Nissens radiator install (long) was - Re: 20V Radiator Plastic vs Metal?

Linus Toy linust at
Sat Jan 25 01:59:13 EST 2003

I'm one of the 8 that bought a Nissens radiator from Rod @ the parts
connection.  I just finished installing it in my car two days ago (it got
to be one of those "while I'm in there, I might as well do this..." kind of
affairs),  so it's appropriate for me to share my experience with this
radiator and a few other thoughts here...not sure I can add a whole lot to
the pros/cons of the OEM vs Nissens radiator, though.

First off, what prompted me to start this work was a broken thermostat
(poor fuel mileage, temp gauge didn't move, never got heat in the morning
until 10 miles later).  Over the last few months, I also noted some weeping
of coolant at the radiator from the small hose to the expansion tank and
the upper radiator hose.  As I had a plastic-tanked radiator fail suddenly
on my wife's Volvo a couple years ago (stranding her on her way home from
work), and after a few stories here, I decided not to disturb any of the
hoses on my car until absolutely necessary...and then only if I had a new
radiator on hand.  But that question...plastic or metal?  Previously, the
Volvo got a Modine metal radiator, the manufacturer of the all-metal
radiators people used to modify for our cars with additional
fittings.  When the Nissens option became a possibility, I decided to give
that a shot.

impressions on the Nissens:  mostly shiny, but some paint chipping
off.  OK...not much different from my prior experience w/ the Modine metal
radiator.  From what I can see, it does not look like it has metal tanks
crimped to the core--more likely all soldered together.  One thing I did
not do was to count the number of rows on the new vs old radiator (I spent
that time straightening out fins on the of those while I
was in there...).  Fit and finish on the Nissens is definitely below
OEM.  There are four holes in the bottom of the radiator--two hold the
bottom rubber mounts (captive nuts in bottom plate) and two are for bolts
holding shrouding to the bottom of the radiator.  The locations of these
(and all other mounting point holes) were fine, but the threads on these
holes did NOT match the OEM radiator.  In fact, screwing in the rubber
mounts to the bottom of the radiator broke loose the captive nuts--the
mounts aren't going anywhere (and neither will the radiator, with
everything else bolted to it), but this was somewhat disappointing.  guess
i'll use fingers only next time :)  That said, everything else fit where it
was supposed to, in the right sizes.

impressions on the OEM AKG radiator:  the plastic tanks on this radiator do
indeed appear more substantial than I've seen on other cars--'77 Rabbit,
'94 Volvo.  As luck would have it, I successfully removed all hoses from
the radiator without any damage to the radiator.  (which means I have an
intact, albeit 12 year old, OEM radiator for a '91 200q 20v--no reasonable
offer refused :)  It also has the original fan switch still installed)

R&R notes (from memory, so I may miss an item or two--feel free to contact
me w/ more questions)
*  this radiator is about 24" wide, 12" high.  the outboard end of it is
tucked under the left fender, tight.  it does NOT simply twist out of there.
*  I removed practically the entire front end of the car to do this...and
took advantage of the access to do a few other things (more on this
later) any rate, if you remove the following, it'll be much easier to
get this radiator out:
  - brake cooling duct, front grill, bumper, and driver-side headlight (I
actually did both sides for brake duct and headlight...see below)
  - auxilary radiator (simplest way to drain cooling system without getting
it all over the garage floor
  - intercooler x-pipe & intercooler (this lets you remove the next item)
  - black structural cross member (held in place by bumper shocks)
  - shroud between intercooler and main radiator (thru which hoses to aux
radiator pass)--this gives room later for moving around the radiator on the
engine-end, front.
*  Also remove/disconnect/loosen:
  - all radiator hoses (2 to aux radiator (front), 2 to engine (right end,
back), 1 small hose to expansion tank.  wait on the large hose to expansion
tank till later.
  - 3 screws holding expansion tank in place--coolant sensor wiring prevent
this from moving much, but you get more room to move things around by
undoing this.
  - loosen front half of plastic inner fender liner, front left wheel
well.  this will give more room later for moving around radiator
  - 2 bolts holding A/C condenser to radiator.  bottom of condenser "clips"
to radiator--pull up slightly to disengage, then move forward.
  - 2 top radiator mounts.  One of these on a steel bracket to bolted to
front of car, the other an offset bolt/bushing to a tab bracket by left fender.
  - 2 bottom rubber radiator mounts (access from beneath)
  - 2 bolts holding shrouding to bottom of radiator (access from
beneath).  BTW, these are a b*&ch to put back.
  - radiator fan shroud, w/ fan (2 wires on motor, 4 bolts to radiator--2
at top, 2 at bottom).  this thing isn't real light.  It will take a bit of
contortion to swing it up, engine end first, to get it out of there.  It
will come out.
*  now lift up radiator slightly--it won't go far--but enough to disengage
the bottom mounts from the frame below.  move the bottom of the radiator
back a bit so the bottom mounts won't find their seats again.  push and
lower the fender-end of the radiator toward the LF tire--it moves the
detached fender liner a bit to do this.  this will allow you enough room to
swing the engine-end of the radiator up--it's a tight fit, but it will come

