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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Question:

I'm planning to replace a 2011 Ridgeline radiator, but need advice on which brand to use. It seems that most owners dislike the factory unit because it corrodes and fails, so I'm trying to get something that would be better & last longer. Some brands that I noticed were Spectra Premium and CSF brand.


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Background info:

At a routine service visit, I was told that 2011 RL needs a new radiator. The service tech shined a flashlight down along the drivers side end of the radiator, and pointed out a small, barely noticeable blue-green stain at the 90 degree junction as the bottom of the radiator.

I was told that the radiators get "stress cracks" in Ridgelines & Pilots, & that it requires a new radiator. He didn't mention anything about the fittings or corrosion. He also said that he smelled an odor of burning radiator fluid. The price for this repair including the tranny flush was estimated at $800.

At home I used a mirror & flashlight at night to really try to inspect the fittings & the area down along the bottom of the radiator. The radiator seems fine to me, but after reading all the horror stories about corroded fittings, I was thinking that maybe it's a good idea to just do it & get it over with. I checked the tranny fluid & it all looked great, no signs of coolant mixing with tranny fluid.

The service guy said that the factory OEM radiator is the best & that they corrected the corrosion problem...but on further research, I could not find any evidence that the problem was ever corrected. It seems that they are using the same old radiator that gets the corroded fittings.

I'm getting ready to replace the radiator, but I'm just curious what is the best one to get, or are there a few that are comparable. It seems that the Spectra Premium & the CSF brand are very similar. I'd like to get the best one available & do the job right, to postpone this kind of thing from happening again anytime soon.

Any other tips about replacing other parts, hoses, hose clamps, etc. tranny flush, would be great. I'm not a mechanic, so I was planning to bring an aftermarket radiator to the Honda service center, have them do the install, and then do my own tranny flush later at home.

I'm trying to save $$, but I don't trust myself to do the install myself, & I'd rather pay to make sure that the hoses get all reconnected properly, & if anything else gets broken or missing in the process, then the service center will have everything there to complete the job.

I've done the tranny flush before, & I'm working on a few different places for prices for the radiator replacement. I assume that the Honda service center has the most experience with replacing a Ridgeline radiator, but a local radiator shop could probably do a successful job for less $$, & since I'd be doing the tranny flush, it might not make any difference. I'm just not sure about the tranny fluid cooling lines and the radiator cooling lines contaminating each other...I'm not sure if a local radiator repair shop would understand about not contaminating the tranny or mixing up lines etc.

Any advice or experiences would be greatly appreciated, Thx.
 

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I used spectra. You can do the radiator change yourself, it is not difficult, just time consuming. Make sure you buy fasteners and extra set of screws at home. I also purchased foam pieces for the top and bottom. Your vehicle is still new, i would take remove it from the old and use that, if you are picky and want new one. Each cost 10$. Do not pay the dealer if you have time. use this link as a reference

http://www.ridgelineownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66898

More important question: Your vehicle still under the warranty right? Why Honda doesn't pay for this?
 
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Excellent question about the warranty. If for some reason you have to pay for it, I would get a 2nd opinion, maybe have it looked at by a radiator shop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This 2011 Ridgeline has a little more miles than average, so it just didn't quite meet the requirement to be covered under warranty. It's not that far off, but factory Honda refused to help or contribute any kind of goodwill effort.

It was a bit surprising to everyone involved, because the same Ridgeline was purchased & serviced at the same dealership, which is also considered to be one of the top Honda dealerships.

Back to the original issue: I was looking for the best aftermarket replacement radiator, & I've come up with some information.

The factory Honda radiator is notorious for unexpected, unpredictable, unobservable failure. The radiator keeps operating "fine" until it fails. Once it fails, it creates the "SMOD" or pink pepto bismol mess that is the contaminated tranny fluid...which is a BIG problem.

It seems that the Spectra Premium aftermarket radiator is a good replacement, and is less prone to that kind of failure. I'm planning to get one and make sure it is all properly installed, & I'll follow up with more info, because sooner or later, you're all going to need this information.

My Ridgeline was not very old, the miles were mostly highway miles, it was all perfectly maintained, and the only factor was that it was driven in New England, which has salted roads in winter. I don't think the road salt had much to do with the radiator failure...I think it was mostly the galvanic corrosion caused by dissimilar metals in the presence of an electrolyte (coolant) & possibly pH, which causes corrosion of the factory radiator FROM WITHIN. Most of the time, you will not even know it is happening.

Tip: run your Ridgeline for a little while, then open the hood. If the radiator is starting to fail, there will be a distinct odor of coolant that is burning off (getting on hot parts near the motor & vaporizing). If you smell that, then be aware that it might be time to do a detailed inspection & get ready for a new radiator.

Another tip is to never mix coolants. Try to use just one coolant product and stick with it; a 50/50 mix of coolant & water. if you dilute coolant with contaminated water, bad pH, etc. it can cause the radiator to fail faster. Under normal use, driving conditions, & proper maintenance, my factory radiator lasted for 3 1/2 years. That's just something to keep in mind for everyone who thinks that this can only happen to a Ridgeline that is 7 years old, etc.
 

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I also bought the Spectra from amazon and did swap myself, took about 2 hours from start to finish. Exactly 1 gallon of Honda coolant used.
 

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For those that find this post...the issue is not with the OEM radiator...doesn't really matter which radiator you pick...cheap is cheap and OEM is fine.

The issue is with a washer on the hard lines going into unit. They don't crack...they stipe out the fitting because the rust on the steel washer slowly pushes out the fitting and strips the threads.

We'll documented and many repairs were paid by Honda...many not.

Replace the fitting if you see rust. Some get stainless and some got steel. No need to replace the radiator unless the threads are stripped.
 
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Checkmate said:
..never mix coolants. Try to use just one coolant product and stick with it; a 50/50 mix of coolant & water...
we've made coolant change, not entire flush but 1 gallon drain and fill using original honda coolant, part of our 12 month maintenance on all our hondas, RLs, Accords, CRVs, Civics -- similar to our accelerated schedule on brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission maintenance.
 

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Another tip is to never mix coolants. Try to use just one coolant product and stick with it; a 50/50 mix of coolant & water. if you dilute coolant with contaminated water, bad pH, etc. it can cause the radiator to fail faster. Under normal use, driving conditions, & proper maintenance, my factory radiator lasted for 3 1/2 years. That's just something to keep in mind for everyone who thinks that this can only happen to a Ridgeline that is 7 years old, etc.
Not sure where you are coming from here. You should only use OEM Honda coolant in the Ridge and it comes pre-mixed.

Henni,
While I respect your choice to do accelerated maintenance I will say (since your are sharing this with us and must think that it is a good idea perhaps worth emulating) that IMHO changing out a gallon of coolant every year is a total waste of time, money and just adds to the junk that we throw back into our environment. Is the accelerated coolant change interval going to have any significant impact on the fitting failure?? Very unlikely. To each is own . . .
 

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For those that find this post...the issue is not with the OEM radiator...doesn't really matter which radiator you pick...cheap is cheap and OEM is fine.

The issue is with a washer on the hard lines going into unit. They don't crack...they stipe out the fitting because the rust on the steel washer slowly pushes out the fitting and strips the threads.

We'll documented and many repairs were paid by Honda...many not.

Replace the fitting if you see rust. Some get stainless and some got steel. No need to replace the radiator unless the threads are stripped.
Have you successfully undone the fittings, installed a new specialty washer and then reinstalled?
 

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Have you successfully undone the fittings, installed a new specialty washer and then reinstalled?

Not possible from my understanding. The fittings hold the ATF/Pre-Heater/Cooler in suspension in the lower tank. Once you pull apart the fittings the tank Pre-heater/cooler will fall away and you will not be able to reattach. I could be wrong.

When I have nothing better to do I'll break out the dremel and cut into the spare/dead one's I have.
 

