Mend a Radiator or Heater Hose

by Tracy Barker, Colorado Crew


There’s truly nothing better than carrying the direct-replacement part for your vehicle, but packing and storing a large quantity of replacement parts is impractical.  Each of us must decide which parts to carry, usually based on probability of failure and storage space availability.  Other factors to consider are whether the part has broad utility, meaning, can it be used for more than one application on your vehicle, and whether it can be used among several makes/models among your group.  Radiator hoses tend to be vehicle-specific due to their diameter, length, and the bends molded into the hose, but one of similar size and shape could be made to work, if necessary.

In this particular instance, I had a motor mount failure which allowed the engine to lift during application of torque.  Unaware of what was happening beneath the hood, I soon learned that the air pump pulley was slowly wearing a hole through the upper radiator hose.  Coming off of Imogene Pass in Ouray, Colorado, I began to smell coolant.  Within a minute, the thermometer indicated my temperature was rising.

I pulled over in a wide section of trail and investigated, finding the circumstance described above.  I applied a ratchet strap to the motor mount, temporarily solving the cause but II didn’t have a replacement hose.  My travel partner offered a solution–a tire plug and some heater-hose tape.  Since the hole was narrow, a small piece of tire plug was adequate to cover it.  I then wrapped the hose with the tape.  This trail-fix was good enough to get down the mountain to town.

Ouray has no “big box” auto parts stores, but it does have one very busy automotive garage.  With a wide selection of belts hanging on the walls within the shop, I was optimistic that they possessed and sold an assortment of radiator hoses; but they didn’t.  I was advised to visit the local hardware store just a few blocks away.

The hardware store didn’t have radiator hoses, either, but they did have an assortment of vinyl hoses, PVC pipes, and copper plumbing pipes and adapters.  I selected a 45* angle of PVC in the near-identical diameter of my upper radiator hose.  I then cut my damaged hose at the point of failure, and fitted the PVC with two new hose clamps.  This solution was good enough for two additional days on the trails, plus the 300+ mile drive home to Colorado Springs.  It has since been replaced with a new hose (and the motor mount replaced, too).  The PVC angle and extra hose clamps now reside in my trail-repair spare parts tote, alongside a brake cylinder, mechanical fuel pump, v-belts, and other miscellaneous parts.