Aluminum vs. Copper Radiator – The Difference Between

The difference between a copper radiator and an aluminum radiator

The radiator is an essential part of an automobile because it keeps the engine cool by means of a liquid that is called coolant. Modern cars and trucks can use either copper or aluminum radiators. Copper and aluminum are the materials chosen because of the properties that they have. However, they each have its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

How do you know which kind of radiator you should look for when you are in the market for a new vehicle? Copper was the first metal used for this purpose because of the good conductivity properties that it has. There is limited space under the hood of a car for auto makers to fit the radiator so the surface area is a very important factor in the design of this essential feature for cooling the engine. The modern radiators consist of wide aluminum tubes so that they have more room for wide cross sections and more surface area per square inch than the radiators that are made from copper.

Aluminum is a stronger material than copper. This means that for copper radiators the tubes have to be made as thin as possible in order to effectively do the job of cooling. With aluminum, the tubes can be larger and therefore the radiator will be more effective. This is because with wider tubes there is more direct contact between the tubes and the fins. This fact means that heat will dissipate a lot faster.

There are advantages to both copper and aluminum as the metal of choice for the manufacture of radiators. Copper is a far superior heat conductor than aluminum. It is also easier to repair than aluminum. On the other hand, aluminum is a lighter metal than copper and is much stronger. Those who take great pride in what is under the hood of their cars can polish aluminum to a gleaming shine.

Both metals are prone to corrosion and this means that the radiator needs to be maintained on a regular basis. The size of the tubes differs in the two metals – aluminum tubes are one inch in width and copper tubes are 1.5 inches in width. Copper tubes can be damaged quite easily, but they are a lot easier to clean and repair. When aluminum radiators need to be cleaned or repaired, the work has to be done by an expert.

Summary

  • Copper conducts heat a lot better than aluminum,
  • Aluminum has greater strength and the tubes are not damaged as easily as those made from copper.
  • Aluminum is a lighter metal.
  • Copper radiators are easier to clean and repair and copper is a recyclable metal.
  • Aluminum radiators look much better than copper radiators.