Beat the Heat – Tips and Products to Help You Assemble an Efficient and Effective Cooling System
There’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic and watching the needle of your temp gauge slowly climb its way up…205, 215, 225-degrees! This is typically followed by the sweet waft of boiling coolant, steam rising from the grille and fender gaps, and finally having to pull over to let the engine cool. We’ve all been there.
Back in the days of searching for a used four-core radiator combined with bolting on any mechanical fan you could find, over-heating was nearly expected. Today, however, there is just no excuse for a substandard cooling system. There are countless products out there to help you assemble a highly effective cooling system that will keep your engine happy and your temp gauge pointing in the right direction.
We contacted several leading companies that specialize in engine cooling technology and found that there are products and parts available to help just about any application run cool and safe. If you constantly worry about overheating, it’s time to upgrade your cooling system and start enjoying the scenery more than watching the temp gauge.
Take a look and stay cool!
Anyone planning an LS swap comes to the realization that the cooling outlets of their new engine are on the same side of the engine compartment – and may have different diameter inlet/outlets than their previous radiator. Speedway Motors has already done the research and homework for you to help keep your LS engine cool with their Universal LS Radiator Kits.
This 31-inch aluminum radiator features a double-pass design with a 2.50-inch, two-row core to really drop the temperature of the coolant as it travels out of the engine. There is a 1.25-inch lower outlet to match the water pump with a 1.5-inch inlet at the top. A pair of 12-inch 10-blade fans are secured in a shroud assembly with a narrow width of only 2 3/8-inches to fit in tight spaces. A hose adapter to accept the requisite steam line is also provided. In short, Speedway has you covered!
There’s more to cool under the hood than just the engine itself. If you’re lucky enough to be running a forced induction system on an LS-based engine, it’s beneficial to cool the air going into the engine and FAST offers an effective solution with their LSXHR Intercooler to complement their popular high-ram composite intake manifolds.
FAST’s advanced testing, conducted on a 1,350hp turbocharged LS engine running 20psi of boost, showed a 198-degree drop in the air charge with less than 1psi loss across the intercooler. The air-to-water intercooler conveniently fits between the upper and lower intake manifold, simplifying the installation, while saving space and cost. It features welded, billet construction with larger -16 inlet/outlets with O-ring sealing on both the air and water sections.
Tech Tip #1 – Temp Sensor
If you move to an electric fan, you will need a thermostatic switch or a controller to activate the fan. This sensor activates and deactivates the fan at a pre-set temperature. Note that a relay is still required to carry the high current demands of a fan.
Trying to keep your engine and air conditioning cool can be quite a monster to deal with, which is why Vintage Air now offers its Monster Brushless CustomFit Fan Kit. This latest offering is designed as a direct-fit for ’64-’67 Chevelles and includes laser-cut CNC-bent and powder-coated steel brackets engineered to fit perfectly under the hood. This bolt-on upgrade is designed to maximize engine and air conditioning cooling efficiency while providing an extended lifespan of up to 40,000 hours.
The CustomFit fan kit replaces the Chevelle’s factory fan shroud and cooling fan to deliver maximum cooling performance thanks to an 850-watt SPAL brushless PWM motor paired with a 19-inch skewed blade. The motor’s pulse width modulation technology (PWM) provides maximum cooling power when needed and automatically dials back the fan speed as demand lessens. The fan kit includes everything needed for installation except for the control harness which must be purchased separately based on the engine thermostat temperature.
When you step up to an electric cooling fan you need a way to turn the fan on at a specific temperature. This can be achieved through a temperature switch, or you can take complete control of the activation and deactivation of the fan thanks to Champion Cooling’s new Electric Fan Controller. This advanced Bluetooth device allows you to set separate on and off temperatures through Bluetooth technology right from your phone.