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That just sounds a bit odd (interior mating threads "falling away"), given you have to install those fittings in a new replacement radiator, or if removing the radiator for any other reason (body repair, etc.)..... how do you explain that?
 

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The New Radiator includes all the necessary parts for the ATF Preheater/cooler, and it's already installed. You remove the radiator with the other parts preinstalled.

Maybe I'm wrong but that's the way it was explained to me, when I asked if we could use parts from my OEM original radiator with the corrosion & the lower tank/parts from the Spectra Radiator, they weren't sure they were threaded the same.
 

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I got my radiator replaced 2 years ago as preventive maintenance. Any radiator with brass fittings (which wont corrode) will be a good replacement. My radiator shop sold me a CSF 2830K for $200, plus $160 labor (2 hours @ $80/hr). Total was $418 including tax, fluids (Type II and DW-1) and misc shop supplies. I think your $800 quote is outrageous. The dealer is probably cheaper than that.
 

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Spectra rad ...........Product was defective , poorly made transmission lines that leaked. I contacted seller, and they were sympathetic to my issue, we had agreed upon getting replacement lines, but after several e-mails (original complaint, Feb 14 2015 to date , still no replacement parts , and will not reply to e-mails) So "CANADA AUTO SUPPLY" I have given you ample time to resolve the issue but you chose to ignore and use stall tactics. Last email is as shown. "Good afternoon,

I have ordered the rad in from Spectra - it should arrive tomorrow and I will have the lines shipped to you.

I will send you a prepaid return label with your new lines; please use the box we use to send the new lines to you to ship back the originals.

Best regards,

Tanya W.
CanadaAutoSupply" Buyers BEWARE ......
 

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Spectra rad ...........Product was defective , poorly made transmission lines that leaked. I contacted seller, and they were sympathetic to my issue, we had agreed upon getting replacement lines, but after several e-mails (original complaint, Feb 14 2015 to date , still no replacement parts , and will not reply to e-mails) So "CANADA AUTO SUPPLY" I have given you ample time to resolve the issue but you chose to ignore and use stall tactics. Last email is as shown. "Good afternoon,

I have ordered the rad in from Spectra - it should arrive tomorrow and I will have the lines shipped to you.

I will send you a prepaid return label with your new lines; please use the box we use to send the new lines to you to ship back the originals.

Best regards,

Tanya W.
CanadaAutoSupply" Buyers BEWARE ......
Thanks for sharin that info.. One of the last things on my list to update on my old "06". Now I'll have to think about it more, trade one maybe problem for another. Just keepin this thing in top condition till the maybe new on arrives. Otherwise I'll drive this thing another 100,000 miles. Thanks again.:act030:
 

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Threading elsewhere, but I recently did a Spectra install without realizing the brass AT line nipple was supplied untightened by Spectra (where the brass connector threads onto the radiator body). It looks fully installed and stout, but I got at least 2.5 turns from it after getting mysterious leak for a while (mysterious because it sources out of site and the brass to hose coupling was dry and wind sprays the pooled fluid onto other parts). Honda dealer installed it, did not tighten it either.

Anyway, fair warning to tighten up that connection right out of the box. Been dry since and everything cleaned up nicely. Will report back because it has not been very long, but it makes sense that if the connection is supplied loose, the connection will leak.
 
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Threading elsewhere, but I recently did a Spectra install without realizing the brass AT line nipple was supplied untightened by Spectra (where the brass connector threads onto the radiator body). It looks fully installed and stout, but I got at least 2.5 turns from it after getting mysterious leak for a while (mysterious because it sources out of site and the brass to hose coupling was dry and wind sprays the pooled fluid onto other parts). Honda dealer installed it, did not tighten it either.

