Advantages & Disadvantages of a Cross Flow Radiator

January 27, 2012

Auto radiators are generally of two types--a cross flow radiator and a vertical or down flow radiator. They are named after the mode of flow of liquid through the radiator. Cross flow radiators have the coolant moving sideways through the radiator. The core of the radiator is made of aluminum while the tanks are made of plastic or copper-brass. It consists of tanks on the sides of the radiator, with a tank of tubes connecting them. Between these tubes are the metal fins which dissipate heat from the coolant to the outside air.

The coolant flows into an inlet on the top of one side of the radiator, through the tubes connecting both the tanks and out of the bottom of the opposite tank. Cross flow and down flow radiators both use separate tubes and cooling fins flanked by the tubes; hot coolant flows through the top inlet of one tank and the bottom outlet of the other.

Advantages of Cross Flow Radiator        

Cross flow designs offer a greater area for heat dissipation while allowing more low profile hood designs. They allow more pressure at the radiator inlet before the cap vents, since the cap is located on the low pressure end of the radiator. Since the cap is at the suction side of the radiator, it prevents the pressure formed by a high-flow water pump to force the coolant through the cap at high RPM. The hood lines of the down flow radiator are taller than the hood lines of the cross flow radiator, thereby making the cross flow radiator wider, attaining a greater surface area.

The design and manufacture of cross flow radiators is easy and cheap. Owing to the smaller and wider size of the cross flow radiators, they can be chosen to be mounted higher than the engine. This offers many advantages. The cap, being the highest point of the system allows air to migrate to areas lower than it and in case it opens due to pressure, the air will escape first. Even at high engine RPMs, the air and coolant won't mix because of the low velocity of air. In case the system is not a cross flow radiator, it necessitates the use of a surge pump and a bleed line.

Disadvantages of Cross Flow Radiator

Though cross flow radiators have several advantages over the down flow radiators, there are a few disadvantages too. Since cross flow radiators are wider than down flow radiators, they are difficult to incorporate in vehicles with engine modifications. Their complex coolant flow makes it hard for people to clean it. It is also important to understand that the vertical flow radiator has a larger coolant capacity than the cross flow radiator. Critical positioning of the cross flow radiator is required to get the maximum potential.

Related Questions and Answers

Are There Any Common Cross Flow Car Raditor Problems Specific to Them?

As with any automotive part, car radiator problems do exist with cross flow car radiators. The design of automotive cooling systems and cross flow radiators allows for a great temperature differential to exist between members of the radiator. This can cause joints on the radiator to break, which can cause coolant to leak or cause air to get sucked into the cooling system, causing car radiator problems. Such failures are particularly common on cross flow radiators used on older style General Motors vehicles. When car radiator problems like this manifest themselves, you can easily fall victim to a very costly repair bill.

Is the Cross Flow Style More Prone to a Car Radiator Leak?

A cross flow style radiator should be no more prone to a car radiator leak than a down flow design. At the core, both radiator designs serve the same purpose: to keep the engine's temperature in check using antifreeze. A cross flow radiator pushes coolant across the front of the radiator, while a down flow design pushes coolant from top to bottom. The only instance in which a cross flow radiator may be more prone to a car radiator leak is in the event of an improper installation or a faulty part, as was the case on some cross flow radiators used by General Motors, which leak coolant and can cause air to get sucked into the cooling system.

Is a Cross Flow Car Radiator Replacement a Good Idea For Cars 10 Years or Older?

Yes, a cross flow car radiator replacement is a good idea, even for a car that is 10 or more years old. Cross flow radiators have increased space to dissipate heat, which can help your car's cooling system run to its fullest potential. Additionally, car radiator replacement with a cross flow radiator can free up more real estate under the hood, which is important if you are making performance upgrades to the car. Although your car must be able to accommodate a wider radiator during a cross flow car radiator replacement, less space is needed on the top and bottom of the radiator, which means you can use larger bolt-on engine accessories or even use a lower profile hood or trim pieces.

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