When I decided to buy a classic car as a daily driver I intentionally stuck to looking at popular models. I reasoned my local chain auto parts store would stock basic maintenance items like radiator hoses, belts, and brake shoes for a classic Mustang, somewhat simplifying ownership of an old car. I was sort of right. Parts are easily available, but I’ve had a few challenges with the quality and fit of chain store parts.
Case in point. My radiator started spewing coolant all over the highway on my way home from work a few weeks ago. I used the mechanical failure as an excuse to upgrade the cooling system with a new water pump, upgraded three row aluminum radiator, and of course new upper and lower radiator hoses and a bypass hose – which my local parts store had on the shelf.
I noted at the store that the new hoses didn’t follow the exact shape of the originals, but the counter jockey doubled checked the part number and assured me they’d work. Deep down I knew better, but the Mustang is my daily and I needed it to get me to work on Monday.
Both the upper and lower radiator hoses needed to be trimmed quite a bit for fitment. The upper looked a little stretched after installation, but seemed to work ok. The lower hose was a bit of a challenge. The angle of the curve on the chain store hose was not as severe, which routed it uncomfortably close to the fan belt. They weren’t making contact, but it was close. I adjusted it as best I could and drove to work on Monday with no issues.
The following weekend I decided to check on things and found the bypass hose weeping coolant and the fan cutting a notch in the lower radiator hose. I ordered another new set of hoses online from a Mustang specialty parts retailer. The new hoses did require minor trimming due to the thicker aftermarket radiator, but they fit beautifully, don’t leak, and are not in danger of being mutilated by moving engine parts. I’m not sure what I’m more annoyed with; that I had to throw away a two week old set of hoses, or that the correct hoses I got online were cheaper – even after shipping. So, lesson learned. Whether your classic car is a daily driver or a weekend cruiser, beware of the ‘close enough’ fit of generic parts. Time and budget allowing, invest in OEM or quality reproduction parts.