Radiators are a critical component in your car, keeping the engine cool and running efficiently. As part of your vehicle’s cooling system, the radiator and fan combine to lower the coolant temperature. If the fan breaks or malfunctions, then the coolant does not cool as fast, and the engine overheats. An engine that is too hot can seize, resulting in an engine replacement.
Battery-powered radiator fans, which we will be reviewing below, are not as prone to breaking compared to mechanical fans. Since the battery-powered radiators are not continually running like the mechanical fans, they do not operate as much. This saves them from excessive wear and tear, improving their lifespan.
All radiator fans, however, do have a lifespan. Where you live, how often you drive, and what type of car you have will all affect how frequently you need to replace your fan.
Bottom Line Up Front
If you are looking for the best all-around radiator fan without fussy installation, then Flex-a-lite radiator fans are the answer. As the inventors of the electric fan for cars, they are still the authority for quality fans. Flex-a-lite makes direct-fit radiator fans, which means a perfect fit, every time.
Proudly made in the USA, Flex-a-lite uses durable materials, such as nylon shrouds, to create fans that last. With unparalleled durability and a risk-free one year warranty, Flex-a-lite is head and shoulders above the competition.
Different Types of Radiator Fans
There are two types of radiator fans: universal and direct-fit. Universal radiator fans are one-size-fits-all type fans that come with various mounting brackets, straps, and clips to adapt to any type of engine compartment and radiator. Direct-fit means that a fan only works with one make and model of car.
Direct-Fit Radiator Fans
As the name implies, these fans act just like an OE radiator fan. All the bolt holes will fit precisely with the holes in your radiator. This makes installation much easier than a universal radiator fan, which requires installation of various straps and brackets. Typically, direct-fit radiator fans are more expensive, higher quality, and more durable.
Universal Radiator Fans
Universal fans work with any vehicle. Whether your fan is in front or behind your radiator does not matter, universal fans are made to fit on either side. Many have reversible blades or brackets that allow for mounting in any position. Universal fans are typically cheaper than direct-fit fans, less durable, and more challenging to install.
What to Look for In a Radiator Fan
Here are several points to consider when replacing your radiator fan:
- Type of Fan – while most cars, particularly new cars, have electric radiator fans, some still operate with mechanical fans. Some larger trucks still depend on the mechanical variety, so be sure you know which one you need.
- Fit – radiator fans are not one size fits all. They come in many different sizes, depending on the size of your vehicle. If purchasing online, be sure to use a legitimate car part reference site to ensure your new fan fits your car.
- Driver-type – like all car parts, there are different levels you can purchase. If you are looking to add horsepower or increase engine efficiency, you can buy premium fans that may assist in boosting cooling system performance.
- Push vs. Pull – electric radiator fans come in two different types – push and pull. A push fan mounts between the radiator and the outside of the car – it pushes air from the outside through the radiator. Pull fans mount on the inside of the radiator, and they pull the air across the radiator. They are not interchangeable, so be sure you know which type is in your car.
For most car owners, an electrical fan is likely what you will be replacing. Electric fans exist because of front-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive cars require that the engine mount sideways under the hood, for the crankshaft to fit and drive the front wheels. A side-mounted engine will not be able to fit a pulley to pull a radiator fan, necessitating electric fans.
Luckily, replacing an electrical fan is straightforward. The most complicated part is probably buying the actual fan and ensuring it fits your car. Removing a few bolts, disconnecting some hoses, and installing the fan is all it takes to replace an electric fan. But be sure you have the right size.
It is important to note that electric radiator fans do not affect horsepower or gas efficiency. They run off the car’s battery, and since they don’t run all the time, they are not using much power. Finding a decent, cheap replacement fan is easy and, due to their simplicity, are often quite reliable.
How to Find the Radiator Fan
When choosing the “best” radiator fan, there are a few key aspects to consider. First, how do you drive your vehicle and how much money you want to spend?
If you have a fast car and want to get the most out of your engine, then you might think a bigger radiator fan is better. But you would be wrong. A radiator fan must fit in the engine compartment and is dependent on the size of the radiator.
Larger fans for performance are not a good idea. When you drive fast – over 40 mph – the speed of the air hitting the radiator is enough to disperse heat without a fan. If the fan is on, you run the risk of pulling or pushing too much air through the radiator. If air is flowing too fast past the radiator fins, then air doesn’t have time to reduce the temperature of the coolant.
Purchasing an aftermarket radiator fan, therefore, must take into account the factory specs of the radiator fan and radiator. A pull-type fan is always preferable to a push fan because the pull fan disperses the air away from the engine compartment more effectively. Push fans exist because space is too limited in some smaller vehicles, necessitating a mount on the reverse of the radiator.
