Radiator Buyer's Guide
- A radiator serves as a heat exchanger. It transfers the heat from the coolant to the outside air.
- It can come in different shapes and designs, but it is basically made of metal.
- There are two types of radiators: copper or brass and aluminum.
- Symptoms of a failing radiator include coolant leak, low coolant light, frequent engine overheating.
- When buying a radiator replacement for your car, consider construction, tubing, airflow, radiator fans, and coolant restriction.
- A radiator can cost around $90 to $200.
- You can install your new radiator on your own if you have the right tools and know-how.
Frequent overheating may cause long-term damage to your engine. Unnecessary stress on your engine can also damage the rings, pistons, and rod bearings. The engine’s cooling system makes sure that engine overheating does not happen frequently. One of the integral components of this cooling process is the engine’s radiator.
What Is a Radiator and How Does It Affect the Cooling System?
The engine’s cooling system works with the help of a fluid or gas called a coolant. This fluid is responsible for cooling down the heated car engine. The coolant circulates in the car’s engine with the help of a water pump.
A thermostat detects if the fluid has reached maximum temperature. The heated coolant will then make its way back to the radiator, which cools the fluid down with the help of a cooling fan. The fluid will make its way back to the water pump and the process repeats itself.
A radiator serves as a heat exchanger. It transfers heat from the coolant to the outside air. Radiators for cars come in different shapes and designs, but it is typically made of metal.
Nowadays, some engines have an additional oil cooler, which is a separate small radiator to cool the motor oil. Meanwhile, most turbo-charged engines may even have an intercooler.
What Are the Different Parts of the Engine’s Radiator?
A radiator is made up of four components: the core, pressure cap, inlet and outlet tanks, and transmission cooler.
The core consists of a rectangular metal structure with aluminum fins. This is the largest and most important part of the radiator because its small aluminum fins allow outside air to flow to the coolant. It also takes away the heat from the coolant to the outside air. Radiators can be classified by the number of cores it has.
There is constant pressure in a car’s cooling system. This alters the coolant’s boiling point, allowing the system to be more efficient. The radiator’s pressure cap is responsible for creating this pressure using a spring to create pressure up to 20 PSI.
Inlet and Outlet Tanks
These tanks are responsible for moving the coolant from the engine to the radiator. A crossflow radiator tank is positioned on the side of the core while a downflow radiator tank is located at the top or bottom of the core.
Transmission fluid is needed to cool your engine’s transmission. It flows through steel pipes. This type of coolant is also cooled within the radiator. Although some vehicles have a separate radiator for transmission fluids, it is more common for a radiator have both functions.
What Are the Types of Radiators?
Radiators for cars can be made from different materials. Each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The most common types of radiators based on material are the following:
Copper or Brass Radiator
This type of radiator is made with brass tanks and a copper core. One of the advantages of using this type of radiator is its durability and ability to transfer heat better than its aluminum counterpart. However, it is more expensive and heavier compared to plastic and aluminum.
Copper and brass tanks were widely used until the mid-1980s. Although they were efficient, copper tanks were heavy and expensive. Because of its high cost, copper radiators were replaced with plastic and aluminum.
Although copper is a much better heat conductor than aluminum, many car manufacturers switched from copper/brass to aluminum radiators. Aside from being a cheaper option, aluminum is much lighter.
Some auto manufacturers use a plastic component in their tank’s radiators. Referring to this type of radiator as “plastic radiator” can be confusing because technically, the tube and fins are still made of metal.
What Are the Symptoms of a Failing Radiator?
The most common reason why car radiators malfunction is rust, which can get inside the radiator and cause leaks. Another obvious sign is a coolant leak. Coolant will leak onto the floor on either the front or center of your vehicle. The low coolant light might also constantly turn on for automatic vehicles.
If you notice any of these signs or if your vehicle frequently overheats, it may be time to have your vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic.
What to Look for When Buying a Radiator for Your Car
There are many radiators that are sold today, however, there are a few things that you have to consider before buying a new radiator for your ride.
The most commonly used radiators these days are those that are made of aluminum because they're tough and not prone to corrosion.
The bigger and wider the tubes in the radiator, the better. Wide tubes maximize the contact that the coolant makes and because of that, more heat is absorbed from the engine. Aside from the width of the tubes, the thickness also determines how quickly the heat can be absorbed. Generally, the thickness of the walls should be minimized.
For the radiator to function effectively, air should be able to flow freely through the core. However, too many fins could actually crowd and block the right airflow. A radiator with 15 fins is the best choice because it allows air to move freely for proper heat dissipation.
Believe it or not, mechanical radiator fans can eat up as much as 20 horsepower or 6500 RPM, and that's the reason why you should consider switching to electric radiator fans. By using electric radiator fans, the movement of air inside the radiator would be improved and as a result, there's less chance that your car's engine would overheat.
For your car to operate at optimum levels, it's important that coolant should never be restricted. You see, no matter how well built a radiator is, it's as good as useless if its coolant is actually being restricted.
So before buying a brand-new radiator for your car, you better consider all things that were mentioned above that's because you don't want to spend anything on something that would simply disappoint you.
How Much Does a Radiator Cost?
The car radiator itself can cost you around $90 to $200. Depending on the material used, the price can go higher than the estimated range. Radiators can be sold individually or as part of an assembly or kit. Remember to consult your car’s manual to ensure that the radiator you plan to buy is compatible with your cooling system.
How to Install a New Radiator
When the radiator of your car is already damaged, you run the risk of experiencing an overheated engine. Now when this happens to your vehicle, you have no other choice but to replace the radiator right away. Though radiator replacement might be difficult, it could still be done as long as you follow the instructions stated below.
- Flathead screwdriver
- Open Race Wrench
Step 1: Disconnect the battery so any electric cooling fans won't suddenly get activated when you're working. also, don't forget to remove the entire assembly.
Step 2: Disconnect the radiator hoses and drain the radiator fluid. To do these, loosen the hose clamps first.
Step 3: The transmission cooling lines have to be disconnected as well and to do that, you'll need an open race wrench.
Step 4: Remove all the clamps and screws before lifting the old and damaged radiator.
Step 5: Get the new radiator and slide it into place.
Step 6: Reconnect any clamps or screws that you've removed during the removal process.
Step 7: Replace the fan shroud that you've removed.
Step 8: Reconnect all the electrical connections.
Step 9: All plastic covers should be replaced.
Step 10: Check for leaks. The main about radiator replacement is that there are just so many things pieces that you'd have to connect and reconnect that it's no longer surprising that leaks happen after the installation.