Why Buy an Aluminum Core Instead of the Whole Unit

We get a lot of questions about why you might want to get just an aluminum core for a radiator, oil cooler, or charge air cooler instead of the full unit. The answer really depends on what your needs are, so let’s discuss some of the reasons why.

There can be many reasons you might want just a core, but first let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. When we say “core,” we’re talking about the fully assembled tubes, fins, and headers of a charge air cooler, oil cooler, or radiator. That’s everything but the tanks. This is important because if you do not have a good set of tanks to use with the core, then buying just the core will not do you any good. Now that we have that clear, let’s look at times when you might want to buy just a core.

Existing Core was Damaged

Imagine that a piece of debris comes tearing through your radiator, tearing open tubes and damaging fins. Or maybe the new forklift operator wasn’t paying attention to where he was going and stuck one of the forks through the oil cooler on some industrial equipment. In a situation like this, you might think to simply plug the damaged tubes and try to keep using the unit, but that would be a mistake. In the case of a radiator, you will have significantly less surface area to dissipate heat from the coolant which will risk overheating the engine. An oil cooler, especially one for industrial equipment, is subjected to extreme pressures and plugging some tubes just means the rest will experience even more pressure as the rate of flow through the unit is reduced. Like wise, a charge air cooler’s performance will be drastically reduced due to the reduced rate of air flow through the unit. Any time a heat exchanger’s core is significantly damaged like this, you need to replace the core.

Existing Core Develops Leaks

If a heat exchanger starts leaking in the core and there is no obvious damage to it, then it means the core is suffering from metal fatigue and needs to be replaced. Metal fatigue is the process by which metal becomes weaker over time due to the stresses put on it. You can see this process in action by bending a thin piece of metal, like a paper clip, back and forth continuously. Eventually it weakens and simply snaps in half. The same thing happens in the core of a heat exchanger as the hot fluids (either air, oil, or coolant) heat the metal and cause it to expand. Once the equipment is turned off, that metal then cools down and contracts. This constant expansion and contraction leads to metal fatigue which leads to pin hole leaks and a weakened core. “But can’t I just patch the leak?” We do not recommend patching a leaking core for the following reasons:

  1. More leaks are going to happen. The metal is already fatigued, so another leak will appear else where.
  2. Patches can fail. This is especially true of epoxy patches since the epoxy expands and contracts at a different rate than the metal. Eventually the epoxy will separate from the metal and the leak will continue. In the case of welded patches, they may cover the existing leak, but since the rest of the metal is fatigued, the weakened metal can give way and allow the leak to continue or even get worse.
  3. Patching doesn’t fix the cause of the leak. Since the leak is due to metal fatigue, a patch will never solve the issue completely. A replacement core will.

Need a Heavier Duty Core or Improved Cooling Capabilities

Some times the stock heat exchanger just doesn’t perform like you want it to, or maybe you’ve upgraded the engine and need better heat exchangers to make it perform at it’s max. If everything already fits under the hood and there is no room for anything bigger, a new core may be the solution. An all aluminum core, like the ones we manufacture, will cool better than a core that is made using epoxy since the epoxy reduces the amount of cooling surface area in the unit. This insulates areas of the core and reduces it’s cooling capability. Some industrial equipment may need a heavier duty core that can withstand the hazards of various job sites. In that case, a core made with heavy duty, extruded tubes will stand up to abuse better than one with standard tubes.

What to Do with Your New Core

When you have your new core, all you have to do is remove the tanks from the old core and attach them to the new core. Depending on your heat exchanger, the tanks can attached in a number of different ways. Typically the tanks are going to be either bolted on or welded. Bolted on is easier to change out. Welded tanks requires you to be able to cut the tank off the old core and weld it to the new core. If you’re not a welder or don’t have the tools, you may have to find a shop that will assist you with this. You can always send us your existing unit, and we can replace the core for you.

If you have any questions about the type of core you need, feel free to call us and our staff will be happy to assist you. We can custom build a core to fit your heat exchanger not matter how big or small it might be. Let the heat transfer experts at C, G & J take care of your cooling needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *