An Overview of the Different Types of Car Radiators

According to a recent study, many Americans don’t know the basics of car care and repairs. If you’re one of them, it’s worth gaining a basic knowledge of how your car and its parts work–starting with the radiator.

The radiator is a common source of car problems, not to mention an expensive one. Fortunately, if you know the different types of car radiators, you can better prevent problems with your own.

Here’s a simple-to-understand breakdown of the most common types of car radiators.

Aluminum Radiators

High-performance vehicles most often come equipped with aluminum radiators. Aluminum radiators are built specifically to help high-performance vehicles run properly.

One of the best things about aluminum radiators is that the tank and the core are both made from aluminum. This means that if one radiator part breaks or wears out, you don’t have to replace the entire radiator (an expensive buy).

Aluminum radiators may be more costly upfront, but they deliver great bang for their buck and they offer more longevity.

Unlike plastic radiators, you’re far less likely to have to replace the entire thing.

Another perk of the aluminum radiators is that they cool off more efficiently. Because aluminum has a higher thermal conductivity, it absorbs heat quicker than radiators made of any other material.

Plastic Radiators

Plastic radiators are one of the most common types of car radiators. This may be because they are less expensive and easier to manufacture than aluminum or brass and copper radiators.

Plastic radiators are lighter and have an alloy core. The use of plastic radiators began as an alternative to expensive brass and copper radiators.

Unfortunately, they are not as adept at cooling quickly. They are also not easy to repair. If damage occurs, you’ll probably have to purchase an entirely new radiator.

Plastic and Aluminum Radiators

Even more common than plastic radiators are plastic and aluminum combos. The cores are aluminum with a plastic tank. They are the least expensive. 

If you’re in the market for purchasing a car, it’s worth asking if the radiator is plastic and aluminum as this can make a major difference if you ever need repairs done.

These radiators are mass-produced and are not as high quality as aluminum radiators.

Copper and Brass Radiators

Copper and brass radiators include a copper core and brass tank. They were the standard radiator in most cars until the early 1980s. Around that time, plastic and aluminum radiators started to replace the more expensive copper and brass.

Copper and brass radiators tend to be very heavy and very expensive to replace or repair.

While they do their job well, their heavy weight and tendency to rust make them a slightly less desirable type of car radiator.

Car Radiators: Which Is the Best?

When it comes to deciding which of all car radiators is best, it comes down to a matter of cost and efficiency. If you own a high-performance vehicle, purely aluminum radiators are unbeatable. 

However, plastic and aluminum are commonly used in most vehicles for a reason. They do their job sufficiently well and don’t cost as much as copper and brass to repair.

For more helpful vehicle hacks, browse the Automotive portion of our blog.