Removal of the radiator on the MGA is a pretty easy job. I decided to start by removing the grille – it looked to be in good shape beneath the grunge and I wanted to make sure it was stored safely. This is an easy job, but requires the bonnet open to remove the upper nuts holding the grille. If your bonnet latch stops working you could end up having to cut through the grille to open it. There is a trick when installing a grille to make sure you do not have to do this though. I hope to show that later.
The water in the radiator can be drained using a valve at the base of the radiator. There are then only two hoses to contend with. The upper one runs to the thermostat cover and is easy to get a grip on and remove. I discovered the hose was cracking on the interior. I also later discovered that the aluminum thermostat cover was literally decaying on the inside and would have to be replaced.
The lower hose comes up to a three-way coupling that supplies water to the heater and also connects to the water pump. I disconnected the jubilee clips at both ends, but eventually found that the hose separated most easily from the radiator side. It is still a bit of a knuckle-bruiser getting that lower hose off. Once the hoses are off there are three nuts and bolts on each side of the radiator that hold it to the car. The radiator can be lifted clear. One person can do the job – two people helps make sure you do not end up scratching paint on the nose.
When I removed the radiator I discovered two things. First, it was an original Morris radiator with the identification plate intact on the back. Cool! Second, some of the aluminum from the decaying thermostat was in the base of the radiator.
Now, replacement radiators are readily available for the MGA and pretty inexpensive. However, my desire was to keep the original. So I took it down to an experienced ‘old-school’ radiator expert who has a shop nearby – Commercial Radiator in Simi Valley, California. He told me the debris was definitely from the thermostat cover and that the core could not be rodded due to the shape of the channels. However, he would put it in a chemical bath instead and then check it – soldering any leaks. The cost was relatively inexpensive and he is a very experienced guy. He felt the radiator was quite savable and it would be nice to have the original in the car. So I went for it.