Your car needs it to regulate engine temperature, but what is a radiator fan and how does it work? Also, how many types of the fan are there today? All these questions and more are answered in this first section. As usual, we will start with the radiator fan definition before delving into how it operates and the different types. After that, we will explore the auto parts market for the radiator fan price.
What is a Radiator Fan?
The radiator fan is a type of fan used in automobiles to cool the radiator. By doing so, it helps with regulating engine temperature. It’s, therefore, also known as the engine cooling fan and usually mounted between the radiator and engine. In some vehicles, the fan sits between the grille and the radiator.
Radiator fans are usually a set of blades attached to a hub. The assembly can be all metal or plastic, and often made into different designs. The blades are curved or straight, long or short, and so on. A car radiator fan can also be electric and spun by an electric motor or mechanical and powered by the engine.
Because it helps with lowering engine temperature, the radiator fan is one of the parts that constitute a vehicle’s cooling system. Other components include the radiator, water pump, thermostat, and hoses. The coolant too, which takes away heat from the engine and dissipates it in the radiator core.
Types of Cooling Fans for Cars
Different cars use different types of cooling fans to regulate engine temperature. Most often, the type on your car depends on its year of manufacture. Many motorists also change cooling fans to upgrade to a better type, or when they have modified their engines. In all these instances, it’s important to know the type of fan in your car or the kind that suits it. Below are different versions of radiator cooling fans explained in detail.
Mechanical Radiator Fan
This type of engine cooling fan runs off the crankshaft and is commonly found in older vehicles types. It’s commonly attached to the water pump pulley and only spins when the engine is running. But the fan must only come on when necessary. To enable that, a special type of clutch is used. The clutch engages and disengages the fan based on the cooling needs of the engine.
The mechanical radiator fan has both good and bad sides. Being mechanical than electric, it’s less prone to failure, plus you can easily service a failed one. It also packs a lot of power and can move large volumes of air to cool massive or modified engines.
On the downside, these types of cooling fans require a lot of space to install. They’re, therefore, not the best choice for most modern cars. Mechanical fans also reduce the engine’s horsepower, since they depend on it to run. Because they are more efficient at higher engine rpm, the fans are not effective when required most.
Electric Radiator Fan
These car cooling fans do not depend on the engine to operate. Instead they use a small electric motor. Alongside the motor, an electric cooling fan comes with a wiring system to support its operation. The system consists of wires, connectors, fuse, relay(s), sensors, and control module.
Electric fans offer many benefits, and are considered the best fans for cars. One of them is their compact size, which allows them to install in tight places. An electric radiator fan also offers the advantages of control. Using sensors and ECUs, the fan can be made to only come on when needed. It can also be made to spin at a specified speed, which offers a higher degree of efficiency.
The downside of electric fans for cars include the many electrical components that make the more likely to break down. When they do, their repair is more complicated than that of a mechanical fan, often requiring professional service and special tools. Despite that, they are the most preferring since they provide a more effective fan cooling system.
Single Radiator Fan
As the name indicates, a single radiator fan is a one-fan assembly. It’s the most common configuration and used in many different types of cars. A single radiator fan is not suitable for some applications, though. These include large engines that require a lot of air to take away the heat produced. Modified engines, too. In such situations, an assembly consisting of two fans is often used.
Dual Radiator Fan
The dual radiator fan is a set of two fan assemblies. They are usually used for electric fans and when the engine is large and cooling needs higher. For that reason, these types of cooling fans are most common on large vehicles or those with modified engines. The setup allows more air through the radiator core for a more effective cooling effect.
Radiator Fan Parts
A typical radiator fan assembly consists of several different parts. These depend on the type of fan, though. A mechanical fan, for example, will not have a motor. On the other hand, an electric fan does not come with a clutch. Here are the main radiator fan parts along with their functions.
Radiator Fan Blade Assembly
The main (and most visible) part of a radiator fan is the blade assembly. It typically consists of arms attached to a hub. The function of the blades is to blow air through the radiator core when the fan comes on. The amount of air moved by the blades is usually indicated in CFM or cubic feet per minute.
Radiator fan blades are made from different materials. They can be steel, aluminum, or even plastic. They also differ in many ways such as number, length, pitch, and more. The blades can be long or short depending on the application and required performance.
In terms of shape a radiator fan blade can be straight or curved. Straight blades are able to move more air than curved ones, but produce more noise. They are, therefore, commonly used on large and high performance engines. There are also flexing blades that straighten out at higher RPM. These are usually made of flexible material such as plastic or steel.
Radiator fan blades are prone to various forms of damage such as cracking, bending, or breakage. As such, they are normally available as separate components. That allows car owners to replace just the blade assembly.
Radiator Fan Motor
This is basically a 12V DC motor and only used on electric radiator fans. The purpose of the motor is to rotate the blades and cause them to move air. One of the features that vary with cooling fan motor designs is the size and shape. But in spite of these design differences, the motor contains the usual components.
A typical radiator fan motor consists of a housing, permanent magnets, armature and commutator held on a shaft, and brushes on an end plate. The assembly is then attached to the fan blade assembly and bolted to the fan frame for support.
