About a few months ago, my oem radiator on Aska finally gave out. After about 30 years of service, it had developed too many prick holes on the tanks that it was becoming somehow a pain to keep it in service. I was losing water at a fairly alarming rate, and for a while I was considering of keeping it and just have it serviced again.
Ever since I had gotten the car, I’d been bringing the radiator to a radiator shop in the south that was introduced to me by one of my good car friends. They do a very a good job of tearing down and rebuilding the radiator.
See the good thing about the radiators from Aska’s time was that they were all made of brass and copper, which made them almost bulletproof and fairly easy to tear down for a clean up along with ease in rebuilding it back up. I’d been doing that for the past seven or so years that I’ve owned Aska. But then again, all those years of hard service can and will take its too. The tank material can develop cracks or prick holes due to the continuous buildup of heat and subsequent cooling.
Nothing can last forever I suppose, but for something that like my radiator and went through about thirty years of service, I simply couldn’t ask for more out of it. Keep in mind that I daily drive the car, along with my usual spirited drives and motorsporting adventures.
When it developed prick holes, I decided that I’d retire the thing and replace it with a brand new unit. And while I was going to replace it, I thought that I may as well go for an upgrade, and thus decided to up things by stepping up from a 2 row to a 3 row radiator.
First off, let me explain what the radiator does. Chances are, your car would have it since water cooled vehicles are the great majority these days. What your radiator does is to store hot water from the engine, cool it down and then the water pump will suck the water back into the engine block. This is a pretty endless cycle as long as your engine is running. Preferably, your engine should be using a thermostat because if there is none, there will be no time left for the water to stay in the radiator to get cooled down. My friend Phil does a great job of explaining why we all need a thermostat in this fairly old blog post.
Now in the old days, even until now I suppose, people didn’t quite believe in the thermostat and why cars here in the good old Philippine Islands need it. If cars would overheat, the common mechanic’s answer would be to get rid of the thermostat and get a bigger radiator. See, a bigger radiator will store more water in it for cooling. But without a thermostat to govern the cycle over when the water from the radiator gets cycled back into the engine, a bigger radiator is just a half assed solution to an overheating engine. Since the water flow is continuous, the water in the radiator cannot stay long enough to lose its heat. Overtime, the engine will still make the water accumulate enough heat, and your engine will still overheat if you drive it long or hard enough. With a thermostat in place, the water stored in the engine and radiator gets halved, so half stays long enough in the radiator to get cooled down before it is cycled back into the engine block.
All Mitsubishi A17x Lancers (at least the ones released here locally with the Saturn engines), and even the older A70 platforms, all came with a two row radiator as oem. This is good for daily driving and most sorts of driving your old school car will ever do. But if you want to be able to drive it for long and keep the engine’s performance, upgrading to a three row radiator is a good idea. Cooler oil temperature is another thing do deal with, which is where an oil cooler would be a nice add-on, but I’ll tackle that bit when I get one.
Finally, I mustered the time to go and find myself a three row radiator. For your old school Japanese car needs, I would suggest trying to find radiators made by Evercool. It’s made locally here in the Philippines, and they offer all sorts of radiators for all sorts of applications. Since this is a fairly common upgrade, and many of my friends had done it, all I had to do was to find a place selling it. My usual places in Pasay didn’t have one, so I went to Levin Auto Supply in Banawe for one. I got my three row unit for Php 5,500 (about USD $100) which I’d say is a little expensive, but hey it’s brand new, and as they say, you get what you pay for. A lot of folks would’ve simply told me to just get a surplus unit, but for very important parts for my old school car, I’d never consider it. It’s always best to get brand new to ensure that I won’t run into trouble.
I drove back home to work on the car, which is really a fairly simple job because the bigger radiator bolts on directly to the header panel. The only things you’ll need to consider, and one that no one ever told me about, is that the lower part of the header panel has a small lip on the inside that can come into contact with the lower radiator tank. My advice is before you bolt down the radiator, mock it up first to see if the radiator’s brackets will lie flat against the header panel. To check, run your fingers underneath the radiator tank with the thing in place – if you feel no metal contacting the tank, and the brackets are flat with the header panel, you can tighten it down. In my case, I had to be a little persuasive with a hammer and flattened the intruding metal portion. After that was dealt with, the radiator laid flat and I was able to tighten everything down.
Check the clearance between the clutch fan and the shroud because this was where I ran into problems. With the bigger and thicker radiator, the shroud will be pushed inward and may cause contact with the fan. Before you install the shroud, spin the fan and be on the look out for any contact between the blade and the shroud. If there is, mark the shroud and then hammer away to more that part back.
Some people do away with the shroud to avoid this problem, but I’d suggest you keep it since it will help protect the engine bay should your fan explode (fairly unlikely to happen, but it can) and also helps direct airflow into the radiator core.
If you’re having trouble finding this radiator, you can tell the shop that you’re looking for the radiator for an L300. But this is a pretty common radiator, and as soon as the shop hearts the words “Lancer Boxtype” and “three rows”, they’d know exactly what it is.\
So far, the car runs great with it!
I’d never really had overheating problems, but the extra water in the radiator helps keep the car cooler, especially during long periods of driving and even more so in our terribly hot climate right now.
Next up would be to replace the mechanical clutch fan with an electric unit. I’d already had JC’S Auto Electrical to rig the electrical lines, relays and all in the engine bay. All I’m waiting on is the actual fan and thermoswitch.
Ah c’est la vie!