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Aluminum radiators and related topics

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Old 08-21-2016, 09:09 PM   #1
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Default Aluminum radiators and related topics

We have had an amazing amount of threads discussing the use of aluminum radiators, mostly in C3 Tech. Most discuss various products, costs, peripheral items like electric fans, shrouds, installs and the like. We have had a number of spirited debates and disagreements, and an awful lot of repeated commentary.

It was suggested we start a Sticky on this topic, like we have on the Oil Wars. It made sense to me to give it a shot.

A few ground rules: feel free to comment about your preferences and opinions as you see fit, but please respect your fellow members and mind the conflict rules. A discussion of cost is fine; calling people names about their opinion is not.

Let's try not to repeat things too much if you have already posted it in this thread. And when suggesting products, please be mindful of the Non Supporting Vendor rules... It's OK to provide a link on a product, but further promotion of the product vendor who is not a Supporting Vendor (contacts, phone numbers, repeated mentions) is not. PM me if you need guidance.

Everyone who finds this topic interesting, please contribute. There's lots of great info out there by informed members. I'm going to start this off with a quote by The13bats from the last aluminum radiator thread:


Quote:
Seems cooling and radiators are a popular and very much posted subject on the Corvetteforum, and with that many questions are repeated and I am hoping in a general way to shine a little light on the subject of radiator selection, I do not claim to be the guru on the subject.

Many times people with a cooling problem are thinking of replacing the radiator when it might not be necessary.

Things to check first when considering a new radiator include, is what you consider "overheating" really too hot?
Personally for me in Florida I like it to always be well under 210 an no creeping at any time.
Is the gauge reading correctly? the ignition timing, the factory front spoiler/air damn, the seals around the radiator to be sure the air is going where it should.
The water pump could be going out.
The thermostat could be malfunction or completely stuck, check the radiator hoses if they feel spongy or the lower hose doesn't have the spring it could be collapsing.

So when you determine you do need or desire a new radiator you have to decide what is correct for you.
In many cases on a stock or mild engine all you need is brass replacement and for many years that was cheaper than Aluminum but that has changed a little,
a base model Aluminum radiator is now the same or cheaper than a brass radiator making the Aluminum aftermarket radiator look pretty good to all except the purist who needs exactly what came in the car.

There is a lot of debate which cools better copper or aluminum and that debate will likely never be 100% agreed on by all so I will just touch down on a few basics,
Science proves copper actually transfers heat better, however, many copper radiators are still made in a way that is soldering different metals together and where joints come together with solder some cooling ability is lost, these joints were also a source of bloom in some of the copper radiators depending on how they were made.

Aluminum radiators are welded or brazed at the joints and are all aluminum and do not loose cooling at the joints.
Aluminum is lighter than copper which is a perk for many people.
Aluminum radiators tend to use wider tubes for more surface area than copper so a two row aluminum in general cools the same as a 4 row copper.
Both Copper and aluminum radiators need to have proper "coolant" for corrosion and antifreeze protection where needed and recommended by radiator manufactures most people and techs agree a good 50/50 pre mix does the job.

And now the dreaded question, "Which aluminum radiator should I buy"
On this forum it would seem we have two favorites always surface so in this corner the Dewitts and in the other corner the import or "Champion".

Lets start with the Dewitts,
A long running contender with a well known and trusted name with Corvette owners, Dewitts is considered a top end brand like Griffin or BeCool.
They are made in a special brazing oven built for this purpose and are nothing short of a work of art for your car.
Dewitts pride themselves on fit, to my understanding more so than Griffin or BeCool,
many times even stock parts can be tricky to fit but the Dewitts radiator has a lot of time spent in design behind it to make sure it is as plug and play as you can get with a radiator, and if you do have an issue Tom Dewitt is a phone call or forum post away.

As far as cooling goes the Dewitts will cool what you have and look super doing it no questions there
If the Dewitts has any cons some people feel the price is high, but this is a part proudly and very well made in America and is competitive priced with the other top names out there.

