The Ultimate Radiator Buying Guide

Learn All About Car Radiators

Just like a human body, a car has certain parts that are crucial for the proper functioning of the vehicle. The cooling system of the vehicle ensures that every component is functioning properly. A vital component of the vehicle’s cooling system is the radiator. Without this, your vehicle will not function as expected. This buying guide provides a clear understanding of the different types of radiators, the signs of a  failing radiator, and more. 

What Is A Radiator?

Once you start your engine, certain processes begin. The engine encounters friction which in turn creates heat. Over time a lot of heat will be generated. This is where the radiator plays its role. The primary purpose of the radiator is to prevent the overheating of the vehicle. Radiators is a heat exchanger that is part of the cooling system that dissipates heat by passing a coolant to the engine. Because of this important role, the radiators are essential for the normal functioning of the vehicle. So, the users have to make sure that the radiator is always in good working condition. If they find that the car’s engine is heating faster than expected, then the radiator has to be checked and replaced if necessary.

What Are The Different Types Of Radiators?

A. Based On The Core

1. Tubular Core Type

In these types, a series of tubes are connected to the upper and lower tank through which the water passes. To improvise the heat transfer, fins are placed around them. As water passes through all the tubes in this type, a defect on even one tube will affect the entire cooling process.

2. Cellular Core Type

Also referred to as a honeycomb radiator because of its appearance, this type of radiator allows the coolant to flow through the spaces between them. Air will pass through the tube and the coolant flows in the in-between spaces. The cellular core type has a great benefit over the tubular one because if the tubes are clogged it will only affect a small portion of the entire cooling surface. 

B. Based On Design

1. Downflow Radiators

In downflow radiators, the tanks are placed at the top and bottom of the core. These were usually found in older vehicles as they have a tall yet narrow width grille and radiator support. The advantage of the downflow radiator is its inlet and outlet placement. They can be placed at the center, left, right, or somewhere in between. But they have a limited cooling capacity.

2. Crossflow Radiators

In this type, the radiators are placed on the left and right sides of the core. You can usually find crossflow radiators in modern vehicles, as they are shorter and have wide grille openings. When it comes to performance, crossflow radiators are an excellent choice as they have several benefits over the other ones. Because of their large core, they remove more heat. The fluid passes slowly through the core and spends sufficient time in the air stream. Crossflow radiators are also available in double and triple pass designs. This enhances the ability of the radiator to cool by increasing the number of times the coolant passes through the core.

C. Based On the Material

1. Plastic and Aluminium

This type of radiator has an aluminum core with a plastic tank. This is the most common type and is found in modern vehicles. They are the least expensive and hence they are mass-produced by the auto manufacturers. 

2. Copper and Brass

This type of radiator has a brass tank with a copper core. They were usually replaced by plastic and aluminum radiators as copper was quite expensive and when affected by corrosion, the repair costs were high. Though these radiators were bulky, with advancements over time, their weight was reduced to half. Though these radiators are reliable and function perfectly, their high cost and exposure to rust, led to their downfall.

3. Plastic 

To overcome the downfalls of the copper and brass radiators, auto manufacturers came up with plastic radiators. These radiators have an alloy core, yet they use a plastic tank to reduce weight. Though they weren’t as efficient as copper and brass, their reduced weight and low cost made them one of the common types of radiators used by auto manufacturers. But the issue with the plastic radiators was that fixing them was quite difficult as you have to replace the entire component in case of a defect. To overcome these issues, aluminum radiators came into existence. 

4. Aluminum

One major issue with the plastic radiator was that the entire component had to be replaced if damaged. This needed to be avoided and that’s where the aluminum radiators came in as handy. Because of their high thermal conductivity, they can absorb heat faster. Their cooling efficiency and heat dispersion are much better compared to copper and brass and plastic. The main benefit of an aluminum radiator was that, if a certain part was damaged, you can replace them instead of the whole component but at a high cost. These radiators are the best suited for high-performance cars if you are looking for better performance. 

What Are The Factors I Should Consider Before Buying A Car Radiator?

There is a wide range of car radiators available in the market today. Hence the user has to know what they have to look for before buying it. Here are some of the factors to keep in mind before purchasing a car radiator.



There are different types of radiators available in the market such as aluminum radiators, plastic, and aluminum radiators, and copper and brass radiators and hence you’ll have to be careful during the selection. The most reliable ones are the aluminum radiators as they are environmentally friendly,  tough, and do not corrode, unlike other metals. Also, before you purchase, make sure to know the type of radiator your engine needs.

Radiator Fans


The radiator fans can be either mechanical or electrical. The mechanical fan consumes as much as 20 hp whereas electrical fans consume less. Hence electrical fans are a better choice. 