Money is also a consideration when purchasing a new radiator fan. Like anything else, the more money you spend, the better the quality of the product you get. Nearly all replacement radiator fans are made in China and not costly. Many are available for under $50.
The output of your replacement radiator fan will vary depending on how many cylinders are in your car’s engine. Radiator fan output is in cubic feet per minute, or CPM. Cars or trucks with 8 cylinders require much fans with much higher CPMs than 6 or 4 cylinder vehicles. More cylinders mean more areas of the engine that got hot, which requires more cooling.
A quality radiator fan with the appropriate CPM output and fitment are the key pieces of information to know when looking for a new radiator fan.
Top 5 Picks for the Best Radiator Flush
#1 Flex-a-lite Engine Cooling Fan
Flex-a-lite is the boss when it comes to electric cooling fans. They were the first to introduce an electric radiator fan way back in the early ‘70s. Today, Flex-a-lite continues to offer fans of all types for any vehicle on the market.
One of the good and bad aspects of Flex-a-lite fans is that they are vehicle specific. A Flex-a-lite fan that fits an old Caravan will likely not fit your new Jeep. While this might seem like an inconvenience, it is indicative of the quality of Flex-a-lite. They ensure that each fan will fit your vehicle to OE specs of most vehicles.
Each Flex-a-lite fan packs a tremendous amount of power. For instance, the 15-inch Flex-a-lite fan moves air at a rate of 3,300 CFM. Competitors move air at around 3,000 CFM – at 16-inch diameter. Thus, power is one of the reasons customers flock to Flex-a-lite.
Quality is another aspect of Flex-a-lite’s business that sets them apart. They offer a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, which is unheard of in the replacement electric radiator fan market. While most competitors are Chinese-made knock-offs, Flex-a-lite produces all their parts in the US.
Fans from Flex-a-lite have variable speed controllers. This means that the fan can change its speed based on how much cooling is necessary. On hot days, while stuck in traffic, the fan will likely be on full speed. Driving all day on a cooler day may only require some cooling. This reduces the draw on your battery and enhances the life of your fan motor and electrical system.
- Model-specific designs mean better fitment on your vehicle
- One of the most powerful motors in the industry
- Offers a one-year warranty and made in the USA
- Variable speed controller makes operation more efficient
- Expensive compared to competitors
- No universal fitment
UPGR8 makes a line of radiator fans that will fit any vehicle. Their slim design facilitates easy installation, as they are guaranteed to be the size of your previous fan or smaller. Installation of fans that are slightly larger than the original can make a twenty-minute job into an all-day affair.
Many aftermarket radiator fans do not guarantee OE fitment, but UPGR8 is a genuine OE replacement. OE means “original equipment” and are the factory installs in a new car. Any aftermarket part that has an OE designation means that it will fit just like the original part straight from the factory.
These fans come in both push and pull designs. Each fan from UPGR8 comes with a mounting kit. This product is versatile, and can also pair with other components such as the A/C condenser. The width of the entire unit is an ultra-small 2 inches, making the engine compartment cleaner.
Six different sizes are on offer from UPGR8, which means they have a fan for all types of cars and trucks, up to 16 inches. Fans also come in different colors, for those looking to dress up their vehicle.
Most standard electric fans are plastic, and UPGR8’s is no exception. While this might seem cheap, it makes your car lighter. A lighter car uses less gas, and plastic fans have very long lives. Since they mount to the radiator at the front of the vehicle, they do not sustain much abuse.
Each fan has s-shaped blades. Traditional electric radiator fans have regular shaped fan blades, as you would see on ceiling or box fan. UPGR8 blades are not as noisy as conventional radiator fan blades, making for quieter operation.
- The universal mounting kit allows installation on all types of vehicles
- Comes in six different sizes and a variety of colors
- Fan adapts to either push or pull versions
- The ultra-small design ensures easy fitment and a tidy engine compartment
- Blade design may not improve performance at higher speeds
- UPGR8 recommends professional installation
A-Team provides a line of versatile replacement radiator fans. One of the unique features of A-Team’s product is the ability to adapt their fans to push or pull operation. The blades on the fan are reversible, and the mounting kit provides for push or pull mounting.
A-Team takes much of the guesswork out of installation. Each fan comes with highly detailed instructions, as well as helpful videos detailing setup.
Blades on A-Team fans are s-shaped. One of the great benefits of s-shaped fins is quiet operation. If you start your car on a hot day and turn the air conditioning on, chances are you will hear your radiator fan begin to blow. A-Team fans are much quieter, thanks to the blade design.