The Fan Controller will work with OE or aftermarket temperature senders and the free app can be downloaded for IOS or Android devices. Champion covers the bases as the controller can be used with single or dual cooling fans and when used with most Dakota Digital instrument clusters, the included patch harness connects to the main control box to access data. Detailed instructions are supplied, and the included relays are labeled for easy installation.
Tech Tip #2 – Coolant Filter
We have air filters, fuel filters and oil filters, so it makes sense to have a coolant filter, too. Champion Cooling offers an Inline Coolant Filter that is designed to install in the upper radiator hose to protect your radiator and heater core from debris. You’d be surprised how much crud, corrosion, and material is circulating through the cooling system! The assembly can be cleaned and reused for a lifetime of protection and is available for different diameter hoses.
Copper or Aluminum
Looking for a copper/brass radiator for a restoration or perhaps a lightweight, efficient aluminum design? With more than 50 years of experience, U.S. Radiator offers them all! The Alabama-based company provides the experience and confidence that their radiators will keep your engine cool for many years to come.
With their own manufacturing facilities that can handle aluminum and copper/brass radiators, U.S. Radiator can custom build cores and radiators to meet the needs of most applications based on their Standard, High Efficiency Copper/Brass, or Aluminum designs or their Optima Core that provides 40-percent more heat transfer points. They even stamp their own tanks and brackets, so you get a complete made-in-the-USA radiator.
The more you can keep the heat away from fluid lines, cables, and wiring, the better. Thermo-Tec’s Express Sleeve provides an effective layer of protection that is easy to install. The Sleeve features woven construction with high-temperature fibers that provide an effective insulation with a radiant temperature resistance of up to 2,000°F to prevent thermal damage.
The Express Sleeve is oil, chemical, and abrasion resistant while offering protection against moisture and contaminants. It is easy to install, can be cut to size, and is an ideal choice for automotive or marine applications to provide reliable thermal protection while enhancing the performance and durability of other critical components.
Tech Tip #3 – Clamps
Let’s face it – traditional hose clamps are ugly. Fortunately, there are options to help connect your cooling hoses. Rad Rides offers a great-looking and much stronger Turbo Seal Clamp that features a constant-tension worm gear to compensate for thermal cycling. For a clamp-free look, there are Gates PowerGrip SB Clamps which conform to any shape of hose and fitting that create a tight, secure seal through a thermoplastic, heat-sensitive material.
As the temperature of your engine changes, so does the pressure within the cooling system. The coolant expands as it is heated, meaning the fluid needs go somewhere. This is where a Coolant Recovery Tank or Overflow Tank is needed, and Summit Racing has several models to choose from.
Summit’s Overflow Tanks are made from aluminum or stainless steel and come with a petcock, mounting bracket, and necessary hardware. The aluminum tanks come in round and hexagonal models while the stainless steel tanks come in round and cylindrical shapes. The Coolant Recovery Tanks are made from polished aluminum and are available in recirculating or non-recirculating versions with a choice of 1.25- or 2-quart capacities.
Every radiator should have a fan shroud and the fluid cooling pros at Derale can help you take the guesswork out of your setup with their electric fan and shroud assemblies. These universal shroud assemblies are based on some of the most common radiator core sizes available.
The kit shown, PN 16842, features a 26×18-inch aluminum shroud with an overall depth of just 4-inches. The dual 12-inch high-output electric fans are the most powerful and reliable fans from Derale’s offerings and capable of moving up to 4,000 CFM! The natural, non-finished aluminum shroud gives you the freedom to polish, anodize, paint, or simply leave it raw to create a custom look. They can even set you up with a Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) Controller giving you control over the operation of the fans.
Tech Tip #4 – Shrouded
A fan shroud is mandatory to achieve the best cooling performance with any fan, electric or mechanical. Placement of the fan is important to achieve the best air movement through the radiator. A rule of thumb is to have the blades about half-way in the shroud. Also, there should be about ½-inch to one-inch clearance around the fan’s diameter.
