Wednesday, February 24, 2021

1976 Corvette Stingray Radiator Fan Restoration

Radiator fans take a beating every time you drive your car. And even though they are surrounded by a shroud and hide behind the radiator, debris and road grime find their way into the area. Consequently, fan blades get pelted by small dirt fragments that chip the paint.

The end result is a fan that looks pretty ratty.


I should've had the fan powder-coated when I had the air cleaner and other brackets done, but for reasons unknown, I did not. Big mistake, as it would have looked great for a long time.

The easiest solution, for now, was to take it out, sand down areas that needed it, and then give it a couple of coats of primer and paint.

So I removed the fan which can be accomplished without removing any of the belts. You still need to remove the air cleaner assembly and air intake ducts, but that's super easy. The video at the end of the article details the installation of every component, which is the reverse of removal.


Since the fan is exposed to the engine bay heat, which as any C3 Corvette owner will tell you is pretty high, I decided to use VHT (Very High Temperature) primer, followed by a few heavy coats of caliper paint I've had sitting on a shelf for quite some time.


Not sure how a couple of the blades got dented. Maybe someone dropped the fan or something found its way between the fan and the shroud. Anyhow, I did not realize this until it was too late to straighten them but they have no impact on the fan's performance, and you do not notice them once the fan is back in place.


Since caliper paint is formulated to withstand heat, I thought it would be an excellent choice for the radiator fan. I applied several thick coats of paint and allowed it to cure for several hours.

While the paint was curing, I turned my attention to the fan shroud area. After removing the fand and air intake duct, I discovered a small amount of debris trapped between the a/c condenser and the upper portion of the radiator core support.


A stiff brush along with the shop vac got rid of the debris in minutes, which was mostly composed of dried leaves and a few dead bugs.


After the area was clean, I applied a coat of wax to the top part of the radiator core support and also gave the fan shroud—as well as cooling hoses—a coat of Chemical Guys' VRP. A conditioner for Vinyl, Rubber, and Plastic.


I've always liked the "marbled" finish of some of the components, and VRP really brings out the detail and beauty of that feature of the fan shroud.


The conditioner's bottle is labeled "Super Shine," and the results prove the accuracy of the statement. And I have to add that is also durable.

A few weeks ago I applied the product to my trucks' trim and vinyl bed cover, and even though the truck sleeps outside and is exposed to Florida's sun, heat, and all sorts of weather, the areas protected by VRP still look great.


The photo above shows another view of the fan shroud and a couple of hoses, and they all look new. And once VRP dries, it creates a maintenance-free hard and shiny coat. Great stuff!

The air intake duct was also looking a bit tired, so I cleaned it, inside and out, and gave it a light sanding. You can find used OEM ducts on eBay but expect to pay at least $50 for one in okay condition, and a lot more for those that look almost new.

I am not sure if there are reproduction snorkels available, but oftentimes a better idea is to simply restore factory-original parts and components.


I like to use DupliColor truck bed liner spray for these types of parts since it leaves an almost OEM textured finish. Plus, since the product is intended as a bed liner, it is quite durable. I even use it as undercoating in some cases.


The duct is split in the front as you can see, and it clamps over the upper radiator support bar. It is then secured by four small screws and speed nuts. I used hex-head screws for ease of removal and installation since the hood tends to get in the way.


The fan is secured to the water pump pulley by four nuts threaded to four studs. My original setup (shown above) used grade-8 buts and split lock washers. Nothing wrong with that except that the fan was held in place by three threads. The studs are way too short, in my opinion. 

Note: I fixed the short-stud issue when I replaced the water pump, and detailed the how-to in that article. Click here for a direct link.


I removed all four studs since three of them came out when I tried to remove the nuts. The threads were in dire need of some attention so I chased them with a die and that cleaned them up nicely.


Clean threads ready for some thread locker. By the way, the water pump uses fine threads, while the fan portion threads are coarse.


Ace Hardware had stainless steel nuts and washers. I ended up using the star lock-washers and thinner nuts. At some point in the future, I may consider replacing the studs with longer ones, but for now, these work fine as shown in the video below.

Once the fan was secured in place, I reinstalled the air intake duct or snorkel.


After securing the snorkel, I installed the flex duct which connects the snorkel to the air cleaner assembly. This flexible duct always puts up a fight before it finally slides over the air cleaner duct. If yours is damaged in any way, aftermarket replacement parts are available.


The photo above shows the finished product which looks a lot nicer than a chipped radiator fan. The snorkel looks new with a few coats of bedliner spray.


I am not sure how long the fan blades will look this good once I start driving the Vette, and I think I'll eventually have to get it powder-coated to prevent chips from happening.

Actually, I would love to learn how to powder coat, so maybe that is something for me to start investigating. Or maybe I should eliminate the engine-driven fan and switch to an electric unit. One that would allow me to keep the factory shroud.

That's also something to think about.


I hope the video gives you some insight as to how to remove and reinstall the radiator fan if you need to work on yours.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!



Product Links... (#sponsored)

VHT FlameProof Coating Flat Grey Primer Can - 11 oz.
VHT Gloss Black Brake Caliper Paint Can - 11 oz.

• Chemical Guys' VRP Vinyl, Rubber, and Plastic Super Shine Dressing



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