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Cooling The Wild Horses Beneath the Hood
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Cooling the Wild Horses Beneath the Hood Product Review

The subject of radiators is a scolding hot subject come the summer months, especially if your previous investment into your rig's cooling system was a sad shot at pinching pennies. You bought low and ran the "big risk" of premature failure.

What's worse is that premature failure is inevitable when hunting down cheap parts for your rig, especially when you run it in extreme conditions. When you play that game, you're playing Russian roulette with your investment, certainly a bad game for "Old Reliable" to delve into.

Quite simply, you're wasting both time and money when getting anything but the best. Now, you may be thinking, "What's this guy trying to tell me? He's running around thinking he knows everything."

Not likely, Bub. You see, I've been there, done that. I was born and raised a cheapskate but learned quickly that quality must come first if you aim to survive with a smile on your face.

Beauty is far beyond fin deep on this finely-crafted aluminum unit from From the magnificent beads that make up the welds, to the massive flow pattern deep in the heart of its fins, this unit provided us with impressive cooling trends in the engine bay. Believe it or not, the water temp dropped an average of 30-40 degrees on the trails, spanning a range of the scorching 100-plus degree rocks of Johnson Valley to the high-altitude runs up the mountain in nearby Big Bear.
The Heated History

This old Bronco rolled off the FoMoCo assembly line the same year the Watergate Scandal broke in '72. We can only wonder where it's been since then. Judging by the looks of it though, it's been through hell and back. And we all know how hot it gets down south.

I've been the guy on the side of the trail with a radiator that just puked its guts and gave up the ghost. I was the guy running his six-gallon drinking water bottle on the hood of his truck with a drip line flowing into the failed radiator. That one put me back a few hours and a first-degree burn or two on the fingers. Pinching them radiator fins was tough on the old nail-bitten manicure. In fact, it was just tough enough to finally learn my lesson.

Now, when I'm passing them scolding hot, sun burnt peons on the side of the road on the Cajon Pass with their Weekend Warriors at a stand still and the wife and kids breathing fury down their neck, I offer them help with a confident grin.

You see, I know better. Each of my radiators came from Each of my Jeeps (XJ, YJ, CJ) has the lifetime warranty that comes with's radiators. They do not fail.

The first time I picked up the phone in a search of a radiator. I scanned the net. I scanned the yellow pages. I even called around to a few buddies. struck the eyes and ears each time. I finally called them, got the best price, got the goods in hand that same day and was always impressed with the products outstanding quality - the kind of quality that has never failed.
This time around, we were in the hunt for a radiator upgrade for our '72 Bronco. To the common man, the old horse is an eye sore. But to the four-wheeler, it's a classic work in progress with all the right accessories. It's our baby.

Bronco parts are tough to find. Radiators are no exception. We called around to a few places and found that a one-week wait was about average for our old Bronco. No doubt though, we're use to the wait. Then, it was time to get down to business and get that radiator in the beast and ready for the trail this weekend. We called up our longtime friends at And although we called them late in the afternoon, we no doubt got the coveted aluminum beauty the very next day. If we weren't busy doing the chores and making that truck payment, we would have swung by and picked it up that same day. They're that good.'s 33 warehouses are strategically located across the US, with some 45 Radiator Experts on the phones 13 hours a day to track down the radiator that's right for you.

The aluminum radiator we picked up for our '72 manual transmission Bronco ran us $438 - not expensive by any stretch of the imagination.

The older Broncos are notorious for boiling over, and this rust bucket was no exception to the rule. It's gone through several radiators since we've owned it and has never performed satisfactorily in the field or on the congested streets of the concrete jungle. And it's only gotten worse. When we introduced the Warn 8274 winch and the mega-watt thrift store lights, the problem became worse due to the restricted air flow of the grill. Temps of 220 degrees and beyond were all too common, especially on the hot rocks of Johnson Valley, California where it spends its weekends.

The Bronco is brute. Take this tire rack for example. With three Jerry cans of gas, a steel wheel, a 35-inch tire, an assortment of recovery gear, and the cold hard steel it's made of, the tire rack weighs in at well over 400 pounds. Add to that 20 gallons of water, gobs of tools, and left-over Y2K rations, and you've got a hot 5.0L beneath the hood.'s 33 warehouses are strategically located across the US, with some 45 Radiator Experts on the phones 13 hours a day to track down the radiator that's right for you.