Form and Function
Be Cool understands what it takes to keep things cool under your hood and the importance of looking good at the same time. The company’s Show and Go packages add a custom touch and detail under the hood and are available in both a crossflow design, with the tanks on the sides, and downflow radiators, which have their tanks on the top and bottom of the core.
The company also offers complete Module Kits that include the radiator paired with an effective electric fan(s) and brackets, wiring harness, billet radiator cap, and billet recovery tank. Be Cool, based in Bay City, Michigan, produces radiators that are 40-percent lighter than conventional OEM units yet have greater cooling capacity, and are guaranteed to lower your coolant temperature a minimum of 20-degrees or your money back.
When you really want to get the most cooling power from your radiator system, check out Red Line’s SuperCool with WaterWetter. This pre-mixed coolant is blended with purified, deionized water and the right amount of their proven WaterWetter to effectively lower operating temperatures while lubricating the water pump seals and reducing rust and corrosion.
SuperCool reduces or eliminates bubbles or the vapor barrier that forms on hot metal surfaces to reduce coolant temperatures by up to 20-degrees F. It’s compatible with all glycol anti-freezes and coolants and features corrosion inhibitors to provide excellent rust protection for modern cast iron, aluminum and brass systems.
Tech Tip #5 – Temp Sensor Bung
What if your vintage engine doesn’t have port for a temp sensor? Mattson’s offers these handy hose couplers that have a threaded port to accept a temperature sensor.
Every application is different, and some drivers like to have their cooling fan come on at 165-degrees, while others may want it on a 190-degrees. Flex-a-Lite understands the need to be, well, flexible, so they developed an Adjustable Fan Controller and Relay Kit so you can set the activation point exactly where you want it.
The compact controller can be adjusted to turn on a cooling fan from 160-220-degrees F through a small potentiometer. A 30-amp relay is built into the controller to ease wiring and supports fans with a continuous 20-amp draw. The device is water resistant with potted electronics to protect from vibration. Two models are available; one with a push-in temp probe and another with a thread-in probe that includes an adapter for standard and LS ports.
Checks and Changes
Like any automotive system that relies on fluid to operate, the cooling system requires maintenance or even an occasional component replacement. Snap-on offers a trick tool that allows you to pressure test the cooling system to help identify leaks, or it can be used to retain coolant so a component, such as a hose or sensor, can be replaced without draining the entire system.
The tool uses air to pressurize the cooling system with a maximum of 15psi to help identify a leak in the radiator, pump weep hole, or even a freeze plug. With the flip of a switch a vacuum generator with large internal passageways will produce a coolant retention rate in excess of 12psi to evacuate the coolant, saving the hassle of making a mess with a drain pan.
Tech Tip #6 – Clutch Fan
Before electric fans were all the rage, clutch fans were used and can still be a very effective cooling solution in stock or mild applications. The most common clutch fan is a thermal design that engages as temperatures rise, then disengages when the temp drops. (Note that the fan is always turning, just at a lower rate when disengaged.) These were used to reduce noise and unnecessary load on the engine when the coolant temperature was lower and didn’t need the help of the fan.
Stock or Custom
Looking for an aluminum radiator for your Flathead-powered ’32 that fits like an OEM unit? How about a something for a ’55 Chevy equipped with an electric fan, shroud, and custom core support? Mattson’s Radiators offers all of these, plus plenty of options for Chevelles, Impalas, Novas, Mustangs, and more.
Mattson’s Radiators are custom made from durable long-lasting and lightweight aluminum materials with a natural-looking or polished finish. They can also be packaged with fans, a shroud, even a core support and other accessories that can give your show car the right look with cool performance.
Pump and Flow
You can have the most efficient radiator and electric fan available but without a high-quality water pump circulating the coolant through the system, your engine will still overheat. To answer your performance water pumping needs, take a look at Edelbrock.
