How to change the air-conditioning radiator on a MKII Ford Mondeo.

The 'radiator' of a car air-conditioning plant seems to be known also as a 'condenser'. In the Ford Mondeo family of cars it seems to be the most likely cause of the air conditioning system losing gas and shutting itself down.

In other words - the most likely reason your aircon has packed up.

I am indebted to an article that I once spotted on internet (but which I can't now find) which convinced me that it was possible to change this component myself and in doing so, restore the system to full working order for the cost of a replacement radiator. The radiator cost me £62+VAT, and the gas recharge cost £49. I had been quoted £250 by a local aircon specialist to repair the system for me. So I did it myself.

The article referenced above suggested that you could do the job in about an hour. It took me more like three hours. You'll need 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm and 14mm ring-spanners and sockets plus a large blade (about 10mm) flatblade screwdriver and a large crosspoint screwdriver too. You also need a 13mm deep-reach socket for getting the coolant pipe unions off and onto the radiator.

You apparently need a set of ramps so as to lift the front of the vehicle. As you'll see in the photos below, I didn't have one and improvised by using the natural fallaway of the end of my drive where it met the street. DO NOT JACK YOUR CAR AND CRAWL UNDERNEATH - IF THE JACK FAILS, YOU DIE.

How to do it - a photo essay.

Here's the front of the MKII Mondeo. First thing is to get the oval grille off the front. So we remove the plastic panel that sits over it first.

Use your 10mm flatblade screwdriver to prise the three plastic plugs off the top of the plastic panel. Careful - the plugs fly off and fall into the engine bay very easily!

Use your 10mm flatblade screwdriver to unscrew the two big screws either side of the oval grille. Then spring the two barbed plastic fingers aside and pull the grille forwards to free it from the simple clips that hold its bottom edge in place.

Now lie under the front end of the car and again use your 10mm flatblade screwdriver to unscrew the two big screws either side of the front of the plastic stone-guard plate. Then, using a 10mm socket (or ring spanner), remove the three hex-head bolts holding the stone-guard plate further under the vehicle. Notice in this photo that I've not yet realised that I need to have the car positioned over the end of the driveway to get extra space underneath! DON'T MAKE THIS MISTAKE - it wasted 30 mins having to tape everything together and move the car when I discovered the problem.

Slip a pair of instument screwdrivers (or thick wire) throught the little holes in the plastic locating-pegs at the top of the car's main engine- cooling radiator. The stops the radiator falling off when you do the next bit...

Use an 8mm socket to remove the two bolts holding the right-hand radiator bottom bracket to the subframe, Notice the rust! I had to use a bit of "PlusGas" to ease the bolts a bit. Once unbolted, the bracket pulls off downwards.

(The red plastic 'thing' is the screw-hole for one of the two big screws that you removed in getting the stone-guard off.)

Once removed it looks like this. A peg in the bottom of the radiator sits quite tightly into that rubber bush.

Use an 8mm socket to remove the two bolts holding the left-hand radiator bottom bracket to the subframe, Not so much rust on this side for me! Just as it was on the RHS, once unbolted, the bracket pulls off downwards.

(The red plastic 'thing' is the screw-hole for the other one of the two big screws that you removed in getting the stone-guard off, Notice that this one is at an angle.)

Once removed it looks like this. Just like on the RHS, a peg in the bottom of the radiator sits quite tightly into that rubber bush.

Use an 8mm socket to undo the bolts on either side of the bottom of the air-conditioning radiator. This is the RHS, but the LHS is just a mirror image.

Return to the top of the radiator and remove the two instrument screwdrivers that are currently all that holds the radiators in place. Have a hand on the bottom of the radiators as you do that!! Lower the radiators and wriggle them backwards (towards the engine) as far as you can.

Having done that, lift the air-conditioning radiator upwards a bit to free the two clips that hook it to the frame of the main radiator. It should now be possible to wriggle the air-conditioning radiator forwards and downwards. There is very little space to do this. It can't come down too far on the RHS of the car because the pipes are still attached. As you can see in the next photo, it can fall out completely on the LHS of the car! Try to avoid doing this for fear of damaging the engine cooling radiator.

It was at this point that the bottom-strut fell off my air-conditioning radiator! It was totally rotted and that's how the A/C system had lost all its gas and had failed in the first place.

Using your long-reach 13mm socket, undo the nut from the threaded stud holding the lower coolant hose-fitting onto the air-conditioning radiator. It's quite likely the entire stud will unscrew from the radiator body. I've arrowed where it came from in the photo above, and this is what the stud looks like. You can see why you needed a long-reach socket to get onto that nut.

If this happens, you'll have to put the stud into a vice and get that nut off. It will be needed when you fit the new radiator.

Now pull off the lower coolant fitting (don't pull the pipe, pull the box-like fitting at the end of the pipe!). It is a really tight fit. Tuck the pipe-fitting as far out-of-the-way as you can and try not to get crud in it. Repeat the nut-undoing operation on the upper coolant hose-fitting. This is EXTREMELY difficult to do! You can't see what you're doing, you can't move your hands much and the various other pipes get in the way. Once you've done all this, pull that fitting off the radiator and tuck it out of the way too.

The coolant feed pipes are fitted to the radiator using a pair of aluminium "boxes" each of which is permanently swaged onto its coolant pipe. Each carries a push-fit axial fitting with an O-ring to seal it, and the whole thing is held in place with that stud and its nut.

There is a view of the replacement radiator here which clearly shows what the fittings look like at the radiator-end. The supply and drain pipes have different fittings on the pipework (one male, one female) so you can't get them mixed up. You'll want to leave those plastic plugs in place until the last minute to avoid crud getting into the system!

Just for reference, after I'd got the old radiator out of the car, it looked like this. Notice the rotted-off bottom bar lying under the rest of the radiator. You'll also notice that the fixing stud for the upper coolant hose-fitting had stayed in the old radiator as I undid the nut. That saved a bit of messing around.

I needed to have the car repositioned over the end of my driveway to get enough extra space underneath to get the radiator out! DON'T MAKE THIS MISTAKE - I wasted 30 mins having to tape everything together and move the car when I discovered the problem.


Well, as they say in the Haynes Manuals, "assembly is the reverse of disassembly"! The big difference is just that when you got the old radiator out, you didn't care much how many dings you put into it - when refitting the new one you will want to be very much more careful.

Get the new radiator into place before pulling off those plastic plugs and refitting the coolant pipes. Smear a little grease over the O-rings as you refit each one. Obviously, you fit the upper coolant pipe first, followed by the lower one!

Once everything is back together and bolted up, you will feel quite relieved if this is your first attempt at such a job. The final thing to do is to drive around to any garage or tyre-fitting centre that offers a sensible price for a "re gas" and get the system filled up and working again.

I did the job you see here in summer of 2009. It is currently summer of 2010 and the aircon on the car is still working just fine. And it's been quite a hot summer so far, I've been glad of it!


Good Luck!

PS: See also this article.