The Complete Reference to the Transmission Cooler

Overheating is the primary cause of transmission failure, as we've discussed previously. Transmission fluid temperature should be kept below 170 degrees, and every 20 degrees above that can reduce its useful life by as much as 50 percent. In that case, what causes a transmission to overheat? Hmm, well Consider factors such as the size and weight of your vehicle, the amount of towing you do, the average temperature where you live, and the amount of time spent in stop-and-go traffic. The radiator in your car does double duty, cooling both the engine and the transmission. Any time the engine or the transmission has trouble cooling down, the radiator is likely to be overworked.

If your transmission frequently overheats, you may benefit from installing an external automatic transmission cooler, also known as a transmission oil cooler. What follows is a comprehensive guide to transmission coolers, covering everything from their function and rating to installation advice and the different types available.

It is common practice to install the square and slim transmission cooler in front of the radiator or the air conditioner condenser. This bad boy's sole purpose is to maintain transmission health by lowering fluid temperature. A transmission cooler is a cooling system that circulates fluid from the transmission to the radiator to the cooler, where the fluid's temperature is reduced with the help of circulating air, and then back to the transmission. Engine and power steering fluid coolers also contribute to overall vehicle cooling.

how does a transmission cooler work - transmission repair guy how transmission fluid flows - transmission repair guy

A transmission oil cooler, when installed correctly, provides added cooling capacity and protection for your vehicle's cooling system. Transmission fluid cooling is its only function, so it has no effect on other parts of your vehicle. As long as there is space, you can add an automatic transmission to your vehicle. The cooling units are generic and can be used with any vehicle. If you live in a hot climate, regularly drive in traffic, tow heavy loads, or experience vehicle overheating, you should consider installing an aftermarket external cooler. The fluid in your vehicle is cooled continuously whenever the engine is on thanks to the coolers.

When Should I Replace My Transmission Cooler?

To answer this question is fairly simple. You need the most powerful transmission cooler your car can accommodate. To reduce fluid temperature, a cooler's size is directly proportional to its effectiveness. Since they have more surface area, plate and fin and stacked plate coolers are preferred for cooling transmission fluid. Transmission fluid can never be cooled enough, so it's best to use the largest cooler possible within your vehicle's gross vehicle weight (GVW) range.

Cooling Systems for Transmissions: Various Models

Manufacturers' designs will vary, but there are generally three categories. Among the many transmission cooler varieties are a nifty little fin and tube , the fin and plate , and the platters piled high Aluminum, which is used to make most automatic transmission coolers, promotes more efficient heat dissipation, but different models have different lifespans and performance levels. Furthermore, transmission coolers with built-in fans are available for increased cooling efficiency.

Refrigeration Units With Tubes and Fins - The turbulators surrounding the transmission cooler and the tube that runs through it are what set apart the tube and fin cooler from the others. The tube serves as a conduit for fluid movement, and the external fins aid in heat dissipation. The coolers with tubes and fins are typically the least efficient. fin and tube cooler



  • Inexpensive
  • Especially useful for vintage automobiles  
  • Type with the lowest efficiency
  • Not recommended for gearboxes with an overdrive

Refrigeration Systems with Plate and Fin Cooling - The plate and fin cooler, which resembles a miniature radiator but is easily distinguished by its parallel, horizontal plates, is a common type of heat exchanger. Transmission coolers of this design are superior to those of the tube and fin variety mainly because a greater volume of fluid can make contact with the cooling surface. By forcing fluid through successively smaller plates, the fluid can be cooled more rapidly and efficiently.

plate and fin cooler



  • Superior to tube and fin coolers in terms of efficiency
  • Less bulky and more long-lasting
  • One can rapidly cool a great deal of fluid all at once.
  • Stack plate coolers are more efficient.
  • Costs more

Plate-and-frame coolers stacked one on top of the other - Today, the most widely used and effective types of coolers are stacked plate coolers. Stacks of plates resemble plate and fin coolers, but their increased airflow is the result of larger turbulators. They function in the same way as plate and fin coolers by directing fluid through the cooling plates to reduce fluid temperature more quickly and efficiently. S The convenience of tacked plates for both installation and removal has made them widely used.

stacked plate coolers

Pros: Cons:
  • Compared to plate and fin coolers, the plates on this type of cooler are much larger.
  • Superior variety
  • More compact and long-lasting
  • A lot of fluid can be cooled quickly all at once.

Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight for Safe Operation of Transmission Cooler

There is a wide variety of automatic transmission coolers available, with GVW ratings from 10,000 pounds all the way up to 30,000 pounds and beyond. When determining a vehicle's GVW, factors such as the car's curb weight, the weight of any added accessories, the weight of the driver, the number of passengers, and the weight of any cargo are all taken into account. Vehicle Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) ratings are set by the manufacturer as a maximum allowable load for the vehicle. Keep the following in mind when shopping for a transmission cooler to match your vehicle's GVW rating:

transmission cooler btu rating chart - transmission repair guy

The Ultimate Transmission Cooler Comparison

B&M Coolersimg src="/image/empty.gif" alt="b&m logo" data-src="" class="lazy" /> - Super Coolers from B&M among their most popular ice chests Constructed entirely of aluminum and showcasing premium, stacked plates, The name B&M is likely already familiar to you; the company has been making high-quality performance auto parts for racers and car enthusiasts since the 1950s.

For over 45 years, Hayden has been a leader in the automotive cooling industry with their line of hayden automotive logoHayden Coolers. Hayden Automotive, with headquarters in Grapevine, Texas, is a market leader in vehicle air conditioning. One of their best-selling products is the Using the Rapid-Cool Plate and Fin Design of Hayden

Coolers, Derale derale logo Since 1946, Derale has been producing exclusively high-quality coolers with the help of American workers, and all of their products are proudly Made in the USA. Some of their best-selling products are the A plate and fin from the Series 8000 the more recent, Stack plate cooler, model 10000

Fans for Transmission Cooling Systems

A heavy-duty transmission cooler with an integral fan can provide even more efficient cooling. When mounting a cooler in front of the radiator is impractical, when mounting the cooler in a location with low airflow, when mounting the cooler in a particularly large vehicle, or when mounting a cooler that must continue cooling even when the vehicle is parked.

Mounting an Extra-Outdoor Cooling System

It is possible to install a transmission cooler yourself with the help of a kit that typically includes all of the required tools and hardware. The best places to install it are in front of your radiator or in front of your air conditioning condenser, so use the adhesive mounting pads, the mounting rods, or the fasteners (all of which are included) accordingly. Connect the inlet and outlet hoses according to the instructions provided, as this is how the transmission fluid will be conditioned before it is sent to the cooler.

Suggestions for Putting in a Transmission Cooler

  • Take measurements to ensure a comfortable fit for the cooler and enough space for the hoses.
  • Please keep hoses away from any heat sources or moving parts.
  • Placement should prioritize free airflow and protection from rocks and road debris.
  • Check that the fins on the cooler and the radiator are parallel.
  • If the cooler will be placed in an area with little air circulation, a fan may need to be added.
  • You should never adapt a cooler made for a smaller system (e.g., a g 5/16" diameter cooler for a 1/2" conduit)
  • How to properly install a cooler, and more
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