Radiator Hose Repair and Maintenance For Your Imperial


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Tips from Dick:

If your radiator hoses are more than 4 or 5 years old, or you don't know their age, change them anyway.  If they are younger, squeeze the lower hose to determine two things:

1. Does it still have a healthy anti-collapse spring in it?

2. Does it feel soft and gummy inside?

The lower hose almost always fails first, but if there is any doubt, take the upper hose loose at the radiator and look into it. If it feels crusty or looks rusty down inside the hose, change them all. Don't forget the heater hoses and bypass hoses (water pump to head) if any.

This is very cheap insurance against going down the same road as other sorry folks, which resulted in unneeded major engine repair from neglect of cooling system.

Tip from Gary (1956):

I've had a problem finding a modern stock looking hose for our '56 C-73. It had a universal ribbed style when we purchased the car several months ago.

We bought hoses from Andy Bernbaum, but no matter how they were cut down to fit, we still had interference between the top of the hose and fan belts (bought two, tried it twice, failed both times). We have the double pulley arrangement where the belts cross over directly from generator to air cond. compressor. Ours is a fairly early serial number (C56-1881) with Powerflight and the rectangular style fan shroud. I've seen pictures of later '56's with belts running from the compressor directly to the water pump. Of course Bernbaum's hose will work fine in that set up.

Anyway...I finally found a Gates hose marketed by Carquest as #21956. I have no idea of its true application. By judiciously cutting excess stock from both ends I was able to install it so that there is 5/8" to 3/4" clearance between the top side of the hose and bottom of the belts. The reason you need that much clearance is because the hose changes shape somewhat when the cooling system is up to temperature and pressure. That, along with the natural vibration of the belt toward and away from the hose at different RPM means that you need more clearance than it might first appear.

This is an issue of limited interest to a few early '56 serial #'s, I know. On the other hand, I know most of us want to maintain our cars in as original appearance as possible. Hope it helps someone.

Question from Jeff (1956):

I am in the process of changing the radiator hoses on my 56 Imperial. The only ones that I can find are the universal/flex type hoses. Has anyone found the original type or used hoses for another car with modifications?

Reply from Kerry:

I've had the same problem with several cars including my 1954. What I did rather than use the flex hoses was go wander in the hose warehouse of my parts store, looking for hoses that have the correct 'shape' somewhere on their length. Carrying the old hose with you is a big help.

Question from Mark (1966):

My '66 Crown just blew the lower radiator hose. napa's replacement is wrong in that while it has the correct curvature, it is too long and ends below the outlet for the radiator. The one that failed was like the one I was sold and I noticed that it had been bent to make it fit. That bend was where it failed. What is the correct number for the lower radiator hose? The top is a 5074 (the tag is still on it) but I don't know the lower.


From John:

I usually buy Gates hoses & you will notice markings on them. They need to be cut to the correct length.

From Bill:

Good chance the hose that blew was the correct hose, but was not "cut to fit" as a lot of aftermarket hose are. they are made that way because then one hose can fit several applications. You will see one or more markings on those hoses, and the store's book will probably have a footnote saying that it must be "cut to fit" There is nothing wrong with "NAPA" hoses, I've used them for years without problems.

This page last updated December 2, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club