Used Radiator Buying Guide

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Used Radiator Buying Guide

No matter how well car owners maintain their vehicle, there comes a point that they need to replace the radiator. In fact, mechanics state that radiator problems start occurring when the car reaches its five-year mark. Tell-tale signs are obvious water leaks, coolant loss, and corrosion. If ignored, this could result in a simple overheated engine, or worse, a destroyed one. To prevent this, make sure to replace the radiator when its time is up.

While some car owners can afford to buy a brand new radiator, others are not quite so lucky. For those who do not have the budget, consider purchasing a used radiator instead. Those who are serious about finding the best used radiator for their needs should know the different types and materials. Because it has already been used, it is also crucial to know how a radiator works to evaluate its condition.

Car Radiator Overview

Car radiators are in charge of keeping the engine at optimum temperature. The radiator does this by pumping coolants throughout the engine chambers to keep the internal combustion engine from reaching extreme levels of heat. When the coolant has absorbed the excess energy, it travels through the small radiator tubes until it is sufficiently cooled down and sent back into the engine chamber. Most overheating problems occur due to blocked or damaged tubes, leaks, or corrosion.

How to Buy a Used Radiator

While some people purchase used radiators as a preventive measure, others do so because they have no other choice. Their vehicle needs a radiator immediately, and they need to get it fixed as soon as possible. The good news is buying a used radiator is not that hard, especially if the person has done his or her research.

Understand the Different Radiator Types

Shoppers can start by deciding if they want to purchase an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or an aftermarket replacement radiator. Like its name suggests, an OEM replacement part is the exact radiator made by the car manufacturer, while aftermarket refers to the ones made by third-party manufacturers. Apart from deciding between these two types, shoppers must also choose among the following radiator configurations.




Inlet tank located at the top; outlet tank at the bottom; coolant flows downwards; tall; thin; best for trucks and heavy vehicles due to its high profile; traditionally used in older cars; low cooling efficiency


Inlet tank and outlet tank are on opposite sides; core beside the inlet tank; coolant flows from side to side; low profile; commonly found in modern cars; keeps pressure off the radiator cap

Shoppers should note the type of radiator installed in their car before choosing between the two types. Unless the person wants to go through the trouble of custom modification, the choice boils down to what fits inside the car's bonnet.

Be Aware of the Various Materials

Vehicle radiators are made from different types of materials. Because each material has pros and cons, it is important to be familiar with them.




Small and thin tubes; easily deformed; found in old cars; easier to repair and clean; excellent heat conductor


Lightweight; wide tubes that dissipate heat faster; more durable; may be polished for show cars; more inexpensive


Used for inlet and outlet tanks; commonly coupled with aluminium tubes; cannot be patched up with adhesive; needs to be replaced when damaged


Used for tanks; often paired with copper fins; may have structural weak points when soldered onto copper

While copper conducts heat better than aluminium, the latter is considered more inexpensive and durable. This is why when many modern vehicles use a combination of aluminium and plastic for their radiator. If possible, however, consider getting a full aluminium radiator for maximum durability.

Know the Important Considerations

Radiators, whether brand new or used, should have the following characteristics. First, the radiator should have wide but thin-walled tubing that expels the heat from the coolant faster and more efficiently. Second, radiators should have about 15 fins, which experts believe is the optimum number for proper airflow. Next, look for radiator fans that use up less energy than the OEM version. Lastly, make sure that the coolant can flow without restrictions to ensure the best performance.

Shopping for a Used Radiator

Shoppers who are buying a used radiator should make sure to evaluate it thoroughly and properly. Before even evaluating the condition, the first step that the shopper must take is to check if it fits the vehicle, especially if the person intends to use an aftermarket radiator. Most of the time, simply asking the seller if it is compatible with a particular make and model of the vehicle is enough.

Those who are buying online, however, should consider taking detailed measurements just to be sure. Take note of the dimensions by getting the width and the height of the current radiator. For the height, get the dimensions with and without the topmost hose outlet. For the width, get the measures from the outside edge of one tank to the other. Get specific on the location of the hose outlets, coolers, air conditioning condenser, and fan as well.

Evaluating the Condition of the Used Radiator

While there are many terrific deals for secondhand radiators, buyers should proceed with caution especially since it has already been used in another vehicle. Still, for those who are working with a budget, used radiators are certainly more affordable than a brand new one. When thinking about buying one, it is helpful to keep these pointers in mind.

First, conduct an in-depth look at the radiator. Use a light and check for corrosion and scaling in the hose connections and cooling fins. If it is excessive, this means that the previous owner has not been maintaining the radiator properly. When checking the joins, look for sediment accumulation.

Next, evaluate if the radiator has already been repaired or patched up. If there is evidence of epoxy and cold weld cement use found on the radiator, shoppers should steer clear. Additionally, the radiator should not have exposed bare metal where paint used to be. This is often a sign of a coolant leak and should not be purchased.

Lastly, when talking to the radiator owner, it is helpful to inquire about the age of the radiator. It is good practice to steer clear from radiators that are more three years old. Many times, radiator cracks are unseen until they finally break away.

Buying Used Radiators on eBay

Shopping for used radiators on eBay is not hard. Look for the search field found on every page of eBay. Type "used radiator", press enter, and wait for eBay to start populating items from their database. You can also append your car make and model to narrow down your search. For any questions about the radiator, you can also talk to the seller by hitting the "Ask a Question" link at the end of the product listing. Aside from running a specific search, you can also visit specific eBay stores by car part dealers. This is great for those who want to look at the other items being sold by the seller aside from just radiators. Lastly, you can check out brand new radiator deals on Automotive & Boats.


For the person who needs a radiator and is working with a strict budget, used radiators are sometimes the answer. Shoppers can choose from the two basic types: an OEM radiator or an aftermarket part. Radiators come in downflow or crossflow configurations. As for materials, radiator components may be made from copper, aluminium, plastic, and brass, among others.

Before purchasing the used radiator, it is important to check if it is compatible with the make and model of the car. To be safe, take down the precise measurements. Additionally, it is crucial to do a thorough inspection of its condition as well. Car owners who need a budget-friendly radiator should consider buying a used radiator on eBay. With a wide variety of radiators from both local and international sellers, car owners in need of extra parts can easily find what they need.

Used Radiator|OEM Radiator|Aftermarket Radiator|Copper Radiator|Aluminium Radiator

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