What you need to know about truck radiator replacement

What you need to know about truck radiator replacement

We know you have been looking for a simple article that guides you into making your truck radiator replacement simple. You already are aware of what a radiator is and how vital of a component it is for the vehicle since it assists in protecting the engine from overheating.

As the engine is popularly known as the heart of the vehicle, it is essential that the engine is also taken care of. The last thing you want is to have steam billowing out of under your hood while you're driving. Depending on how serious the issue is, it can be either a minor inconvenience or a total catastrophe.

Without beating around the bush, let us give you a basic overview of: -

  • Difference between a truck radiator and a car radiator
  • Important factors to weigh when considering truck radiator replacement
  • When to know it is time for your radiator replacement

Truck Radiators vs Car Radiators

Before we dive into the WHYs and HOWs, let’s first learn the answer to one of the most burning questions most vehicle owners have.

There are many similarities between car radiators and truck radiators. Your truck's cooling system works very well in the same way as your car's.

  • Bigger in Size
  • Have More Capacity
  • Higher in Durability

These are the main differences between car and truck radiators. Radiators designed for trucks are designed to handle heavy loads, vibrations, stress, and higher mileage.

Automobiles and trucks use two types of radiators, cross-flow radiators and downflow radiators. There are two coolant tanks (fender to fender) on the side of a cross flow radiator, and the fluid runs horizontally along the front of the vehicle. Fluid runs vertically down the front of the vehicle from tanks at the top and bottom of the down flow radiator.

Low-flow radiators, which pass coolant multiple times through the radiator, and bolt-on radiators, which bolt tanks to a core using gaskets, are two other types of radiators for heavy-duty trucks. Radiators of these types can be cross-flow radiators or downflow radiators.

Factors to Determine before Truck Radiator Replacement

To determine what is the best option for you, use the following checklist.

  • Engine Power: As horsepower increases, they generate more heat, which needs to be cooled.
  • Vehicle Usage: How frequently does your truck engage in off-roading, carry loads, or towing? Are you more likely to drive the freeway on a daily basis?
  • Climate: The hotter the climate, the harder it is for the engine to cool, especially in summer. Even more critical is this factor if you race or use your vehicle for strenuous driving.
  • Vehicle Type: Is your truck old or newly bought? A lot of older trucks tend to have outdated radiator designs in materials such as copper-brass. If you’re looking for an exact replacement, this may be challenging to find.
  • Materials: This one is a combination of all of them. Make sure you consider the type of vehicle, the usage, and the climate when determining what type of material to use.
  • Fitment: Depending on how much space you have in your engine bay, if extra cooling is needed, you can determine how many rows are appropriate for your engine.

Other detailed factors to evaluate before making a decision are as follows:

Picking up the right core!

Radiator cores are located between the tanks. Coolant circulates through tubes, and heat is transferred to the air passing through the fins. In a core, rows are the numbers of tubes from one face to the other. In a radiator with three rows, there are three lines of tubes. The more rows you have, the more tubes you have, and the more cooling you get. In other words, how do you choose the right core for you?

Copper Radiator Core

Keep the above points (engine power, vehicle usage, vehicle type, etc.) in mind to explain your decision.

Your engine's horsepower determines how much heat it produces. A properly cooled engine prevents overheating and ensures that your car performs at its peak. When the engine is cooled too much, it will not reach its optimum operating temperature, which will cause decreased fuel efficiency and emissions.

Your cooling needs will probably be drastically different based on whether you drive your truck in the city or if you regularly race at track meets. You'll need an efficient radiator if you want high cooling capacity and minimum weight. In contrast, a city truck or passenger car is likely to fit a stock standard replacement or something similar.

Climate also plays a major role. Australia, for instance, has a hot summer. There are, however, some states that are significantly more affected by humidity or heat than others, such as Queensland or the Northern Territory. Under these conditions, a vehicle's radiator might need to be larger and have more rows to dissipate excess heat.