Now the import unit or Champion.
This aluminum radiator that has been gaining attention and being used by many 68-82 corvette owners for the main reasons, the low entry price and it does the job.

I noticed what I would call quality control issues with some, one fellow would say his welds looked like bird dropping or bubble gum and the next would say they looked beautiful like a roll of coins laid out.
I have heard several people report back that they had to bend this or tweak that to fit the Champion in their car.

All the users do report they are happy with it and it does what a radiator is suppose to do and they saved a little money for other things on their build.

What we have with the champion is short term feedback, how will these units do over time, will they hold up like their top name competitors or will longevity be reflected in their lower pricing, we will have to wait ands see with that question.

I also learned that while the "Champion" is the "budget" name on this forum Ebay has an influx of even lower priced aluminum imported radiators, this got me to thinking at some point how does even import companies sell and make a profit at such low prices, and I am betting the metal gets thinner and thinner as price goes down, that would just make sense.
Feedback reflects poor fit and damage in shipping.

I am not picking sides or debating which is better, both are, neither are, each persons build is going to be different so they will have to pick the one that is "better" for them.
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Old 08-22-2016, 06:11 PM   #2
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Thanks for starting this 'sticky' thread.

I will start this off by NOT being affiliated with ANY company who makes or sells this stuff. SO there is NO financial gain for me on this.

I will be giving comments for years of experience and installing many different products. I will consider this a 'think tank' where hopefully people can read it and make their own decision.

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Old 08-25-2016, 12:25 AM   #3
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My main question is who else besides DeWitt makes a LS swap C3 radiator?

I dont like the fact that their fans leave so much uncovered, I would feel better with more of a full shroud. Of course I may be wrong, but hard to compare with no alternativies.

I have used a ebay radiator in my CJ7 and it works great and I paid $130. If I was not needing the LS style, I know exactly what I would be buying. Money matters when its just a hobby and right now there is just a huge difference out there in price.
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:39 PM   #4
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Be-Cool seems to have an option for this.

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Old 08-26-2016, 03:35 PM   #5
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The topic says aluminum radiators and "related" topics, so...
I just removed the heater core from my "barn find" '74, and naturally there was green stuff all over it. Needless to say, since I've taken it down to the frame and I'm just now working on the interior, I have no intention to put a leaky heater core in a vehicle that's getting this much attention.
The local O'Reily auto parts store can get an aluminum heater core, but I'd like to get some opinions before I put that behind all of the stuff that goes into a dashboard.
What's my safest/most reliable option?
Advice?
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Old 08-26-2016, 06:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_pakettle View Post
The topic says aluminum radiators and "related" topics, so...
I just removed the heater core from my "barn find" '74, and naturally there was green stuff all over it. Needless to say, since I've taken it down to the frame and I'm just now working on the interior, I have no intention to put a leaky heater core in a vehicle that's getting this much attention.
The local O'Reily auto parts store can get an aluminum heater core, but I'd like to get some opinions before I put that behind all of the stuff that goes into a dashboard.
What's my safest/most reliable option?
Advice?
I KNOW that most if not all current automobiles use an aluminum heater core. But..I still prefer to use the copper/brass like it came with. And some times I even have to take the heater box and new heater core over to my radiator guy so we can tweak the new heater core due to it is not fitting quite right.

And not that this matters..I always take my new heater cores over to my radiator shop guy and have him check them and add more solder.

DUB

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Old 08-26-2016, 06:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_pakettle View Post
The topic says aluminum radiators and "related" topics, so...
I just removed the heater core from my "barn find" '74, and naturally there was green stuff all over it. Needless to say, since I've taken it down to the frame and I'm just now working on the interior, I have no intention to put a leaky heater core in a vehicle that's getting this much attention.
The local O'Reily auto parts store can get an aluminum heater core, but I'd like to get some opinions before I put that behind all of the stuff that goes into a dashboard.
What's my safest/most reliable option?
Advice?
I suppose this is off topic, but.....