Edelbrock offers a full line of Victor Series water pumps for street machines and hot rods that provide maximum flow combined with equal distribution to both sides of the block. Computer-designed internal passages and a precision-formed powdered metal impeller produce maximum flow ensuring adequate pressure and volume, even at lower engine speeds. Pumps are available for popular AMC/Jeep, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, and Pontiac engines and can be finished in satin, polished, black powder coat, and EnduraShine.
Tech Tip #7 – Fan Clearance
When shopping for an electric fan, be aware of the clearance available between the water pump or drive accessories. There wasn’t much room on this small-block Chevy equipped ’40 Ford and the radiator, but the fan was able to be offset to accommodate. Not the most efficient, but it gets the job done.
C10 Copper Cooling
Chevy truck fans will be excited to see the new radiators available from Johnson’s Radiator Works. These radiators share the same quality and craftsmanship as the trick builds that roll out of Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop. The radiators are designed for a direct bolt-in fitment and are even built with original tooling while being manufactured and assembled under one roof.
Johnson’s offers an LS design with the outlets on the passenger side, and also has small- and big-block models available. Each radiator is a four-row design with a 2.75-inch copper core and half-inch brass tubes. Each tank is one piece, stamped from .040-inch brass, and the assembly sits on heavy duty steel brackets that snug directly into the stock rubber saddle mounts.
Design Engineering, Inc.
Heat is pretty much the enemy of everything under the hood of your car or truck, so taking the time to protect any wiring or other fluid lines will help them last longer. Design Engineering, Inc. has several solutions to insulate lines and wires against excessive heat such as their Fire Wrap 3000 and Fire Sleeve.
Each insulator is constructed from a braided glass material and woven into a sleeve that is coated with 100-percent iron oxide silicone rubber. Fire Sleeve slides over harnesses and lines while their Fire Wrap features a hook-and-loop edge closure so it can be installed without disconnecting a line. DEI offers different diameters and lengths of each heat protector.
Tech Tip #8 – LS-specific Radiator
As the world turns to the LS and other modern engine platforms, make it easy on yourself with a radiator made to work with your late model drivetrain. DeWitts Radiator offers LS-specific radiators that position both outlets on the passenger side and features an inlet for the steam ports of the engine. This model also has a port for a temp sensor port.
As much as we like to drive our hot rods and classics, they do spend a lot of time parked in the garage. This static time is one reason why choosing the right coolant is important to the health and longevity of the cooling system and its components. A unique solution to superior cooling protection is with Evans Collectors Choice waterless coolant.
Evan’s Waterless Coolant is specifically designed to protect vintage and classic gasoline engines that are not driven on a daily basis. This special coolant eliminates many problems associated with water in conventional water-based cooling systems, has a boiling point above 375-degrees, and eliminates corrosion and electrolysis. The coolant will last the lifecycle of the engine as long as it doesn’t get contaminated.
Making the move to an electric can help get your engine running cooler and SPAL’s new 500-watt brushless fans are a great choice. The cooling gurus at DeWitt’s have come up with a Universal Brushless Shroud and Fan Combination that makes it easy to fit all GM hat-channel style cross-flow radiators used on ’66 and ’82 models and many other applications.
The shroud is injection molded from a heat resistant space age polymer that can easily be trimmed to fit core sizes between 22.5 – 27.5-inches. DeWitt’s even includes all the mounting hardware and flaps for the fan. The fan features PWM control for high efficiency with very low power consumption. The 16-inch fan has seven blades and pulls plenty of air while running much quieter.
Cool Cap Cover
A proper radiator cap is a must for all pressurized cooling systems, but most off-the-shelf caps leave something to be desired in the appearance department. Thankfully, the machining experts at Billet Specialties didn’t overlook this small-but-crucial component when developing their line of under-hood detailing components.
Billet specialties offers several different styles of aluminum radiator cap covers to help finish off the front of your engine compartment. Their round cap covers have knurled sides and are available with a smooth top or one of several designs (V8, Bow-Tie, Circle). The company also offers notch-grip caps to complement its overflow tanks and power steering reservoirs. All cap covers come with quality Stant radiator caps included.