Assembly, as they say, is the reverse of removal.  In fact, it seemed to go
together quite easily, and in much less time than it took to disassemble
the thing.  And I only ended up w/ 2 extra pieces :)  see the note above
about the bolts on the bottom holding shrouding to the bottom of the
radiator--I elected to minimize my frustration after several days working
on this thing...I suppose I'll fix it some day soon.

Other work I did at the same time
*  Thermostat.  This was an interesting failure:  the arm holding the
spring in place somehow disengaged from the body, keeping the thermostat
significantly open--no wonder I had no heat.  there appears to be no metal
failure in the original thermostat.  While I'm not one to disturb intact
seals, given the pain to get to the thermostat on our cars, this is a
worthwhile add to the project--it adds maybe 5 minutes, but could easily
take an hour if the radiator is still in the car.  I elected not to replace
the MFTS after finding no leakage into th connector boog and also finding
that the one installed is a Behr 3-wire unit, like the new one I have
(supposedly simpler, but many failures reported recently).  I don't recall
this being replaced before (I've had the car for 10 years) but I'll review
my records from dealer servicing--that, or Hans & Franz pulled another fast
*  fan switch on radiator
*  Samco boost hoses, O-ring between intercooler cross-over pipe and
intercooler, rubber boot at throttle body (I've had a boost leak for some
while...this, and a loose hose clamp I found, seems to have solved it)
*  cleaned out throttle body (spray carb cleaner)
*  disassemble headlights (Euros) and clean (my headlights, even as Euros,
have been dim for a while)
*  polish (Meguiar's #18, #10) Stongard on headlights (really dim)
*  wire in relays for headlights (let's not let anything keep the light
from getting out :)
*  1.5" spacers into leading edge of brake ducts--over time, the leading
edge of these ducts seem to have gotten smaller.  This makes bigger scoops
out of them to catch more air for brake cooling.  I used perforated steel
strip, 1/4" wide, bent into a "U" shape and screwed in from the top of the

It was a busy weekend/couple evenings.
The payoff:  I have heat.  I have bright lights.  Idle is much more
stable.  throttle is more responsive.  boost peaks about 22psig again (was
at 19psig).  Yeah :)

'91 200q20v - getting it back in shape
IA stage III+, Bilstein/H&R, big reds

At 01:55 AM 1/22/2003 , BriceW at wrote:
>Rod at The Parts Connection informed me that the Nissens 60437 all metal
>radiator was in stock for $215.00.  Only 10 had arrived and 8 were sold
>and more could be 3 months away.
>Even though my neck repair of 8 months ago was holding up and I needed
>to buy other 20V parts I decided that I had better bite the bullet and
>buy the radiator now as I would feel real dumb if I really needed it and
>couldn't get it.
>So I bought it and it s on it's way.
>Today, I talked to an Audi OEM parts wholesaler named Randy in Chicago.
>I told him about the radiator and how happy I was to finally get it.
>You could tell by his voice that Randy was older. He said that he was an
>Audi mechanic for many years and had worked on many many 20V's.
>He said that the AKG OEM composite plastic radiator was better and that
>Audi really knew what they were doing when they engineered and designed
>that radiator for the 20V.
>He talked about heat dissipation on the AKG that is not there on the
>Nissens, weight, etc. And that the AKG radiator lasts for 12 years or
>more which is a long time.
>This was a very short couple minute conversation that left me wondering
>if I had made a mistake.
>So to you experts, I ask what are the pro and cons of the AKG OEM
>radiator and the all metal Nissens?
>200q20v mailing list
>200q20v at

*  Linus Toy                      Insanity is doing the same thing   *
*  Mercer Island, WA              you've always done and expecting   *
*  linust at          different results                  *
*                                      - Roger Milliken              *

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