When an s-shaped blade spins within the fan housing, the clearance between the tip and edge is next to nothing. Traditional blades are curved when they meet the housing, allowing more air to escape the edges and reducing fan effectiveness. S-shaped blades eliminate that problem as they meet the housing with a flat side.
Made in the USA and able to work with all types of vehicles, BlueDevil is a versatile yet straightforward flush. Online, BlueDevil offers excellent instructions and videos to complement their product. Users can watch professionals flush their vehicles step by step, which makes using the product that much easier.
- Comes in a variety of diameters for all sizes of car or truck
- S-shaped blades provide quiet operation
- A single unit can function in both push and pull positions
- Width is 3.5 inches, which is on the larger end for replacement fans
- Mounting kit for push and pull positions may have exact fitment issues
- Does not meet OE specifications
Any weekend mechanic is familiar with the Dorman name. Dorman makes a wide variety of replacement parts for virtually every area of your vehicle. Radiator fans are no exception, and Dorman makes direct-fit replacement electric cooling fans for every type of vehicle.
Dorman’s quality falls into the middle-ground of radiator fan replacements. They are of a higher quality than the ultra-cheap, Chinese made imports but not quite as durable as premium, domestic brands. While these fans are not domestic, they feature a durable construction that includes high amounts of fiberglass. In cold temperatures, fiberglass is much less likely to break than plastic.
Dorman offers a limited, one-year warranty on their fans, or up to 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. An ASE-certified mechanic must also install the fan to make the warranty valid. Instead of refunds, Dorman will exchange the part, but you still have to pay for the shipping and handling.
Fans that are a direct replacement, such as Dorman’s, typically have sturdier brackets that fit onto the vehicle. Many universal-type replacement offer clips and straps as mounting kits, but these are prone to breaking compared to an entire, direct-fit bracket.
- Direct-fit ensures a proper fit on your vehicle
- Limited, one-year warranty
- Durable fiberglass and plastic construction
- Not made domestically
- No universal fit means sourcing a make and model specific fan
- One-year warranty does not include a refund
Proform is a trusted brand in radiators and cooling fans. They offer universal fit radiators in a variety of diameters that mount on the front or back of radiators. Purchasing a Proform fan is as simple as measuring the diameter of your current fan and buying a similar diameter from Proform.
One of the best aspects of Proform’s fans is the design. Housings are plastic, but the fan blades are a plastic-glass fiber blend that ensures long life and robust operation. Straight fan blades, as found on the Proform fan, move more air than s-shaped designs.
Universal-fit means each diameter of Proform fan, from 10 to 16-inch, will fit either the front or back of your radiator. The ultra-slim width makes installation easy and also helps clean up your engine compartment. Nylon ties come with each fan to make attaching the fan to the radiator extremely quick.
Weight is another aspect that many don’t consider when purchasing a radiator fan. While the addition of a few pounds is negligible when it comes to gas mileage and efficiency, it is an indicator of product quality. Proform’s fans are slightly heavier than competitors, indicating a slightly more powerful motor and increased material durability.
- Universal-fit for 10 to 16-inch diameter fans
- Fans are reversible, mounting on the front or back of radiators
- Straight fan blades move more air through the radiator
- Glass-plastic fan blades are more durable than regular plastic
- Not made domestically
- Proform includes nylon ties only for mounting
Comparing the Options
|Brand||Universal Fit||CFM (14-inch)||Reversible Mount||Price|
Choosing the best overall radiator fan depends on how much you want to spend and how you use your car. If you demand performance, a high CFM fan is likely the best choice. A fan that moves more air over your radiator will improve cooling, allowing the engine maximum efficiency.
On the other hand, those who want a fan that is reliable and works seamlessly with your vehicle, then the Dorman or Flex-a-lite fan is a better choice. These two brands offer fit-specific fans that will act as OE fans. If you want long-life from your fan, these two brands are a better choice.
When purchasing a fan, look closely at the included mounting kits. Direct-fit fans are the best because the plastic housing and bolt holes will match up precisely with the holes in your car’s radiator and frame.
Universal-fit fans offer a variety of straps and brackets that may or may not work effectively. Be sure to inspect the mount of your old radiator fan first, to ensure a universal bracket system will work for you.
When choosing a radiator fan, consider reliability and quality. When it comes to fans, there is Flex-a-lite at the top, Dorman in the middle, then all other brands at the bottom. The cheap replacements have value, in that you won’t break your wallet and they offer an easy installation.
But for most people, a quality, long-lasting fan is a must. Take the time to spend a little more to get a fan that works specifically for your vehicle. If you don’t plan on taking your car to the drag strip, spend the money to get the right fan.