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Aftermarket plastic-aluminum radiator by Spectra Premium

The main component of the cooling system, a radiator’s main purpose is to keep an engine at the optimal operating temperature, which it achieves by absorbing excess heat generated by the engine and lowering the coolant temperature with the air passing through the vehicle’s front grille. Every vehicle, including electric vehicles, is equipped with a radiator.

Spectra Premium is the leading North American aftermarket radiator manufacturer

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Part Components

Radiator major components, inlet, outlet, filler cap, tubes, fins, core, header
Related product: Condenser

Common Radiator Failure Symptoms

  • Leaking coolant
  • Overheating engine
  • Deposits in the coolant
  • Reducing coolant level

Common Causes of Failure


Electrolysis problems appear when an electric current circulates in a cooling system. Electrolysis is the first cause of failure for aluminum radiators and has increased with the rising number of electric and electronic accessories.


Cooling systems use a 1:1 mix of distilled water and antifreeze to absorb engine heat and protect against corrosion. Contaminated coolant increase the fluid acidity which wears down the aluminum until leaks start to appear.


As a front-end part, radiators are often involved in collisions. Even if the initial impact does not damage the radiator, smaller leaks in the cooling system can be found afterwards which also warrants radiator replacement.

The radiator protects the engine from overheating. If the radiator fails and the engine overheats, it could result in irreversible damage to the engine.

Radiator replacement importance

When replacing your radiator, it is important to understand the root cause of failure: proper cooling system maintenance. It’s important to inspect the radiator pressure cap and thermostat for proper operation. The coolant reservoir needs to be inspected for cracks and leaks. The radiator cooling fan needs to be inspected for proper engagement. The water pump needs to be inspected for coolant leaks, and last but not least, the engine coolant needs to be tested for contamination. Performing a complete cooling system flush is strongly recommended when replacing any cooling system part.

Keep in mind that an engine that runs too cold is as bad as an engine that overheats. An overheating engine can produce temperatures around the combustion chamber (cylinder head) high enough to destroy cylinder heads and gaskets. A cold running engine, caused by a defective thermostat that is stuck open, will prevent the removal of condensation forming in the engine that can oxidize and create sludge build-up in the oil pan.

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