The aluminum radiator we picked up for our '72 manual transmission Bronco ran us $438 - not expensive by any stretch of the imagination.

When you try and track down a similar radiator elsewhere, expect the price to skyrocket some 50 bucks or more. But, be weary. Some of those radiators won't fit with your F-100 steering conversion.

In addition, you'll want to keep a close eye on the use of Epoxy. If you see Epoxy, don't buy it. The radiator is signed, sealed and delivered with nothing but the finest welds and vacuum brazed cores. The welds eliminate the seams, thusly, eliminating failure to the .080 inch 3003 aluminum.
The vacuum brazed cores allow the radiator to dissipate heat at a phenomenal rate in comparison to the common copper-brass radiators that tend to be about 50 percent heavier and nowhere near as strong. The two one-inch cores further outperform the common four-core design by allowing more air to pass through the radiator and subsequently cool your motor.

All this semi-technical jargon has probably inspired a few of you Tech Heads to mount your reading glasses and break out the pencil, paper and logarithmic calculator. Forget it. We'll talk the real world.

More weight only adds more worries to the feable cooling system of old. Outperformed!
  • Trail Temps - (Slow Rock Crawling) Dropped from 220 and above with moderate ambient temperatures to a steady 190 in 105-degree ambient temperatures. (4x4 Dirt Roads) From about 210 to about 180.
  • Highway Temps - Dropped from the 200-210 range to 160 and below.
  • Los Angeles Traffic Temps - See trail temps!
  • Downhill Mountain Roads - 140 degrees!!!
The Cool Recovery
In the early days of its life on the illustrious Rancho ORC in Lucerne Valley, California, we replaced an unstable clutch fan with a flex fan to pull the air through and added a Flex-A-Lite electric push fan on the front of the radiator. Although this helped, we went still ran hot, especially in the frequent extreme conditions we encounter. Since this configuration kept temps lower than original, we stuck with it for the radiator install. Besides, it gives us a chance to fairly compare the performance of the new aluminum unit against the mishap of the cheaper predecessors.
Remember, you get what you pay for. There's no doubt that the radiator is worth its weight in dollar bills and headache prevention, but remember to spend the extra bucks to swap out the radiator cap and all the old rubber with some high-quality Gates or Goodyear hoses. In our case, we've relied on Gates for years, who also manufactures radiator caps and belts. The thermostat and the cap shown to the right is a Stant, another good choice.
Always dispose of your used radiator coolant properly. Never let it drain onto the ground or into the streets. Check with your local auto parts store. If they don't take the old fluid, they'll know who does. When draining, chain up all dogs, cats and other animals. Remove them from the premises. If they so much as lick up a drop of it, they're in for it. Immediately take them to the nearest emergency veterinarian. Paralysis of the hind legs usually sets in within an hour or two. By that time, their liver is undergoing lethal damage. Any longer, and you'll watch them suffer a foul death.

It is important to flush your radiator frequently. We make it a point to do so every six months, just after Christmas and again near Memorial day, when we also change the belts and hoses.
This hose is bulging at the clamp, a good sign of wear. It is time for replacement when a hose begins looking anything like this. Changing them every year may be a bit much, but it keeps us off the side of the road when towing the heavy loads through the hot and high mountain passes of the Southern California deserts. Extreme duties is cause for extreme maintenance. Protect your investment.

While changing the radiator, it's also a good idea to change the water pump, since it's easily accessible at the time of the radiator swap.
We thoroughly flushed the motor's cooling system by forcing water from the garden house into the intake port. Within five minutes, the motor was cleaned of all radiator fluid and sludge. We installed the new water pump, the slick new aluminum radiator, and all the new hoses, new clamps and new belts.

The aluminum radiator fit much better than its predecessor . So, we ditched the assortment of shims, duct tape, and bailing wire, and slid it in without a hitch.
The attention to detail results in outstanding performance. We were reluctant to place this beauty in our eye-sore of a Bronco but were glad we did. The last day run in the desert resulted in a boil over that reached temps of over 230. This time, we crawled through at 2 MPH at 190 degrees - tops. The old horse never got any hotter!
The quality-built radiator boasted some impressive improvements over the previous two-year-old radiator. Remember, you get what you pay for. For $438, you're getting the best radiator on the market for less money than anyone else offers. It fit. It worked. How's a 40-plus degree drop in temps?
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