During operating, the motor receives 12V via cables and connector. The resulting current energizes the coil on the armature, creating a magnetic field that acts against that of the permanent magnets. This causes the armature to rotate, thereby spinning the shaft. The shaft is connected to the blade assembly. Its rotation spins the blades.
The radiator fan motor is a replaceable part of the fan. It easily detaches from the blades, which allows it to be changed. It’s also the part that fails more frequently. One of the reasons is its electrical nature and the parts that control its operation such a fuses and relays, or connectors and wires. There is also the ECU and sensor. Although rare, these can also fail and cause the motor to stop working.
Radiator Fan Clutch
The radiator fan clutch is only used in mechanical cooling fans. It’s usually a type of device designed to engage and disengage the fan. Different mechanisms are used to achieve that, and the clutch can be thermally operated or non-thermal. Most cooling fan clutches are thermal. They depend on a temperature sensitive device to engage the fan or allow it to free wheel.
Radiator Fan Shroud
Many radiator cooling fans today feature a shroud. This shroud is a metal or plastic housing around the fan assembly. Its main function is to direct air to the radiator and prevent losses. That way, the shroud helps to make the cooling fan more effective. The radiator fan shroud can be one piece or split into two. It also either comes with the fan or separately to be installed by the user.
Radiator Fan Function: How does a Radiator Fan Work?
The radiator fan purpose is to blow air through the radiator and remove heat from the coolant. The engine produces a lot of heat, which must be removed to prevent damage. Most engines have coolant circulating and transferring the heat to the radiator. Inside the radiator, the coolant loses the heat to air.
The air to cool the radiator comes from outside and flows freely through the grille. However, that happens when the vehicle speed is above 25 mph. Less than that, and the airflow reduces dramatically. That’s where the radiator fan comes in. It helps to provide airflow during times when your car is moving too slowly or when the engine is idling.
How a radiator fan works depends on the type. An electric fan works differently from the mechanical type. To help you understand the operation of both, we will look at their working separately.
Mechanical Radiator fan- a mechanical cooling fan mounts on a crankshaft pulley, most often the water pump pulley. During times when the vehicle is idling or moving at a low speed, the fan comes on to blow air through the radiator. When the speed increases, the fan stops spinning or spins at a lower speed. This happens automatically through the control provided by a clutch. The clutch mechanism works by allowing the expansion of grease to engage the fan and vice versa, based on the engine temperature.
Electric Radiator Fan- an electric cooling fan functions differently. It doesn’t need a clutch, since its switching on and off can be electrically controlled. The fan receives power through a complex wiring system consisting of relay(s), fuse, and cables.
For automatic on and off, electric fans use a temperature switch and coolant temperature sensor. These sensors send signals to the car computer, which then determines when the fan comes on and when it goes off. Modern electric cooling fans come with a dedicated ECU or control module.
An engine cooling fan also operates by either pushing or pulling air through the radiator. Pusher cooling fans are mounted between the radiator and grille. These are less efficient. Puller cooling fans are situated in the space between the radiator and engine. They are more effective and provide better cooling performance.
How much is a Radiator Fan?
When your car’s radiator fan goes bad, you may choose to purchase one and install it yourself. That means scouting online shops for the most suitable fan and deal or visiting your local store. You could also be considering a radiator upgrade to take care of overheating issues or match a modified engine. In all these situations, you want to budget carefully based on the price.
Different types of radiator fans carry different price tags. Different features also determine the price. These include fan diameter, whether the fan is shrouded or not, material, current draw, and more. The radiator fan price also depends on the brand or specific supplier. That said, there is the price range within which you expect the price to vary.
Most car radiator fans cost between $100 to $400 depending on the type and brand. Electric radiator fans are more expensive than the mechanical types. You will also notice that OEM fans cost more that aftermarket types. Take that into account, when shopping for one.
The ability of the cooling can to move air greatly affects the price. Higher CFM radiator fans cost more, and feature a different design that those with lower CFM rating. On the other hand, a single radiator fan will be less expensive when compared to a dual type. Dual radiator fans can cost as high as several hundred dollars but are needed in some applications.
The radiator fan price aside, there are components that can be replaced separately. You want to have an idea of how much they cost, especially when considering repair. That should also help you to decide between purchasing a new fan and changing the damaged part.
The electric fan motor price ranges from $40 to around $80. If you have a mechanical fan, you may be looking for a clutch instead. A mechanical radiator fan clutch costs from $50 to $150. Other minor parts include the electric fan fuse, relay, sensor, and connectors. These rarely cost more than $30. Based on these price estimates, you can now easily make wise buying decisions.
The radiator fan purpose in your car is to help cool the engine. That ensures that your car runs smoothly, efficiently, and without the problems that result from overheating. It’s important that you are conversant with how the fan works or the different types on the market. That way, you will be able to maintain it. You also be in a position to choose the right fan for your car, especially when you know the up and downsides of each type. In the coming chapter, we discuss why radiator fans go bad.