Anyway, fair warning to tighten up that connection right out of the box. Been dry since and everything cleaned up nicely. Will report back because it has not been very long, but it makes sense that if the connection is supplied loose, the connection will leak.
Oh yes I know what you're saying about the fittings . I to put a wrench on the fittings ( Aluminum ) ....nut and line ......just to test the tension and they seemed fine.. Installed rad and ran it ...Then the leak ... ok no problem give the nut a snug . Well it gave about two full turns ,and then became loose. I said ****, the fitting snapped off the rad ..but no ! The nut remained and the line was off . So minutes later with line and nut removed and In hand, over to the bench ... the nut went over the flare on the line,it was too small .So out with the kit , forced the nut back on over the flare , and re-flared the line ...Installed ok. The battle which I originally posted was the aftermath. I now have two new Brass lines / nut fittings, soon to be replacing the others .
 

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Oh yes I know what you're saying about the fittings . I to put a wrench on the fittings ( Aluminum ) ....nut and line ......just to test the tension and they seemed fine.. Installed rad and ran it ...Then the leak ... ok no problem give the nut a snug . Well it gave about two full turns ,and then became loose. I said ****, the fitting snapped off the rad ..but no ! The nut remained and the line was off . So minutes later with line and nut removed and In hand, over to the bench ... the nut went over the flare on the line,it was too small .So out with the kit , forced the nut back on over the flare , and re-flared the line ...Installed ok. The battle which I originally posted was the aftermath. I now have two new Brass lines / nut fittings, soon to be replacing the others .
Holy crow ! I guess I'll be more careful, I was a little surprised it just kept turning without really resisting more. Now also understand the sentiment of replacing one problem with another... the only good news is there does not seem to be any coolant involved in the leak here, was just the AT.
 

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I've owed & installed both, I think where you purchase the Radiator is as important as which one, CSF vs Spectra...

Buying my Spectra from Amazon although it has a 2yr warranty, neither Spectra or Amazon would support it, so it's a large brick in my garage...

My CSF was sourced locally & he's willing to back it for 3yrs, and bench tested it infront of me, all for about $50 more than Amazon.
 
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Here are internal pictures of the OEM. You can see that if you remove both input and output connections that the internal heat exchanger will fall away inside the lower tank. That large internal O ring looks like a recipe for trouble. It would seem that a design where the ATF heat exchanger physically extended through the tank wall, not that internal threaded dual O ring design could be made more simply and be more reliable, but I assume someone thought that this was better because it certainly seems more complicated than necessary.

http://www.ridgelineownersclub.com/forums/showpost.php?p=612848&postcount=50

I'm sure many of us have read the regular ongoing debate about bypassing the internal ATF heat exchanger on other car forums. There was a guy on a WRX forum who slipped thermocouples under the hoses in a number of locations then graphed it all out under different operating conditions and the ATF heat exchanger did provide ATF cooling under some stressful conditions. Of course one cant immediately say that applies to the Ridgeline, but I would want to see a similar study before just bypassing it or at least have a gauge to keep an eye on things.

Given that I live in a relatively warm climate I'd add a secondary external cooler if I bypassed the radiator placed ATF heat exchanger.

I believe that the rust colored stuff on the internal threads is some sort of thread locking compound. The way the nipples are attached to the tightening nut means that the necessary pipe orientation wont necessarily line up in the proper direction when the nut is torqued to spec, hence a little thread lock and of course the Belleville spring washer to assist in keeping things in proper spec ... only my theory of course since the entire OEM radiator is one part number and comes entirely assembled without any other repair info.

I replaced my 06 OEM with a Koyorad which like many other aftermarkets uses flare nuts to secure and orient the direction of the nipples. There was even a sticker on them to make sure the flare nuts were torqued properly before installing. Both flare nuts were only hand tight.

I wonder if Honda didn't correct this issue at some point. The threads on this have become too many and some too long to follow but someone along the line in one of them commented that they hadn't seen the issue on any 09's or later.

I'm one of the fortunate ones where Honda agreed to do a full replacement with a new OEM or reimburse my out of pocket. Considering this issue was just getting some publicity, I elected to get a Koyorad from Rock Auto. I believe there have been several different OEM radiator part numbers since then so my hope and belief is that Honda resolved this particular issue.

Are folks still seeing this issue on more recent vehicles?
 
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