EX­PLAINED: RADIATORS

DE­CID­ING ON THE RIGHT RA­DI­A­TOR FOR YOUR OFF-ROADER CAN BE TRICKY – AND IT EX­TENDS BE­YOND WHAT MA­TE­RIAL TO CHOOSE.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHOTOS DAVID MOR­LEY

YOU HAVE to ad­mire the cool­ing sys­tems on mod­ern four-wheel drives. Think about it: you’re chug­ging away on a loose, sandy track on Fraser Is­land, 18lb in the bagged-out tyres, the turbo boost­ing pretty much con­stantly, an am­bi­ent of 35°-plus, bug­ger-all air­flow and the kids scream­ing for the air-con to be run­ning flat chat. And yet that lit­tle red nee­dle on the temp gauge doesn’t budge. Mirac­u­lous, when you think about it.

But there are still times when a re­place­ment ra­di­a­tor is sud­denly on your shop­ping list. Maybe you’ve up­graded the en­gine for more power and, there­fore, more heat. Maybe you’ve fit­ted a dif­fer­ent pow­er­plant and none of the plumbing lines up. Maybe your ve­hi­cle is older with a less ef­fec­tive cool­ing sys­tem or one that’s sim­ply worn out. Hell, maybe you just made it home to find a dirty great stick has gone through the core. What­ever the rea­sons, a re­place­ment is some­times the only fix. But, like any­thing else in this world, it’s not as sim­ple as that.

You have choices, you see. You can stick with the stan­dard Orig­i­nal Equip­ment (OE) unit de­signed for your make and model, or you can go af­ter­mar­ket in the search for even bet­ter cool­ing per­for­mance or to get the level of cool­ing your new setup de­mands.

We’re of­ten told that OE parts are best for fit and func­tion, and there’s no prob­lem with that logic. In fact, given that the orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor in your ve­hi­cle prob­a­bly gave years of fault-free ser­vice, it stands to rea­son that an­other just like it will do the same. We have no prob­lems with that, and pro­vided you haven’t made changes to the rig that will in­crease its heat pro­duc­tion (or al­tered the air-flow), you’re on pretty solid ground with an OE ra­di­a­tor. Car­mak­ers are very care­ful with the rep­u­ta­tion of their gen­uine re­place­ment parts, too, so you’re un­likely to find that the new part is of any less qual­ity than the unit the car was born with. Toy­ota Aus­tralia con­firmed for us that the peo­ple who make its OE radiators are the same folks who make the gen­uine re­place­ment units.

But that doesn’t rule out go­ing with an Oe-style ra­di­a­tor of equal or bet­ter qual­ity that just hap­pens to be made by some­body else. Which is where out­fits like Ter­rain Tamer come in. Ter­rain Tamer re­cently en­tered the re­place­men­tra­di­a­tor sec­tor with a line-up of units that it says fit just like an OE re­place­ment, but are even tougher.

Ter­rain Tamer’s Brent Hutchin­son says the range is de­signed to work as a drop-in re­place­ment for the OE ra­di­a­tor, so every­thing lines up and fits prop­erly. But, he says, there are also per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity bonuses over an OE unit.

“Our radiators have roughly eight per cent more cool­ing ca­pac­ity, which we achieve through a higher fin count (which equates to greater cross-sec­tion). All our top and bot­tom tanks are al­loy with stain­less steel brack­ets, but the added strength re­ally comes from the con­struc­tion which is fully pressed rather than welded,” said Brent.

“At the mo­ment our range is quite small, but we’ll be ex­pand­ing it over time. The 80 Se­ries Land Cruiser is prob­a­bly our next part num­ber. But all of our units use the stan­dard hoses, mount­ing points and shrouds, so they’re a straight drop-in.”

Your other op­tion is to go af­ter­mar­ket and go big. One of this coun­try’s best­known ra­di­a­tor spe­cial­ists is Mel­bournebased Aussie Desert Cool­ers, headed-up by all-round petrol-head Norm Handinge. The out­fit has been build­ing one-off, spe­cial­ist radiators for more than two decades and, ac­cord­ing to Norm, there’s not re­ally any­thing such as an off-theshelf Aussie Desert Cooler ra­di­a­tor, be­cause all his work is for cus­tom in­stal­la­tions, usu­ally as a re­sult of an

AUSSIE DESERT COOL­ERS HAS BEEN BUILD­ING SPE­CIAL­IST RADIATORS FOR MORE THAN TWO DECADES

en­gine trans­plant where an OE unit ei­ther won’t fit or won’t cope.

“We’re see­ing a lot of blokes putting 6.2 and 6.5-litre GM turbo-diesel V8s in four-wheel drives these days,” says Norm, “along with peo­ple adding big af­ter­mar­ket tur­bos or build­ing ve­hi­cles to tow big loads. So all we do is heavy­duty. Typ­i­cally, the stuff we build is around 30 per cent up on the OE core ca­pac­ity.” The big ar­gu­ment for the ages, of course, has been whether to use alu­minium or a brass-cop­per core in a ra­di­a­tor for a

rough-and­tum­ble gad­get like a four-wheel drive. But Norm reck­ons it’s a bit of a no-brainer these days.