Radiator Hoses


Radiator hoses are highly essential as they bring in the liquid that has to be cooled. It is best to have a wide and strong tube as it can carry large volumes of fluid without breaking down. Make sure to look for wider tubes as they can maximize the surface area. This ensures that more parts of the fluid will be in contact with the tube.

Which Top Brand Radiator Should I Choose?

BTK Canada Radiator & Parts

Part Numbers: R13063, R13270, R2917, and more.


  • It is designed to meet or exceed oe replacement
  • OEM quality standards
  • Parts can be directly fitted
  • The best quality with an affordable price
  • Manufactured to meet exact requirements
  • Fast and smooth installation

For more information and a detailed product line, visit the BTK Canada Radiator section. 

Denso Radiator & Parts

Part Numbers: 221-3702, 221-9327, 221-3149, and more.


  • Matches original equipment specification
  • A Denso radiator with a 0.2 sq.M front surface, for example, features more than 6 sq.M of the cooling surface on its fins
  • Able to cope with extreme environmental conditions
  • Close contact between tube and fin helps in the efficient heat transmission
  • The tube is 'pressed' against the fin and gives a little less interaction, at lower costs of production
  • A high level of conductivity and low weight enable even thin surfaces to be machined
  • Guarantees the long-lasting, efficient performance

For more information and a detailed product line, visit Denso Radiator & parts section.

Dorman (OE Solutions) Radiator & Parts

Part Numbers: 926-274, 926-276, 523-057, and more.


  • Ideal replacement - The cooling fan installation for the engine was made to balance the fit and efficiency of the radiator fan mounting on particular vehicles
  • Complete package - assembly is made with the same materials and components as the original one.
  • Quality assured - the engine is tested in laboratory settings to make sure it performs well.
  • Cost-effective and reliable - trustworthy manufacturing for far less than the same part at the dealership

For more information and a detailed product line, visit Dorman (OE Solutions) Radiator section. 

Cooling Depot Radiator & Parts

Part Numbers: 9T37, 9T16, 9T16R, and more.


  • It is designed to meet or exceed oe replacement
  • OEM quality standards
  • Parts can be directly fitted
  • The best quality with an affordable price
  • Manufactured to meet exact requirements
  • Fast and smooth installation

For more information and a detailed product line, visit the Cooling depot, Radiator & parts section. 

Spectra Premium Industries Radiator & Parts

Part Number: CU2711, CU13063, CU2795, and more.


  • Only the highest grade materials used in production
  • Extensive in-house laboratory and assembly-line testing capabilities
  • Drop-in fit for easy fixation
  • Equipped with accessory packs to accommodate various original equipment.
  • Meet or exceed OE specifications for fit, form, and function
  • Transit-tested with robust packaging to protect the component from damage in shipping
  • All transmission & engine oil coolers meet or exceed OE standards

For more information and a detailed product line, visit Spectra Premium Industries, Radiator & parts sections. 

What Are The Symptoms That My Car Radiator Is Failing?

An important job of the radiator is to prevent the overheating of the engine. With the help of the coolant, the radiator cools the engine. The coolant circulates through the engine and radiator to cool down the engine. If the radiator is not functioning properly as intended, then the engine will start to overheat. This can also cause permanent damage to the internal parts of the engine. A bad or failing radiator will show some of the symptoms: 


A. High-Temperature Gauge Readings

In most cars, the normal operating temperature is somewhere between 195 and 220 degrees F. Check the temperature readings and see if they are higher than usual or if the needle is in the red zone. If the temperature stays constantly on the high side, then there are chances that your radiator is clogged. This usually occurs because of corrosion, internal sludge build-up, or debris stuck in the radiator which obstructs the proper flow of coolant through the radiator to the engine.

B. Leaking Coolant

You will find several tiny holes or cracks in the housing or the cooling fins if the radiator is clogged because of rust build-up. If this happens, you will see several drops of coolant on the floor. Rust usually develops because of low-quality coolant or by adding tap water to the coolant mix which has more contaminants. If you don’t flush your radiator regularly, more rust will form and will eventually start eating your radiator tank. Even if there is the slightest leak, your vehicle will be forced to operate with low coolant. This will likely illuminate the low coolant level light on your dash. 


C. Discoloration Of The Fluid

The coolant of your vehicle has to be a bright yellow, green or red sometimes and they have to flow freely through the radiator and coolant passages. Over time, sludge build-up can contaminate the coolant and will turn it into rusty color or oil color. This is a sign that contaminants have been built up in the radiator which can greatly affect the performance of the radiator. One simple way of checking the coolant’s condition is by looking at the coolant overflow tank. The contaminated fluid will not be able to pass through quickly as it will be thicker. At some point, they will start clogging the radiator eventually causing it to overheat. To avoid this, you will have to perform a radiator flush as quickly as possible.