Exact replacement here:

http://keenparts.com/pages/search.ph...x=0&submit.y=0

I've dealt with these guys many times, all good to work with.

Last edited by cooper9811; 08-26-2016 at 06:06 PM.
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Old 08-27-2016, 03:28 PM   #8
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Way to go Dewitts, Keep up the good work. Good Luck on the Future. Gene
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Old 08-28-2016, 02:06 PM   #9
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To give you an idea how badly my poor vehicle had been treated in it's previous life, someone had installed an oversized radiator. When I say oversized, I mean, it was too wide so he customized it with a hammer to make it fit then squeezed it into place, destroying some of the fiberglass in the process.
I had no idea how much trouble I was getting into when I bought this thing. Every time I turn around, another mess, but now that I've gone this far, I may as well finish it.
I examined the aluminum heater core from O'Reilly. It was about 2/3 of the thickness of my original. Sure, it was pretty, all nice and shiny aluminum, but I don't know if the straps would even hold it in place, so I passed.
Dub indicates that local radiator shops can improve a radiator core. This one has some green antifreeze residue on it, obviously it has been leaking and the tubes have evidently been customized, also no doubt with a hammer, but I'll talk to the local shop tomorrow and listen to their advice.
Although right now I'm leaning toward the advice of Cooper9811, especially if keenparts has a good quality replacement.
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Old 08-28-2016, 06:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_pakettle View Post
T
Dub indicates that local radiator shops can improve a radiator core. This one has some green antifreeze residue on it, obviously it has been leaking and the tubes have evidently been customized, also no doubt with a hammer, but I'll talk to the local shop tomorrow and listen to their advice.
Although right now I'm leaning toward the advice of Cooper9811, especially if keenparts has a good quality replacement.
I did not write that. I did not mention anything about 'improve a radiator core'

To be CLEAR..I take my new copper/brass HEATER CORES and have them PRESSURE TESTED and CHECKED and ADDITIONAL SOLDER put on them ( if needed) so I know it is a good heater core due to I do not TRUST heater cores from anybody.

I do agree that the new aluminum one is one I would not use and going with KEEN parts is a good choice also.

You may also be surprised that your local radiator repair shop should be able to get a cooper/brass heater core that will work...just like I do. I do not order them in and pay shipping when I know I can get them locally. Hopefully the repair shop can stay competitive in pricing...if not order one in.

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Old 08-28-2016, 10:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DUB View Post
I did not write that. I did not mention anything about 'improve a radiator core'

To be CLEAR..I take my new copper/brass HEATER CORES and have them PRESSURE TESTED and CHECKED and ADDITIONAL SOLDER put on them ( if needed) so I know it is a good heater core due to I do not TRUST heater cores from anybody.
My apologies, I assumed that adding solder indicated that they were improving the radiator. Either way, I appreciate the recommendations that I've seen here, from everyone.
I'm new at this so any advice is always appreciated, even if I read into it more than I should.
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Old 08-29-2016, 01:23 AM   #12
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This is timely. And with this being the "tech" section, hopefully I can offer some tech.

I'm not engaging in a "made in wherever", I'm doing this completely neutral. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. Could be bad for Champion, could be good... Read on, chat on.

My 1975 L48 with 58,000 miles on it is leaking a few drops from everywhere, so I'm replacing it. I've done some reading, and made my decision. I bought a Champion 3 core, and I'll be using that. No fans, just the rad. Being in Canada, it cost about another 75 dollars to get it here, but the rad I would have LIKED to buy would have still cost more than double that. Maybe triple. And I own a race car, so I know about buying the right product once, as opposed to buying several cheaper versions to eventually get to the same spot. So if you can bare with me, I'll maybe try and document how it goes from here.

It won't go quickly, as I may wait until the winter and do the cam etc at the same time, but I'll happily document it in this thread.

Price in CANADIAN was $263.56
Shipping $24.67
Import charges $51.59
Supplied by: Reliable Radiator, eBay
Order date: August 16
Received: August 25 (that's FAST when you're Canadian lol)

Does it fit in a C3? Well, sure it does. Just perfectly.