Generally, a high-performance or heavy-duty vehicle can benefit from 3+ radiator rows. Stock 1-2 is often highly efficient for standard uses, but it can also be incredibly efficient for very strenuous uses.

Other Core Specifications to Keep in Mind

When choosing a radiator, consider other core specifications as well as the number of rows. In vehicles that cannot fit a thicker radiator with more rows, high performance cooling can be achieved by adapting these factors: -

  • Tubes
  • Fins
  • Cores
  • Materials

 As the coolant flows through tubes, their size and surface are critical. There is a direct relation between the amount of surface contact and the amount of heat dissipation. Wider tube surfaces, for instance, increase the area of contact, which leads to more efficient cooling. In addition to improving cooling performance, more tubes can also be fitted within the same core size to increase cooling efficiency.

In order to maximize heat dissipation, fins are placed between tubes, where the bulk of the heat dissipation occurs. As a result of increased contact between the tube and fin, heat can be transferred more efficiently from the coolant passing through the tubes. A change in FPI (fins per inch) and fin type can adjust heat dissipation.

The core of a device is composed of fins and tubes. In an everyday modern road car, a single row core is common. Some other factors that can increase cooling include FPI, fin type, core and header material as well as tube pitch (distance between tubes), size and surface.

Materials to Consider

It is common for older cars to have copper brass radiators. Radiators made of aluminum started to replace steel ones during the 1970s. Despite its weight, copper brass works well in tough environments such as trucks and highway applications. It can also be disassembled for easier repair.

A new road car is likely to be fitted with a radiator made from aluminum and a fuel tank made of plastic. Typically, they last the entire life of the vehicle, but environmental factors or collision damage can shorten this lifespan. Despite their efficiency and lightness, the cores cannot generally be repaired if they are damaged.

It is common for performance alloys to be custom made to meet specific requirements. Their lightweight, high efficiency, and strict fitment requirements frequently mean they differ from typical radiator dimensions because they are designed to fit restricted engine bays. It is important to ensure that the radiator core fits the vehicle, as some vehicles do not have enough clearance for a thicker core.

When to Know It’s Time for a Radiator Replacement 

  1. Leaking coolant is a common sign that a radiator is failing. To determine the location of a leak under a vehicle, inspect the radiator for green liquid.
  2. The presence of rust in a radiator can significantly damage a cooling system. An engine will not cool if a rusty piece falls into it, causing the coolant to react with it to form a thick liquid.
  3. As the coolant circulates through the engine, the radiator reduces its effectiveness. An engine will run hotter when this occurs. It may lead to overheating over time. Temperature of coolant is measured by a thermostat. When the temperature reaches too high, the gauge will send a signal. The engine should be allowed to cool if the coolant temperature is too high while driving. Continuing to drive could cause the engine to overheat.
  4. The failure of a thermostat is another factor that can cause radiator problems. It is important for the radiator to function properly that the thermostat is not included in the radiator.
  5. The cooling system can become trapped with air from time to time. Consequently, the coolant will be unable to flow properly, resulting in less effective cooling.
  6. The cooling system cannot regulate the temperature properly if a water pump fails to pump coolant throughout the engine. After passing through the radiator, the water goes into the engine, pump, and radiator again.
  7. If the cooling system is blocked, the cooling passages will not be able to flow. A lack of coolant flow can cause radiator problems when the engine and radiator are not getting the right amount of coolant. Air is also restricted from flowing through radiators, which can cause obstructions. A radiator that cannot transfer heat to the air will not be able to transfer heat properly if air cannot flow through it.


With the above information, you can compare various options and narrow down the overwhelming alternatives available in the market.

Dolphin is among the pioneers in the heat transfer industry since past 36 years and has a global clientele. Through our experience and excellence, we recommend you perform thorough research before rushing into purchasing a cooling system for your vehicle.

You must also not let various opinions influence you into making the wrong purchase. Rather, read or contact a trusted supplier like Dolphin to discuss and understand more about such complicated matters.

Have a safe drive!

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