What are the different types of car radiators? | AutoGuru
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What are the different types of car radiators?

Rowan Johnstone

Updated 4 May 2022

Rowan Johnstone

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Like all the different parts that make up a car, radiators have gone through various stages of development and improvement to make them what they are today. This also means that there are many different types of radiators that each perform differently and are used for different applications.

So just quickly, what is a radiator? A car radiator is a heat exchanger, which, in its simplest form, replaces the hot air inside your engine with cooler air from outside your engine. This helps to manage the temperature of your engine and helps your car run at its best.

The different types of car radiators


Up until 1980, brass radiators were the standard equipment in every car. The structure of the radiator is brass, but the core (the part that works to disperse the heat) is copper. These early radiators were pretty large and bulky, but over time as advancements were made, the weight of copper-brass radiators was reduced by over half!

Although copper-brass radiators are pretty reliable and efficient in doing their job, they are unfortunately very expensive and are susceptible to rust over time.

RADIATORS What do they do?


Plastic radiators were the solution to the heavy weight and hefty price tags of copper-brass radiators. Plastic radiators make use on an alloy core, but utilise plastic end tanks to reduce weight. Although plastic radiators don’t work quite as efficiently as the copper-brass ones, the saving in weight and cost meant they became the most common type of radiators used by manufacturers.


A problem encountered with plastic radiators was that if they broke, the entire thing would need to be replaced. A solution was needed to avoid having to do this, thus aluminium radiators were adopted. If a certain part of the radiator broke, it could be replaced in an aluminium radiator, instead of needing to replace the whole thing, often at a high cost.

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Aluminium radiators also have more benefits on the cooling side of things. They absorb heat a lot faster, meaning that they can basically instantly cool the hot coolant that runs through them. Their efficiency at cooling and dispersing heat is also a lot better than the copper-brass and plastic types.

If you’re encountering radiator troubles, regardless of what type is cooling your car, an expert mechanic on AutoGuru can help out. Get obligation-free quotes from local mechanics in just the click of a few buttons.

Rowan Johnstone

Written By

Rowan Johnstone

On weekends you’ll probably find Rowan in the garage with his Dad restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Suzuki GSX-R600.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), he looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.