To fully understand the way a radiator helps keep your car engine cool, you should understand the different radiator types that are used in modern vehicles. Depending upon the make and model vehicle you drive, the radiator in your car or truck will probably use one of the two primary types of radiator systems.
The Most Common Types of Radiators
In most of today's vehicles you will find either a cross flow radiator or a down flow radiator. Both types of radiators have upper and lower tubes that are used to cycle the radiator fluid or antifreeze coolant in your cars cooling system. Hot radiator fluid enters the top tube of the system and passes through a series of smaller, thinner tubes and is cooled by cooler ambient air and then pass back into the your car's engine through the lower tube.
The primary difference between a cross flow radiator and a down flow radiator is where the tanks that hold the antifreeze coolant are located. A cross flow radiator design uses tanks that are located on the sides of the radiator core and cycle across the radiator core from side to side. On a down flow radiator, the tanks are located above and below the radiator core.
Common Radiator Materials
Regardless of the type of radiator used in a vehicle, the radiator itself may be made from various types of metal. For example, many vehicles use aluminum radiator cores because of the lightweight and good overall heat transfer associated with the metal. Still other radiator designs use copper or brass for increasing heat transfer and cooling ability. These types of radiators are most commonly found in high-performance or exotic vehicles.