Oil Cooler Benefits

by Eli Laurens

Engine oil coolers are small radiators placed in front of the coolant system on an automobile that lower the temperature of the oil as it passes through the coils. It is only operational when the motor is running. Lowering the temperature of engine oil has many advantages, especially in air-cooled motors. This cooling radiator can also be applied to transmission oil, where towing and high stress can cause damaging temperatures. A typical oil cooler kit can cost between $50 and $100, depending on the size.

High Temperatures are Dangerous

Most motors will carry several quarts of oil for internal lubrication. This oil has a lifespan of a few thousand miles, as the lubricating molecules and added detergents break down during use. When a motor exceeds a normal operating temperature it begins to damage itself in a myriad of ways, including quick deterioration of the engine oil. Changing the oil often keeps the lubricating ability boosted, and an oil cooler system can maintain the quality of oil for longer periods of time by lowering the working temperature of the oil by as much as 30 percent.

Check Manufacturer's Equipment

Through the 1970s, car manufacturers began to see the benefits of oil coolers, especially as the spaces inside engine compartments on cars began to shrink. General Motors began making "twin core" and "three core" radiators for their larger sedans and sports cars, for cooling not only the engine but also the transmission and engine oil. If a car is equipped with oil-cooling lines, they will be clearly visible when viewing the radiator in the front of the car. There will be metal tubes running from either the engine or transmission to the radiator coils, fastened with line bolts. Replacement of the radiator will require specialized parts and tools for cars equipped with multi-core units.

Aftermarket Coolers

Oil coolers are popular additions to trucks and motor homes, as these heavy vehicles put more strain on the typically undersized drive train. The cooler can be quickly installed in these vehicles, because most domestic engines and transmissions are fitted to accept an oil cooler by design. Most imports and smaller, front-wheel drive vehicles, however, will not be "cooler ready" and will require drilled holes to install them.

Air-Cooled Engines

An air-cooled motor, such as an original horizontally-opposed Volkswagen engine, uses the oil for cooling. This oil can break down much faster than in a water-cooled engine, and in some models, the oil is run through the air cleaner for even lower temperatures. Installing an external oil cooler will keep these notoriously hot engines a little cooler, which will extend the engine's life considerably.

Oil Coolers Can Only Be Helpful

Adding an oil cooler to any motor will extend the life of the oil, thereby extending the life of the engine. Placement the oil cooler can be hidden, and it can usually be mounted into even the most cramped engine compartments. The only negative aspect of using an engine oil cooler is the need for more oil, up to two quarts more per oil change, because of the oil required to fill the coils and lines. But at the end of the day, using an oil cooler in your vehicle can only increase the longevity of its engine or transmission.

About the Author

Eli Laurens is a ninth-grade physics teacher as well as a computer programmer and writer. He studied electrical engineering and architecture at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta, Ga., and now lives in Colorado.

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