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Aftermarket Radiators or OEM Radiators? Learn the difference

Aftermarket Radiators or OEM Radiators? Learn the difference

An automobile that holds a lot of sentimental value to you may be worth more than its market value. Your appreciation for your vehicle may also be due to the fact that it was your first big purchase or one that was given to you by your father, etc. Does feeling just appreciative of your vehicle go far enough? According to a study “An average American spends 18 days driving per year, with an average of eight hours and 22 minutes per week” This amounts to 25,920 minutes!

Imagine spending 18 days inside a machine and not knowing about its important parts and how it functions!

One such least talked about vehicle spare part is its “Radiator”. A large number of people barely pay any attention to what a radiator or vehicle’s cooling system is let alone knowing that there may be a different schedule depending on the model and make of your car, usually, you should check your radiator every 30,000–80,000 miles.

A Quick Rundown About What Radiators Are

But today, you got curious, and here you are!

Today you happened to hear the word radiators and looked it up, only to find multiple questions like,

  • What are radiators?
  • Where are they located?
  • Why are they necessary?
  • There is something called Aftermarket Radiator?
  • What is an OEM Radiator?
  • What is the difference between the two?
  • Which one is better than the other?
  • Should I really be concerned about which one I buy?

And many more. The deeper you dig, the more questions you will come across. Since you took your first step towards researching all about radiators, let us walk you through it.

Vehicle Radiators - What, Where, How, and Why.

What: In order for the engine's cooling system to function properly, the radiator plays an essential role. Designed by the manufacturer of the vehicle, this part maintains engine temperature at an optimal level. Heat is transferred from hot coolant through tubes, then cooled through fins as air blows across the fins.

Where: In a car, the radiator is located underneath the hood, which is the large panel in front. Once the hood is open, locate the radiator towards the front. As a cooling system, the radiator is located near the engine to prevent overheating. Some cars have engines in the back. Volkswagen Beetle is an example. Radiators may be located in the front or in the back of cars with engines in the back.

How: Vehicle engines burn fuel and create energy, which produces heat. Preventing engine damage requires venting this heat. Engine heat is removed by radiators. When the thermostat in front of the engine detects excess heat, the process begins. In the engine, coolant absorbs this heat after being released from the radiator. Heat is transferred from the liquid to the radiator, air blows across the radiator and cools it off, exchanging heat with outside air. In the radiator, thin metal fins let heat escape quickly to the air outside the vehicle. The radiator fan blows air over these fins if the car is at a stop.

Why: It is imperative to realize that the radiator is one of the most critical components of your vehicle's cooling system. While the engine is operating, the system ensures that the engine remains at a safe temperature at all times. As your engine is running, there are a number of moving parts that cause a great deal of friction as they move about. Therefore, your vehicle’s radiators are important. Checking and upgrading your radiators is even more important.

What are the options for replacing a broken vehicle radiator? 

If your radiator breaks down, you should get it replaced as soon as possible. The radiator market has been divided into two segments when you begin the process of searching for a suitable replacement. It is pertinent to point out that one type of manufacturer is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), which means that parts are manufactured exclusively for a particular manufacturer. Aftermarket parts make up the other segment. Compared to OEM parts, aftermarket parts are more cost-effective. Produced in large quantities, they are manufactured to OEM specifications.

Option 1- OEM Radiators

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are manufactured by the manufacturer of your vehicle. This means that the OEM radiator will be identical to the one that is currently installed in your vehicle. As a result, when you choose an OEM part, you don't have to do a lot of research; you simply visit your dealer and request a replacement.

 Pros of OEM Radiators
  1. Developed by the car manufacturer, this radiator is said to be of slightly higher quality
  2. If the radiator breaks down during the warranty period, the manufacturer will back it up

Cons of OEM Radiators

  1. The cost of these parts is 60% higher than aftermarket parts!
  2. Parts like these are sold by automakers or select suppliers, thus making their availability limited.

Option 2 – Aftermarket Radiators

Independent aftermarket radiators, or IAMs, are radiators that are not manufactured by the manufacturer of the vehicle. Rather, another company manufactures the part and sells it as an aftermarket part.

Aftermarket radiators typically have the same specifications as OEM parts. In fact, buying an aftermarket radiator may ultimately turn out to be a better deal than an OEM radiator if you compare the two.

Furthermore, aftermarket parts are sold in large quantities. The reason for this is that most people are looking for a mixture of quality and affordability when it comes to shopping for a replacement car part. It is clear that the aftermarket is gaining a foothold in the industry and is becoming one of the leading competitors for OEMs.

Pros of Aftermarket Radiators

  1. There is usually a lower cost associated with these parts compared to OEM parts, depending on the brand.
  2. Parts from these manufacturers may be as good as OEM or better.
  3. The greater the variety of parts, the greater the functionality and the greater the price range.
  4. It can easily be installed by you or any mechanic.
  5. Now, a large manufacturer including Dolphin, offers a 1-year warranty on aftermarket radiators.


  1. There is a possibility of being overwhelmed by the increased varieties available.
  2. Some aftermarket radiators may not come with a warranty. This will increase the work for you to do tedious research.

A very common question that arises next among most users is.

What is the impact of using aftermarket radiators on the value of my vehicle?

It is possible to find aftermarket radiators that are as good as OEM parts or can even perform better in some instances.

In light of this, an OEM part-repaired car and an aftermarket part-repaired car are rarely worth different amounts. Choosing between the two options is more for your preferences than for maintaining your vehicle's value.

Signs That Indicate I Should Upgrade My Radiator

The overheating of the engine can cause seals and gaskets to break, oil leaks, and complete engine failure. To prevent more costly damage, you should ask a mechanic right away if you notice any warning signs that yours might be on its last legs. It may be time to have a new radiator installed.

  1. You have a hot temperature gauge.
    There may be a problem with your vehicle’s cooling system if the coolant temperature gauge needle is always running at the hotter end. When your engine doesn't keep cool, this indicates a malfunctioning cooling system and a lack of coolant delivery.

  2. It's overheating in your car.
    Your engine actually overheats when your temperature gauge runs hot. The steam billowing from underneath your car's bonnet can be spotted easily.

  3. Low or leaking coolant
    The coolant level in your car must be checked regularly to ensure it's at the right level. If your coolant is running low, or you see a leak, then you are advised to reach out to your mechanic.

  4. Sludge or discoloration in the radiator
    To check this, you'll need to look inside your radiator. Inspect the coolant inside to make sure it is translucent and yellow, green, or red in color. Coolant that is contaminated looks like rust or oil with a sludge-like consistency.

Interestingly enough, if a problem occurs with your cooling system, your car's heating will not function properly. Having a failing cooling system will result in a decrease in the amount of heat your car gets. Prevention is always better than cure, thus, it is highly recommended that you take your vehicle for regular servicing.



Although OEM radiators are definitely expensive, you can rest assured that they are of high quality. However, the same part can be found for half as much in the aftermarket. A reputable supplier offers high-quality aftermarket radiators at competitive prices, while some knockoff brands compromise with safety and produce low-quality radiators.

Buying an aftermarket radiator from Dolphin Radiator can provide a superior value for your money. Assuring safety and preventing quality compromises, we back all radiators with a 1-year warranty.

It is always recommended to study thoroughly before purchasing any vehicle part regardless of its brand and quality. Depending blindly upon a product due its high price is not a wise decision. Thus, whenever you decide to upgrade your radiator, make sure you perform research from your end and take advice from the automotive experts.

Happy & safe driving!

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