Auto Parts History: Car Radiator
In the auto parts category, the car radiator is a technology that has been around almost since automobiles were invented. Heat dissipation is probably one of the most important considerations in engine design. There are many auto parts involved with this process of dissipation. An internal combustion engine creates enough heat to destroy itself. Without an efficient cooling system, and car radiator, we would not have the vehicles we do today.
The original car radiators were simple networks of round copper or brass tubes that had water flowing through them by convection. By the 1920's some auto manufacturers, like GM, had switched to oval tubes because they were slightly more efficient.
Not long after that, as engines grew larger and hotter, companies began to add auto parts, like fans, for a constant flow of air over the car radiator cores. These more efficient cooling systems eventually added a pump to push the water through the cooling tubes. It was in this era that the auto manufacturers started adding anti freezing chemicals to their cooling systems to prevent cooling system damage in cold weather.
The original car radiators only used 1/2 inch tubes. In the 1940's, companies, like Ford, started to experiment with larger car radiator tubes. A problem quickly arose where larger radiator tubes required thicker tube walls to prevent the radiator cores from bending under pressure. This caused car radiators to become significantly heavier but more efficient.
In the 1970's and 1980's auto manufacturers experimented with multiple core radiators and many variations on radiator tube size and wall thickness. Some manufacturers even turned to plastic to further lighten radiator structures.
Eventually, most manufacturers turned away from heavy brass, copper, and steel and took to creating radiators from aluminum. Light and strong, aluminum is great for making car radiators.
Though it doesn't quite have the heat dissipating capacity of copper or the corrosion resistance of brass, aluminum is the material of choice for most of today's radiators. Light and intelligently designed, aluminum radiators are standard as auto parts on many of today's new cars and trucks.
All in all, the car radiator is a simple and lasting auto part technology that will likely be around as long as we use internal combustion engines.