinholes.. and as for the tubes.. pince the hole closed and solder.. or if it went all the way thru the tube, pinch closed and solder. my 850 has more than 1 ROLL of solder on it.. about half or more the tubes are soldered up or pinched off.. but she still runs... :) I only use her as a loader tractor.. so she don't get constant rpm.. so it works out.

small stainless wire brush, LOTSA paste flux, and I like plumbers solder....

propane torch is more than fine...


It worked!! :D

I even photo-documented it, so... Here goes.

This first shot is the tractor, as I was taking it apart. I had already removed the hood, at this point.

Here you can see where the fan has hit the radiator (on more than one occasion :hide: )

...and here's the culprit!! My botched welding job (did I mention that I am NOT a welder? :hide:)

Here (circled) is the open in the radiator tube...

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Here we see how the strap looks... in its broken state. You can see how it allowed the radiator core to move around.

Day Two

This was Wednesday evening... and I soldered the hole in the radiator.
This is the repaired radiator tube.

Fast forward to Friday evening... and I pressure tested the radiator. Here you can see my home made pressure testing setup. I took an old upper radiator hose (from an 8N) and cut it in half. I inserted a 3/4" slip-on PVC cap in each half... and clamped it in place with a hose clamp. In one of the caps (for the neck tube) I drilled a 9/16" hole and inserted a tubeless valve stem to allow me to pressurize the system.

Here is my contraption...

...and here I am holding it upright... and it is filled with water (but not yet pressurized).

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Yahoo!!!!! Success!!!
Here is the radiator after the successful pressure test. I put the cap on the radiator and put in compressed air until the radiator cap let loose... but no leak out of the radiator!!!

Here I've reinstalled (and refilled) the radiator. I know, I know... I over filled the radiator, but... that was intentional. I wanted to make sure that there was enough for any that may have leaked out of the passages while I had things disconnected.

This shows just how close the fan is to the radiator after it's installed. Not a whole lot of leeway.

Left side with the radiator fully installed.

Right side with the radiator fully installed (and my repair job painted)

My weld job... after paint. Did I tell you that I am NOT a welder?

The tractor is back together, it runs, and it doesn't leak!!!

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Looks like it will be fine..probably saved yourself $50 or more. Did you get the strap welded on securely? must have posted the last segment while I was typing. I see you have the strap welded on.
Time will tell. I'll need it this weekend.

I figure I saved at least that much... probably considerably more. I don't know what radiator shops are charging these days for repairs, but. I spent about $15 on a new propane bottle and plumbers solder/flux. And another $5 or so on PVC fittings and hose clamps. I had everything else at the house.
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