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How Can You Choose the Best Radiator for Your Car

How Can You Choose the Best Radiator for Your Car

Running to a vehicle workshop frequently can be infuriating. What can be worse? Being stranded on the side of the road with an overheated vehicle! Nothing puts a damper on a joyful cruise like steam coming from the hood or the smell of hot coolant splattered all over the engine compartment. Besides, what causes these troubles? Undeniably, overheating and engine breakdowns or unnecessary and frequent servicing of an engine is caused by faulty or obsolete radiators.

Most people do not pay much attention to these components as they do not add to the external beauty of the vehicle. Consequently, their cars end up hurling to the workshop on a regular basis.

Can this be avoided? Most definitely, YES! To prevent this situation, all you need to do is take precautions, and having a decent vehicle radiator is a good place to start.

We've compiled a list of the most common radiator options. With this knowledge, you will be able to select an aftermarket radiator that is perfect for your vehicle.

First Things First- What and How Answered

As you know, the radiator in a vehicle is a heat exchanger that cools an internal combustion engine.

Modern engines generate an enormous amount of heat. As the coolant flows through and around the engine, it absorbs heat and transports it to the radiator, protecting it from overheating. The coolant enters tubes in the radiator as the car moves, air passes through the rows of tubes, cooling the coolant. As a result, heat is dissipated through the air, and then the coolant is cycled back into the engine block to continue cooling it. Allowing that the radiator is able to dispel heat quickly enough, there is no danger of the engine overheating. It is likely that the engine will overheat if the radiator is inefficient or inadequate for the amount of horsepower being produced.

Choosing The Right Radiator for Your Vehicle

to simplify your decision about choosing the right radiator, we will showcase various kinds of radiators. This will help you to compare and choose your next radiator.

Aluminum vs Copper-Brass Radiator

Older vehicles had copper-brass radiators that were standard until the 1980s. Copper-brass radiators are known for their superior heat conduction abilities.

So how does aluminum even come into the picture?

Although copper-brass conducts heat well, it is relatively weak when compared to aluminum. Coolant tubes made of copper-brass need to be kept small in diameter in order to prevent ballooning or bursting under pressure. In terms of cooling capabilities, that's a big problem.

Our Verdict: Aluminum tubes can have larger diameters than copper-brass tubes due to aluminum’s strength. Consequently, the radiator has a greater cooling capacity because more coolant is exposed to the heat exchange process. Due to aluminum’s low weight, aluminum radiators are often the ideal choice for most engines.


Crossflow vs Downflow Radiators

There are two different types of radiators: crossflow and downflow.

In a crossflow radiator, cooling tubes and fins make up the core, which is surrounded by vertical tanks on each side. With the aid of your water pump, coolant travels horizontally across the core from inlet to outlet.

There are two horizontal tanks at the top and bottom of a downflow radiator. By entering through the top of the radiator, the coolant travels vertically through the core and leaves through the bottom outlet. Since coolant flows from the top down, gravity helps the water pump move coolant through the radiator more quickly.

Our Verdict: Due to the speed at which crossflow moves the coolant, it is typically more efficient in terms of design.  Crossflow radiators retain coolant for a longer period of time, which allows them to better dissipate heat. Crossflow radiators are often the best choice for high-output engines due to their heat dissipation capabilities and (typically) larger core surface areas.

Row Quantity vs. Tube Size

In a radiator, the coolant is transported by a row or several rows of tubes and fins. Aluminum is much stronger than copper-brass, so you can increase tube diameter without adding thickness to the tube walls (as with copper tubes). Because of this, two-row aluminum radiators with one-inch tubes dissipate heat nearly as efficiently as five-row copper-brass radiators with smaller tubes.

Our Verdict: The idea that more rows are better has been abandoned by most high-performance radiator manufacturers. In comparisons of aluminum radiators, core thickness and cooling tube size are now critical. There is only one difference between the smaller and larger tube radiators, the core of the larger radiator is slightly thicker.

Additional Points to Keep in Mind when you buy a Radiator

Following the information about different types of radiators, which is better than the other, and why, here are some additional points you can keep in mind when choosing the right radiator.

  • An aftermarket radiator is usually your best choice if you want to replace the radiator on a vehicle without any modifications. Besides being easy to install, it will not require any modifications, and it has already proven to be effective at cooling your engine adequately.
  • Upgrade to an aluminum core radiator for classics to see a huge difference. Despite being identical in size, they offer better cooling and lighter weight. Most vehicles manufactured after 1980 have aluminum radiators, but you can improve cooling power by adding rows or investing in a larger radiator.
  • Performance radiators allow you to cool your vehicle faster by increasing the amount of coolant and surface area. It is necessary to modify some of these radiators in order to fit, but they offer significant cooling benefits.

Is There a Specific Time to Replace the Radiator?

If properly maintained, radiators typically last 8-10 years. In most cases, people only need a replacement radiator if theirs has been damaged or if a more powerful one is needed.

However, one should not wait for their vehicle to suffer completely and then go ahead to change their radiators. One must have their radiators checked or replaced if faced with these problems: -

  1. Trouble in Pressure
    It's possible to have either too much or too little pressure in your radiator if your radiator cap fails. In either case, the result is the same and leads to overheating of your engine. Replace your radiator cap in this case. Leaks can cause pressure problems, and pressure problems can cause leaks. The radiator's pressure can be tested at a shop.

  2. Leaks
    You should never ignore coolant leaks. Several household pets have died from antifreeze poisoning. If you see a leak, you don't necessarily have to replace your radiator. A leak indicates that something isn't working and that your hoses should be checked, but a leak can occur at any point in the cooling system.

  3. Rust and Corrosion
    A rusty radiator or debris clogging it is another reason to check your engine. Flushing out your radiator or replacing it will be necessary in this case.

Basic Maintenance to Avoid Mishaps

  1. It is recommended that radiator hoses be replaced every 36,000 miles or every three years. Rubberized hoses can dry out and break over time, so they should not be driven more than 50,000 miles.
  2. Maintain a regular coolant level. When the fluid level in the cooling system drops noticeably between checks, there may be a leak. Detecting slow leaks can be challenging, so it is important to pay close attention.
  3. Remove any contaminants from the radiator and its hoses by flushing the coolant every 25,000 miles. In addition to preventing rust, this service allows the radiator to run at its peak efficiency throughout its lifetime by conditioning the cooling system.
  4. Depending on the size of your radiator, you will need different amounts of coolant. There is a range of 11 to 28 quarts required for most radiators. If you are unsure of your radiator's capacity, check the owner's manual first. For an accurate measurement of the radiator's capacity, drain the radiator and fill it with distilled water in one-quart increments if the radiator isn't original equipment.
  5. It’s critical to not overfill your radiator. Changing temperatures require extra space for coolant to expand and contract. During the filling process, you'll notice two marks. A lower mark indicates a cold engine. Adding coolant to a hot engine call for the higher mark.


Aluminum radiators are generally recommended for high performance, high-output vehicles, as well as competition cars. For a nostalgic look or restoration, copper-brass radiators are a great choice.

The following factors will help you narrow down your choices when choosing a radiator:

  • Space available within the engine compartment
  • Compression ratio and engine size
  • The performance of the engine in terms of horsepower and torque
  • The purpose for which the vehicle is being used.
  • The type of fan—electric or flexible
  • Type of transmission-transmission coolers are required for automatic transmissions

Enlightened with this knowledge, you can have a discussion with your regular garage mechanic or your spare parts salesman and then choose the best and optimum radiator for your vehicle.

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