Cooper vs Aluminum Radiator: Durability Comparison

car Radiator

An aluminum radiator makes a viable option for vehicle owners. Sooner or later, most of us are faced with the need to replace the car radiator. The type of radiator you install for your vehicle plays a vital role in engine performance. With the various options available on the market, it may be a bit of a challenge deciding which to pick. Besides aluminum, one can find copper, plastic and brass radiators. Copper and aluminum are two popular choices. Below is a comparison on durability for the two.


Copper is heavier than aluminum which necessitates small thin tubes in copper radiators. Most copper radiators use 1/2 inch tubes compared to the 1 inch tubes used in aluminum radiators. Aluminum is lighter than copper which allows the use of wider tubes. However, narrow tubes get clogged up easily which affects durability of copper radiators.


Welding is a usual procedure during radiator repair. Aluminum being much lighter than copper, this makes repairability easier without subjecting the radiator to much wear and tear. This may help aluminum radiators cope with repair stress better than copper. It also adds to the longevity of aluminum radiators as they generally last longer than copper even after several repairs. However, copper is soft in nature, a property which helps when repairs become necessary.


Internal pressure during heating easily damages the copper tubes that transmit coolant. Aluminum tubes are more resilient. When subjected to high temperatures aluminum doesn’t chip, bend or crack. Most manufacturers produce aluminum radiators with brazed joints. This creates stronger bonds than the solder joints usually applied in copper radiators. Stronger bonds add to radiator durability. Solder joints contribute to quicker wear and tear due to solder bloom which develops with time. This is the white residue that develops where the tubes attach to the headers. Vehicle vibration also contributes to radiator damage over time, especially for copper radiators. However, the lightweight nature of aluminum radiators makes them less susceptible to such damage.


Aluminum radiators seem to be more prone to leakages than the copper version. Sooner or later, you’ll spot leaks near the gasket or tank. This necessitates more frequent welding which ultimately contributes to more wear and tear. Copper radiators don’t develop leakages easily. Just as they perform an excellent job in guarding against leakages when used in plumbing, they also play a similar role in radiators.

Corrosion Resistance

Copper is more susceptible to corrosion than aluminum. Particularly during the winter, copper radiators may not hold up well to corrosion as it destroys the tiny fins between the tubes. This is why copper radiators are normally painted black, to guard against corrosion. If left unprotected, deterioration due to corrosion is more rapid, especially in damp environments. The fins on aluminum radiators generally last longer than the copper radiators. Aluminum radiators are not easily affected by corrosion including electrolytic corrosion. However, they last longer when coated as this prevents them from being oxidized.