A $1do it yourself radiator comb

Repairing Hail damage to an air conditioner with a $1 plastic comb.

My air conditioner radiator fins had been flattened by hail. About a week ago I looked and another storm had smashed them flatter.. Sigh.

So remembering I'd been able to straighten out the fins on a big trailer cooler once by making a little tool that looked like a double hook that I dragged through the fins one by one, I figured that a little air conditioner wouldn't be too hard to fix. So far half the fins are straight and I have about two hours into the project. Here is how it's being done.

First, some warnings.... This is just suggestions from one competent do it yourselfer to another. You do this at your own risk. If everything you work on never works again, maybe it's not a good idea to try this. Warnings that come to mind are: Unplug the air conditioner! Let it cool. Don't slice your fingers on the fins. There are probably high pressures in the system. Wear safety glasses. If it springs a leak don't breathe the gas! Work in a well ventilated area. This is what worked for me, it may not work for you.

A poorly working air conditioner is better than none at all. If you manage to puncture the tubing running through the fins, all the magic will leak out of your air conditioner and it will never cool again. No ice picks!

The fins on my radiator are quite thin, I have had the best luck with an assortment of combs I got at the Dollar Store, five for a buck. A search on GOOGLE shows that some car stores sell radiator combs.. You might check that out if the cheap plastic combs don't work well for you.

Clip off the ends of big teeth on the ends of the comb leaving just the fine teeth. Pick a comb whose tooth spacing comes closest to the spacing of your radiator fins.

It would be great if you could just comb the radiator like your hair.. probably no such luck. You will likely find some of the fins have a hooked edge that prevents this.

The technique that works best for me is to turn the comb so that the teeth are in line with the fins. Not like you comb your hair, 90 degrees to that.

Now pick a smashed area and look for the top 2 fins that are holding all the other fins down. Lay the teeth between two fins above where they are smashed and draw the comb between the fins. If you fins are thin enough the comb will slide right down the row straightening the one fin up. If the first tooth pops out the next one tries and so on. Pretty slick! Now straighten the next fin and so on.

Once you have an area somewhat straightened up you might be able to comb it like hair and pretty it up some.

After an hour or four you will have an air conditioner that works as well as when it was new. Don't worry about perfection, all you need to do is let the air flow through the fins again. Some big dents may not comb out, don't worry about it. You just need to get the air flow back to near normal. There are usually openings in the fins inside the radiator that will let air flow through the badly smashed area.

I took a break from straightening fins to write this, even half finished the air conditioner has already dropped the temp enough to make it comfy while I type. Good luck!

Fatcat makes and sells Electronic Fireflies
for the Firefly deprived at Twilight Lights