Freeze plugs are an essential component of almost every car’s engine block. They stop coolant from leaking out of the radiator when the head gasket has blown, allowing you to drive until you can get it fixed.
To install a freeze plug, you’ll need to locate your engine’s freeze plugs. Each engine block has at least one, but sometimes there is more than one. If you have more than one freeze plug in your vehicle, their location should be listed in your owner’s manual or service manual.
While installing a freeze plug isn’t difficult in most cases, there are times when you need to work on your car in very tight conditions. Sometimes, you can’t expect the freeze plug on your vehicle to be easy to get at.
It can be pretty simple if you know the trick to make your way to the spot and secure the plug properly. Continue reading to find out how.
Do All Engines Have Freeze Plugs?
In most cases, yes. Freeze plugs are frequently found in engines that run on liquid-cooled fuel. While not all modern engines have them, most likely will.
If you want to check whether your engine has one, try locating your engine number—it’s usually printed somewhere inside or near your car’s hood.
Once you’ve found it, you can search for its official name and cross-reference it with a freeze or expansion plug. Most likely, you’ll find several results saying that you do indeed have a freeze plug installed—though there may be some exceptions.
How to Install a Freeze Plug in a Tight Spot? [Step by Step Guide]
When installing a freeze plug in a tight spot, there are a few tricks that you can use to make it easier on yourself. Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to install a freeze plug in a tight spot.
Step 1: Make Room for the Plug
Since you’re working in a tight spot, the first step is to make enough room for the plug so you can tuck it in snugly. If your freeze plug doesn’t have a slot in it to help you pry it out, then you should take a chisel and make a slot in it. It will help you get the old plug out when it’s rusted into place.
You may also need to dig out some of the old gasket material with something like a screwdriver or a knife ahead of time to make room for the plug.
Step 2: Lubricate the Plug with Oil
You will then want to grease up the new plug with some oil or grease. Use a small hose to slide down into the hole and put oil on the plug using this method. If you do not have a small enough hose, use a rag.
Doing this will lube the plug’s threads, which helps it start into the hole, regardless of how tight it may be. It will also help prevent rust from occurring later on down the road.
Step 3: Clean and Dry the Gasket
Make sure that the gasket is clean and completely dry. Some choose to lightly oil the gasket with a small amount of oil for a thorough cleaning, but that can soften the gasket material, making it less durable. And the pulls and turns in a tight space can damage it further. So, stick to using a piece of cloth and wipe it down.
Step 4: Free up the Plug’s Entry
Feel around the hole where the plug will go to see if anything might get in your way when trying to install it. Sometimes, oil lines run along the side of the engine, and these can get in your way if you don’t know about them ahead of time. You might want to remove or loosen these items just in case they’re in your way.
Step 5: Make Sure the Plug Faces the Right Way
Before you install the plug, ensure it’s facing the correct way. If the freeze plug has a beveled edge, the angle will face outward from the engine block. If it does not have a bevel, there should be a marking on the outside of the plug indicating where it should be installed (such as a “TOP” or “FRONT” stamp).
Step 6: Push the Plug in Place
Once you place the plug correctly, it’s time to push it in place. Use a hammer and dolly to press and flatten the flange against the block. If you don’t have a dolly, you can use a piece of wood and a hammer but be sure the wood is thick enough that it doesn’t break.
The trick here is to start with one corner and work your way around the plug, pushing it in until it’s seated all the way around, then tap it flat with your hammer. It’ll go in a snap; just take your time doing it.
Step 6: Wiggle from a Small Hole to the Desired Spot
Depending on your engine model, you might have to insert the plug into a small hole first, then gently wiggle it into place after determining where you want it. It may sound obvious, but it’s not. Some people don’t do it, and they end up with a big mess on their hands.
Step 7: Push It Steadily Until It Stops
Grasp the plug firmly and push steadily until it starts to go in. If it gets stuck, you’ll have to start over with a new plug and some more penetrating oil. Keep pushing until the plug is in as far as it can go. You’ll feel it stop when it’s all the way in. And once you do, you’re all done!
Do You Use Sealant on Freeze Plugs?
The answer can be both yes and no, depending on the type of engine you have. Fuel-injected engines may not always require sealant, but carbureted ones certainly do.
A simple way to tell whether you should use a sealant is by looking for a hole on each side of each cylinder. If there are holes and your engine is carbureted, you must seal them off before installation.
Carbureted engines have an extra hole because they have ports that mix air and fuel. These ports aren’t necessary for fuel-injected engines and can be blocked with either silicone or RTV gasket material.
How to Install a Rubber Freeze Plug?
When installing rubber engine freeze plugs in a tight spot, use a little soap and water to lube it up. The soap will act as a lubricant and allow you to push the plug into place without damaging it with a hammer.
Remember to remove the freeze plug once the engine is cool and clean out any debris from the hole. You can use a wire brush or air blower for this.
Then, slide the rubber freeze plug into place from the back of the engine by hand. You may have to tap it lightly with a rubber mallet.
It should push in easily. If it does not, you can make it easier by putting some dish soap on the plug and then pushing or tapping it in until it’s flush with the block.
How Long Does It Take to Change a Freeze Plug?
Replacing a freeze plug should take no longer than 20 minutes, depending on how crowded the gasket is and how fast you can work. As you can see, the installation process doesn’t require that many specialized tools, so it shouldn’t take long.
How Much Does it Cost to Install a Freeze Plug?
Freeze plugs are relatively inexpensive, and you should be able to pick one up for less than $10 at your local auto parts store. It can be as less as $2.50 if you opt for rubber ones. Hiring a professional for the installation can cost you somewhere between $200 and $400. But you can cut it to zero if you DIY.
Now that you’ve learned how to install a freeze plug in a tight spot, you are sure to spare yourself a lot of trouble when a quick fix is necessary. Once the freeze plug is in place and the coolant pours in smoothly, you’ll gain peace of mind by knowing that your cooling system is not leaking, thus saving you money and hassle in the future.
Have you got another question about this DIY project? Let us know in the comments below!
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