Plastic versus metal radiators.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

The radiator on my 1989 Mercury Marquis with 67,000 miles needed replacing, and, much to my surprise, it was plastic. It was a bigger surprise when a new one cost $429.89 plus labor. Please give me your opinion on plastic radiators. Is Ford just using this cheap plastic radiator to save money? --Earl

RAY: They're not doing it to save money, Earl. It's the weight they're interested in saving.

TOM: Plastic radiators weigh a lot less than their metal
predecessors, and
therefore help to increase gas mileage. And the truth is,
they're just as
good as metal radiators.

RAY: The whole radiator isn't plastic, just the tanks. The
fins (the parts
between the tanks that actually radiate the heat) are still
made of
aluminum or copper. And those are the parts that corroded
and caused your
radiator to stop working. The plastic parts probably didn't
fail at all.

TOM: Having said all that, you certainly did get "hosed"
use radiator
terminology) on the price. You bought original parts, and
had the work done
at a Mercury dealership, so you paid top dollar.

RAY: Had you gone to a local independent repair shop, they
could have put
in a good, aftermarket radiator, like a Modine. And that
would have saved
you several hundred dollars. So radiate on that possibility
for next time,

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