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Cars > LancerAndre’s Garage > Blog > High Performance is Cool, Right?


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High Performance is Cool, Right?

By LancerAndre

I'd like to kick off my blog with a post about performance tuning. One of the most overlooked ways to improve your car’s performance is in the cooling system. If your vehicle has modifications or tuning that increase its horsepower, improve its shifting or add to its towing power, you need to evaluate your cooling system. If it’s summer where you live, are you confident your car will get you where you’re going when the temperatures are above 100 degrees? This is even more important if you live in the desert. In the American southwest, northern Africa and Australia, all areas with large populations, summer temperatures can exceed 115 degrees regularly. The cooling system becomes either the weakest link or the sturdiest aspect of a vehicle in these conditions. In addition, your car needs to keep its cool as a matter of safety. The side of a busy highway is a dangerous place to park a family.

Take an Integrated Approach

Image credit: NSW used cars

The automatic transmissions of most modern vehicles use the radiator as a temperature control for the transmission fluid, and run the fluid delivery lines through one of the radiator tanks. This saves engineering costs in time, labour and assembly for the manufacturer. However, the temperatures in the radiator are generally higher than the optimum temperatures for transmission fluid. This causes a reduction in efficiency that can lead to excess wear and a shorter life for the transmission. Once this cycle begins, it will produce more heat inside the transmission. Improvements to shifting can also mean extra heat for the transmission. This heat will be carried from the transmission to the radiator, and tax its capacity even further.

Think Outside the Box
You can still further improve the already considerable gains you have made. That arrangement with the transmission fluid sharing the radiator with the engine is a compromise, and not in your favour. Think about how good it would be to eliminate all of that transmission heat from the radiator. Adding an external oil cooler for the transmission is easy to do, inexpensive and improves two systems on your car at once. 

This modification will add a small radiator just for the transmission, plumbed into the cooling lines that already deliver the fluid to the existing radiator. This smaller transmission cooler is mounted to the car’s chassis, in the airflow, cooling the transmission directly. It also removes the transmission’s heat load from the radiator. Of course, it is also possible to leave the existing arrangement in place and add the external cooler into the existing system. However, there is space inside the radiator tank that is taken up by the cooling tubes for the transmission. That space could be put to better use holding more coolant.

Turn the Volume Up

Image credit: Wikipedia

More horsepower means more air and fuel moving through the engine, which translates into more heat production. Remember, any extra heat from the engine is going to reduce the radiator’s efficiency at cooling the transmission. That means cooling capacity should also be improved. The single best way to improve cooling is to increase the volume of coolant in the system by replacing the radiator with a higher-capacity piece from the dealer parts system or the aftermarket. The most efficient radiators for the price in today’s market are the aluminium designs with much larger tubes. Because aluminium is more rigid than copper, the tubes carrying the water through the cooling fins on the radiator can be made in much larger diameters. A heavy-duty copper and brass radiator will have tubing about 3/8 of an inch inside diameter. With aluminium designs, it’s possible to run two rows of large tubes as much as an inch in diameter, greatly increasing the volume over traditional copper and brass radiators.

Go With the Flow
Once you have the extra capacity, you need to move all that extra coolant efficiently from heat-gathering areas to your new radiator. A higher-flow water pump is the next step to protecting your car’s operating condition and the safety of its occupants. Again, dealer parts departments often carry higher-flow water pumps, and the aftermarket has a huge number of choices. The increase in coolant flow will work together with a higher capacity radiator to increase the amount of heat that can be carried away from the engine and transmission into the airflow. Removing the thermostat will shorten the amount of time that coolant is in the radiator being cooled.

Don’t Stop There
Engineers put fan shrouds in place to optimise airflow through the radiator. Your fan shroud should be in good condition. Examine it for cracks, broken mounts or chips taken out. For many cars, aluminium replacements are available. Along with the shroud, you need to consider the fan. It can be replaced with a higher-performing electric one, or with a higher capacity fan for older cars. The clutch allows the engine to turn the fan at lower speeds, but disengages the fan at high speeds. This is because the wind speed is higher from the motion of the car, and a higher volume of air is moving through the radiator than the fan can produce. It’s easy to forget the fan clutch when you are considering factors to buy a used car online, but the condition of the fan clutch is important. Always consider the possible cost of cooling system upgrades on any older car, and especially if you are buying a car on the internet, and may not be able to verify the condition of these types of parts.

While the transmission cooler, larger radiator and high-flow pump will have greatly improved your car’s cooling capabilities, there are more pieces to the puzzle that can help keep your car on the road under tough conditions. Make sure you have a high-quality radiator cap, of the type and rating recommended by the car’s maker. High-performance hoses are available that are far stronger than original hoses and dissipate heat better. Coloured sleeves and braided hose designs do not dissipate heat well. The cheaper sleeves are strictly for looks. The expensive aircraft hosing looks the way it does because it is designed to handle high pressure and extreme environments. Neither will give the best cooling performance.

With these tips in mind, you should be confident enough to take your car on any trip, to any environment, from open highway in the desert to cruising at the rod run at slow speeds in lots of traffic. You can be confident that you won’t be the one watching the show from the sidelines.

Let me know what you guys think.

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SittinLow’s Profile Photo
Dec 6, 2013 at 4:44 am
Cool post

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Cars > LancerAndre’s Garage > Blog > High Performance is Cool, Right?

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