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Compare & Contrast Aluminum with Copper Brass Construction Radiators

7 Reasons to Stock Plastic Aluminum Truck Radiators

  1. Fitment- Better fit because plastic tanks mirror the complex OE shapes
  2. Better cooling
  3. Brazed aluminum lasts longer and endures more pressure cycles for a longer life
  4. Lighter in weight

Common Radiator Metals Ranked by Thermal Conductivity

For the majority of automotive history copper brass radiators have been the used for many reasons including copper being the best conductor of heat. But copper is too weak for other parts of the radiator so an alloy of copper is used, brass (check the chart). In most radiator applications copper is used for the fins transferring a lot of heat which helps but holding all the brass and copper together is a solder alloy which is much lower on the heat transfer rank. Keep in mind that the poor conductor, solder is between all of the good conductive metals, slowing transfer. Solder is the weak link being a soft metal with a low melting point often failing first from metal fatigue(cracking). Also solder traditionally has a lead (Pb) content and it is well known to be a toxic heavy metal.

Only now in recent times has modern chemistry allowed inexpensive manufacturing methods to braze All Aluminum radiator cores. The cores are made up of different aluminum alloys, combining strength and heat transfer properties. Aluminum is a better conductor than brass. In other words, it is 100% aluminum conductor making its construction more efficient than comparable copper brass radiators with dissimilar metals.

 

RANK METAL THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY
[BTU/(hr·ft⋅°F)]
1 Copper 223
2 Aluminum 118
3 Brass 64

www.metalsupermarkets.com/which-metals-conduct-heat-best

Since the very beginning copper and brass radiators have been a staple component of most cooling systems. Today you’ll still find copper and brass radiators in a variety of industries and applications. But as manufacturing designs and technology have improved, “Plastic Tank/Aluminum Core” product have become the original equipment industry standard as a quality replacement to the copper and brass product. In most applications they last longer, they’re lighter, and cost less money!

In the Heavy Duty Truck market, Northern Radiator has offered you a choice of copper/brass as well as a plastic/aluminum radiators to various truck models, and where it makes sense we will continue to do so. However, it’s very apparent that in many specific part numbers, applications, and working environments, Northern’s plastic tank/aluminum radiator is far superior in its performance, longevity and customer satisfaction with substantially fewer warranty situations.

ALUMINUM COPPER BRASS
Stronger metal - more resistant to
pressure and damage
Weaker metal
Core and headers are brazed as one solid piece, allowing uniform heat transfer - no solder Core and headers are soldered together, reducing heat transfer capability
Wider tubes provide better contact with fins for better heat transfer Smaller tubes mean less cotact with fins and reduces heat transfer
Core is thinner allowing better air flow, wider aluminum tubes provide greater surface contact with the fins, it can conduct heat more efficiently than the copper brass Core is thicker, which can impede air flow
Lower weight, 40-60% lighter- less stress on mounting points Heavier
All aluminum - less risk of corrosion Composed of dissimilar metals due to the solder, which increases risk of corrosion
Less expensive than equivalent copper brass by about half Up to double the price of aluminum
More durable and lasts longer in most environments Heavier and more vulnerable to vibration and self-destruction in certain applications
Most modern trucks are designed for aluminum radiators Most modern vehicles are not designed for copper brass, increasing the risk of galvanic corrosion

As the leader in the cooling industry, Northern Radiator aims to provide you with only the highest-quality product available for you to service your customer. For help determining if a plastic tank/aluminum core radiator option exists where you may have previously recommended a copper/brass product, please contact Customer Service for assistance.

Want more information?

Contact your local Northern Radiator Sales Rep.