“We do both brass-cop­per and alu­minium, but with four-wheel drives now, 99 per cent of the stuff we’re do­ing is alu­minium. We’re just get­ting way bet­ter re­sults.”

And that, says Norm, is all down to the su­pe­rior heat trans­fer thanks in part to the fact that a ra­di­a­tor achieves its max­i­mum heat trans­fer at the point where the tube joins the fin.

“That’s the crit­i­cal area, and in a brass­cop­per ra­di­a­tor, you join the tube to the fin with sol­der. And sol­der is made of a lead-tin mix­ture, so you end up with an in­su­lat­ing layer of

lead and tin right where you should be get­ting your max­i­mum trans­fer.”

So what about the ques­tion of vi­bra­tion (a typ­i­cal sce­nario in a four­wheel drive op­er­at­ing in Aus­tralia) when cross­ing the in­evitable cor­ru­ga­tions?

“If a ra­di­a­tor is built prop­erly with the right wall-thick­ness, you shouldn’t have a prob­lem,” says Norm. “In fact, we even go to the trouble of adding gus­seted cor­ners in the core to elim­i­nate an­other po­ten­tial stress point. I reckon a lot of the other prob­lems peo­ple have had over the years with alu­minium cores is that a lot of shops don’t know how to re­pair them prop­erly. You also have to use the right coolant. We spec­ify the or­ganic type used by GM or Toy­ota, and we don’t have prob­lems at all.”

Ac­cord­ing to Norm, it’s of­ten a case of user-ig­no­rance, like the wrong coolant, that brings the ve­hi­cle’s orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor un­done. “The other thing that will re­sult in tears is poor ve­hi­cle main­te­nance, par­tic­u­larly bad wiring where some­body has added equip­ment but not earthed it prop­erly. When that hap­pens, you get what’s called stray-cur­rent cor­ro­sion. Brass-cop­per radiators are less prone to stray-cur­rent cor­ro­sion, so if you’re the lazy type, maybe brass-cop­per would be bet­ter.”

Gold Coast-based PWR’S Dave Maw­son reck­ons that stray-cur­rent is­sues are pretty much the only way to kill a PWR ra­di­a­tor these days. PWR uses al­loy con­struc­tion ex­clu­sively and while the com­pany is best-known for its mo­tor­sport ex­ploits (it sup­plies ev­ery NASCAR team and all but one For­mula 1 team with cool­ing prod­ucts, and has its own wind tun­nel) it also has 10 or 15 four-wheel drive part num­bers that are the hot sell­ers.

“Fun­nily enough, ” says Dave, “the ma­jor­ity of our ra­di­a­tor sales are to peo­ple with older ve­hi­cles; stuff like GQ and GU Pa­trol and 80 Se­ries Land

“BRASS COP­PER RADIATORS ARE LESS PRONE TO STRAY CUR­RENT COR­RO­SION”

GIVE A WIDE BERTH TO RADIATORS THAT COMES FROM UN­KNOWN SUP­PLI­ERS

Cruis­ers. It’s the die-hard mar­ket. But it was put to me the other day that these older ve­hi­cles are kind of like fork­lift en­gines driv­ing army tanks. And that’s pretty much right, so a re­li­able ra­di­a­tor with the right cool­ing ca­pac­ity is an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity for these guys, be­cause they’re the ve­hi­cles that are still get­ting used hard in the mid­dle of nowhere.”

Dave’s main piece of ad­vice (aside from avoid­ing the el cheapo on­line ‘bar­gain’) is to be sure to buy a ra­di­a­tor from some­body who knows what they’re talk­ing about. “Talk to the ex­perts: What’s your ap­pli­ca­tion? How will you be us­ing the ve­hi­cle? What’s your ex­pec­ta­tion? It’s a crit­i­cal part of the puz­zle. We of­ten get blokes who want the big­gest, thick­est ra­di­a­tor they can buy. But then you dis­cover that they’ll be run­ning around at low speeds in lowrange, at which point what they think they want is ac­tu­ally too big.”

So what about those bar­gain-base­ment rads? The ra­di­a­tor you should re­ally give a wide berth to is the one that comes from an un­known sup­plier (of­ten on­line and of­ten from some­where like China). Hey, maybe you’ll get lucky; maybe you’ll be the Golden Child that buys a qual­ity ra­di­a­tor from an on­line auc­tion site at a too-good-to-be-true price. But more prob­a­bly, you’ll get stuck with a heap of junk that fails spec­tac­u­larly, miles from home and not only costs you a big re­cov­ery fee, but toasts your en­gine into the bar­gain. Your call…

Green residue in­di­cates this ra­di­a­tor sprung a leak quite a long time ago. Best to ditch it and get a new one ASAP.

PWR’S radiators are made in its Gold Coast fac­tory and shipped around the world.

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