Different radiator types

At the core

Looking for a new radiator? As an essential part of your cooling system, it’s important to choose a replacement that suits your car’s needs. Whether you’re aiming to simply replace or to upgrade, Natrad has a plethora of options to choose from. That’s why we’re putting together a comprehensive guide on different radiator types. Keep reading to find out the key components of a radiator.

Natrad has a large range of radiator options available – from simple replacements, to industrial applications, custom designs and high performance. Contact your nearest store today to find the right one for you.

What does a radiator do?

First off, it’s a good idea to understand what a radiator does. The radiator is the heart of the cooling system and is relied upon to keep things functioning smoothly. It is a heat exchanger which uses ambient airflow to cool down hot engine coolant. The coolant passes through the radiator’s tubes and circulates around the rest of the cooling system. By cooling this liquid down, it ensures the engine does not overheat and that your car can function at an optimal level.


There are several different combinations of materials that make up a radiator. There is the core and then the tanks. The type of metal can indicate its application and approximate age. For example, copper / brass radiators were common before the 70’s and generally only appear in industrial or heavy duty applications these days.

The most common type of radiators for passenger vehicles are currently plastic / aluminium, meaning the core materials (fin and tube) are aluminium and the tanks are made of plastic. This is usually the stock standard combination and is likely to be found in most replacement radiators as well.

Lastly, there are alloy or full aluminium radiators, which is generally used for high performance purposes. This could mean racing, modified vehicles, commercial vehicles and muscle cars just to name a few. Natrad can also produce custom configurations with alloy or copper brass which can be tailored to your exact needs.


Copper/Brass radiators use a standard brass tube arranged in rows. Rows dictate how much coolant can pass through the core, and therefore how much is in contact with the coolant. The more rows there are, the more fins and tubes in the core. This means there is more contact between air and coolant — which increases heat dissipation.

Most modern vehicles with aluminium radiators have 1-2 rows, anything larger usually indicates a modified or high performance application. Depending on space restrictions in your vehicle, a core with more rows may be suitable. Copper brass radiators, in particular, make use of more rows, where aluminium radiators tend to have fewer rows but more tubes and fins to increase cooling performance.

car radiator


A radiator shroud encloses the space between the fan and radiator, which helps better direct the air and prevents it from escaping. A shroud is generally used as a way to increase cooling capacity and is often found on performance radiators.

Pass systems

A pass system directs the flow of coolant through the radiator. Most modern radiators have 1 pass systems, where the coolant flows through the radiator via a direct path from inlet to outlet.

Higher performance radiators tend to have 2 or more pass systems, which adds a curve or bend in the pathway, slowing down the travelling coolant. This gives the radiator more time to cool it down before it exits.


Typically a radiator’s size is respective to the vehicle, but if you’re looking for an upgrade, a bigger radiator may assist. Bigger can mean more rows and more cooling, but depending on the material, there may be other ways to increase cooling without adding the extra weight that comes with it. For example, a shroud.

What now?

Now that you know the basics about a radiator, you choose your next radiator backed with knowledge. If you’re in need of a replacement or upgrade, talk to your nearest Natrad technician who can advise and supply your best options.