D. Overheating Of The Vehicle

If your vehicle overheats constantly even under normal driving conditions, then your radiator may be failing. The radiator is the only component that keeps your engine cool. But at times, overheating doesn’t mean that the radiator has failed. It could be as simple as changing the coolant. If the issue is not addressed quickly, the vehicle may overheat and cause the vehicle to break down. 


E. Low Coolant

Does the “low coolant” light on your dash keep turning on? Are you constantly adding coolant to your vehicle? Then your radiator may be leaky. Rather than refilling your tank with coolant, check for leaks and get them fixed as quickly as possible.

F. Damaged Fins

The radiator is the only thing that cools the engine and it is designed to provide maximum cooling. To accomplish this, thin fin tubes that carry hot coolant, run across in front of the radiator. If these thin fins are bent or damaged, then the airflow will be blocked. These are delicate components and if they are hit by a tiny piece of gravel while driving, they can be damaged. Also, if too much water pressure is used while cleaning, the fins can be easily bent and they can block the airflow. If this happens, the radiator will be clogged and the engine will overheat.

How Much Will It Cost me For A New Radiator?

The radiator is an expensive piece of equipment and its price varies depending on the vehicle make and model. The average cost of the radiator can range between $200 to $500 whereas the hourly installation rate costs between $90 to $130. You can find quality aftermarket radiators for modern vehicles starting from $100. Large units for heavy-duty vehicles will cost a little more and an OEM replacement will be double the cost from a reputable aftermarket manufacturer. 


Q. What is the purpose of a car radiator?

The engine creates a lot of heat and friction during operation. With the help of the coolant, the radiator keeps the engine running at an optimal temperature. By doing this, the radiator prevents the engine from overheating. 

Q. How to maintain a radiator without encountering problems?

With proper care, you can make sure that the radiator runs for a longer duration without any issues. 

Here are a few things you can take care of:

  • Check the coolant level constantly so they don’t exhaust. 
  • Make sure to flush the radiator at least once a year to help prevent the build-up of residue or rust that can clog the radiator. 

Q. How often should I replace my radiator?

A radiator usually lasts for 8-10 years. But if you face any issues, which indicate the need for a replacement. Then you will have to replace the radiator to avoid further damage. 

Q. How often should I flush the cooling system?

It's usually best to flush your cooling system every 2-3 years or 25,000 miles. But if you are using your vehicle in extreme weather conditions, then flushing your vehicle every 1-2 years will be the best option.

Q. Which antifreeze should I use?

The owner’s manual can help you know which antifreeze is best for your vehicle. The optimal antifreeze is the best option for the vehicle as well as the climate where you drive. In cold climates, the antifreeze has to be formulated to prevent freezing during cold days, and in warm climates, you will require more cooling power.  Make sure that the fluid is properly mixed regardless of the fluid you choose. Some are premixed whereas other concentrated fluids need to be mixed with water. Make sure to follow them correctly. 

BTK Canada Radiator - Part Number Catalog
Part Numbers
Radiator & parts

R2922, R13221, 13106, R2354

R2795, R2988, R2938, R2562

R13197, R2939, R2682, R13256

DENSO Radiator & parts - Part Number Catalog

CategoryPart Numbers
Radiator & parts

221-3220, 221-3234, 221-0500,

221-3407, 221-9026, 221-3140,

221-3157, 221-3116, 221-0505,

221-3250, 221-3417221-9061

Dorman Radiator & parts - Part Number Catalog

CategoryPart Numbers
Radiator & parts

924-424, 926-280, 926-281, 926-278,

926-275, 523-058924-425,

Cooling Depot Radiator & parts - Part Number Catalog

CategoryPart Numbers
Radiator & parts

9T7, 9T46, 9ST16, 9T20,

9T13, 9T18, 9T18R, 9T13R

9ST13, 9ST20, 9T6,9T61 

Spectra Premium Industries Radiator & parts - Part Number Catalog

CategoryPart Numbers
Radiator & parts

CU13476, CU2813, CU2428, CU2423,

CU2311, CU1290, CU2051, CU2265,



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Mike Morrales
Automotive Product Expert
A super dork when it comes to new automotive tech. Part manufacturers are constantly making revolutionary product updates for their aftermarket line up. However, knowing what changes were made and how they could affect your day to day driving adventures is something our automotive product expert will definitely be chiming in on, stay tuned !.