Using 6 bucks worth of material to protect a 300 dollar 3-core radiator and to cool the V8 Engine.
When looking at the grill of my 78 CJ-7, the one thing that just stuck out like a sore thumb was how exposed the radiator seemed to be. While the grill protected the radiator from larger horizontal impacts like tree branches, it still seemed to offer little protect to the small bullet rocks that could possibly get kicked up at it, and blow a hole in the thin copper material that makes up a radiator.
Imagine being out on the trail following someone and a rock gets kicked out of the mud tire lugs on their Super Swampers and a little dime shaped rock pokes a hole in your radiator. I’ve seen it happen before. It sure puts a damper on the days activities as your precious cooling fluid oozes out.
When you look at the Jeep CJ’s grill, you’ll see a gap that runs down the front of the radiator and behind the grill. I figured that I could easily slip a piece of protective “hardware cloth”, or “chicken wire” as some folks call it, in front of the radiator to protect it from these small rocks.
So I headed out to the hardware store and for 6 bucks and some change, I bought a 2′ x 5′ roll of galvanized 1/4″ “Hardware Cloth”. This wire cloth is a tight knit fence-like material that has 1/4″ square holes. Galvanized so it doesn’t rust, its easily cut with tin snips and can be molded and cut into shape.
I measured out about a 24″ x 24″ square and cut it off the roll. It wanted to roll back up so I scraped it over the edge of the table to force it to bend the other way. It eventually flattened out so I could work with it.
I bent the side over one inch in onto itself so I didn’t have sharp edges down the sides.
In the bottom I bent it in a shape (see pic below). The bend at the bottom is bent forward so it rests on the inner ledge of the base of the grill. This will hold it up and prevent it from falling out the bottom of the Jeep. The blow tape you see is blue duct tape that I later painted black. This serves the purpose of preventing damaging contact between the hardware cloth and the inner edge of the grill which will eventually cause rust.
For the top I test fitted it, marked the top, pulled it out, bent it down over on itself. Then I taped up the top where there would be contact against the radiator and the grill.
The finished product is pictured below (before painting it black). I bent it in a slight arch so that it will bow forward a little. This will keep it off the radiator and help to deflect that rock that might have otherwise punctured the radiator.
The front face of this radiator protector then got a shot of black paint to tone down the galvanized shine it had and to hide the blue duct tape (I only had the blue tape around). I let the paint dry of course before installing it.
Re-inserting it was easy since I had already fitted it before. Securing it wasn’t necessary since it fit snug and couldn’t go anywhere anyway because of the upper and lower bends I put on it.
In the pics it doesn’t appear to be anything other than the radiator itself. However it really does offer some good security against those small rocks that might get kicked up into it and possibly puncture the radiator. As far as cooling goes, it has no effect of cooling since it doesn’t restrict air flow at all.
For 6 bucks and 1 hour of work it seems well worth the effort for a little protection against the elements.
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