Packaging is really good IMHO, solid box, in perfect shape, heavy cardboard, lots of space in the box and foam spacers. All appears to be in order. I'll pull it out and have a look tomorrow, this damn cold/flu is killing me.





If the mods don't want this thread mucked up with this stuff, feel free to toss it elsewhere.
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Team Lazy View Post
If the mods don't want this thread mucked up with this stuff, feel free to toss it elsewhere.
I'm interested so I hope nobody deletes it.
Just curious though, I thought it was so cold in Canada that fiberglass would shatter if you closed the door too hard.
Kidding aside, I'd like to know how the aluminum radiator works out.
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Old 08-29-2016, 05:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_pakettle View Post
My apologies, I assumed that adding solder indicated that they were improving the radiator. Either way, I appreciate the recommendations that I've seen here, from everyone.
I'm new at this so any advice is always appreciated, even if I read into it more than I should.
WE ARE GOOD...I replied like I did because if something is written one way...and then it is read and interpreted differently....and responded to it differently..the thread and take a fast direction change and everything can get all messed up....really fast.

Team Lazy.

You better come back and let us know how it went. And do not hold back...tell it like it is.

AS many photos of all of the 'good and bad' when you do it.

And I am not meaning to step on your skill and ability....but just in case you may not know this or do this. When I am installing radiators...and it dies not matter if it is cooper/brass or aluminum. I take a large piece of cardboard and cut it wide enough to cover the core and fit right beside each tank. Then this cardboard is bent so it COMPLETELY covers the front and rear face of the core. I then tie string to hold the cardboard in two or three places. I get the radiator tog get down where it needs to be and when I an ready to secure it..I cut the stings and pull the cardboard out.

DUB
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Old 08-29-2016, 08:57 PM   #15
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I can't visualize what you're describing.
Wouldn't that make it too wide to fit into the space?
I think I'm missing something, no doubt I just don't understand.

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Old 08-30-2016, 11:49 AM   #16
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Update: I took the heater core to a local radiator shop. They've been around for years and have an excellent reputation, I've even taken work to them before and have always been pleased.
As I sat at the desk while the kid with the ear gauges filled out the paperwork, he reached for a business card for me, and knocked the heater core off the desk.
Just before that event he had just said, "It doesn't look bad, we've had a lot worse. I'm sure we can take care of this for you." Then he mashed the corner of the heater core and I replied, "I sure hope so."
I may be contacting Keen sooner than I planned.
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Old 09-01-2016, 11:51 AM   #17
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I would not be doing my job if I did post in this thread so here is a little story. About twenty years ago I was selling brand G radiators. Every once in a while someone with a C3 would tell me the hood hinge would hit the radiator and that the stock radiator had a dent in the tank for clearance.
Depending on how the front end was glued together and how many hood hinge shims were used this could be an issue or not. As a result of this information we made sure our tanks had this relief or flat spot like the factory brass tanks did. The others do not.





We also thought it would a nice touch to duplicate the GM type hat channels that run across the top and bottom to give them an OE look. Most aftermarket radiators do not have this feature. One competitor copied this idea but failed to duplicate the look. A vs B
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Old 09-08-2016, 09:35 PM   #18
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Here they are side by side. Champion dropped right in . I will have to modify the brackets. I just bent them a little to pressure it up and test so far so good. It does have the relief for the hood. I ran the car for about 30 minutes in the shed was about 90 degrees today. Road test in a few days. It really wouldn't take that much for the manufacturer to to make it a drop in and go with the brackets

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Old 09-09-2016, 11:30 AM   #19
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I don't want to bend things to make a radiator, or anything else, to make them fit, I would think this would put undue pressure on the unit. In eight years I have had three China units, Two Aluminum & one brass. I hope no one else is having this kind of problem.
Good Luck Gene
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Old 09-09-2016, 12:02 PM   #20
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Wow that's a lot of radiators. I'll throw in the towel after a couple.
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