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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello everyone! I decided to post some preview photos of my current project, a radiator install.

One big gripe I have always had with this truck is how low the stupid OEM radiator hangs. What kind of off road truck has the radiator as the lowest point in the front end!? Even with a skidplate I have always felt uneasy, especially when a decent impact pushed my skidplate up against the bottom of the radiator tank. I've had to straighten out the top radiator hold-downs before and I can tell they've been noticeably pushed up by the radiator lifting on impact. Not good, especially since I'm up in Michigan and finding a Nissan radiator up at the sand dunes is not going to be a quick process.

So, I browsed the Ron Davis Radiator catalog for a suitable solution. They actually make a radiator for the Titan, but it's about the same size as the Frontier and wouldn't help increase clearance. I went with one of their on the shelf off-road radiators in a 28" x 19" x 3" size. They rate this at 500 wheel horsepower for a vehicle in the 5,000 lb. range, more than adequate (for now at least).



Coupled with two shrouded electric fans tied into the OEM computer logic this should really help keep temps down AND dramatically improve ground clearance.



Of course, going with a custom size meant some fabwork would be necessary to drop this baby in. My goal was to do as little cutting as necessary and hopefully NO welding. So far, I have been successful and I believe it will make this a potential DIY project for just about anyone with a decent amount of knowledge and tools.
 
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Pictures didn't post for some reason but here are a couple of the radiator itself.
 

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I definitely want to see how this turns out!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
After setting the radiator in place on a jack and moving it into position, I was happy to see that the bottom of the radiator is just a hair above the top of the framerail, with the top of the radiator flush with the A/C condenser core. So, I simply bought a 36" piece of 1/8 aluminum u-channel and laid that across the frame rails to test how it would sit.



I trimmed the existing radiator/AC support bracket on top so it wouldn't interfere with the new radiator. Keeping the OEM support bracket allows me to have the AC core fully supported separate from the radiator, which saved time trying to fab up a new solution. I cut it down flush with the tab that the AC core screws into.



I also cut off the bottom of the AC support bracket about 1" lower than the rubber saddle mount. It interfered with where I wanted to set the u-channel, and it's not really needed. The AC core isn't heavy and supporting it up top with two bolts should be more than enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
how do you plan to secure it on the bottom?
The radiator will 'sit' in the u-channel, so the u-channel side flanges will keep it secure from moving side to side. I have some neoprene rubber to line the u channel with, so it will be a little bit of a friction fit and will keep it from bouncing around.

On top, I'll be using some aluminum straps to hold the radiator top secure to the truck core support, much like the stock radiator's setup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The radiator sitting in the u channel while I figure out how to mock up some upper ties



The next problem to solve is the fact that this is a dual pass radiator, so both the inlet and outlet are on the passenger side of the car.



New radiator hoses will be needed anyhow, so I've ordered some corrugated stainless hose from Jegs which can be molded into any shape. I'll simply route it back over to the driver side and connect it to the thermostat housing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Here are some more detailed photos of the u channel, which the radiator sits in and supports it from bottom:











Flange height



Tab size



I bent tabs down which fit snugly against the sides of the frame rails. Holes will be drilled through the tab and frame rail to facilitate mounting bolts. This will keep the u channel supported, and additional bolts will keep it held down to the frame rail from the top as well.
 

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Looks great, good luck with the install. Ron's stuff is usually pretty decent and solid.

I set up a group buy, nobody was interested in a true solid aluminum radiator though. They decided on a lesser radiator IMHO.

And as far as I know there is still no direct-fit application for 2nd Gens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Looks great, good luck with the install. Ron's stuff is usually pretty decent and solid.

I set up a group buy, nobody was interested in a true solid aluminum radiator though. They decided on a lesser radiator IMHO.

And as far as I know there is still no direct-fit application for 2nd Gens.
Solid is an understatement. This radiator is fantastic... the welds look practically robotic but you can really see the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Top notch.

Unfortunately we have a problem in this community which revolves around spending real money for real quality. Every aftermarket vendor I've talked to who was interested in making parts for the Frontier, but didn't, said it was because we're too cheap. Heard the same thing from Titan part vendors when I asked if they could make a similar part for the Frontier.

This radiator and fan shroud cost me $950 shipped, and I'll probably have another couple hundred in parts/materials to install it. Honestly, there are just a handful of people on this forum who would even think of spending that kind of money. The rest just complain it's too expensive and never commit their dollars to the cause. Ron Davis makes a Titan radiator and they told me they've barely sold a half dozen of those... meanwhile, they've sold a TON of Raptor radiators. It sucks we don't have more aftermarket support but it's largely our fault.
 

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The radiator will 'sit' in the u-channel, so the u-channel side flanges will keep it secure from moving side to side. I have some neoprene rubber to line the u channel with, so it will be a little bit of a friction fit and will keep it from bouncing around.
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That's what I was hoping to hear. too many people set the radiator on the solid metal surface and then vibrations kill the radiator in a short time.

Are you planning on sealing off some of the gaps between the core support and the radiator? Helps keep the air flowing through the radiator instead of around.

(and my apologies up front, I tend to over engineer/overthink my cooling systems) ::smile::
 

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Yeah when he gave me the quote I told him I didn't think these guys would go for it even though it was considerably less, w/o a warranty or S/H. Overkill for our trucks? Probably, but a work of art most of the time.

Most likely the guy who welded your radiator did the viper V10 motorcycle.
 

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Solid is an understatement. This radiator is fantastic... the welds look practically robotic but you can really see the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Top notch.

Unfortunately we have a problem in this community which revolves around spending real money for real quality. Every aftermarket vendor I've talked to who was interested in making parts for the Frontier, but didn't, said it was because we're too cheap. Heard the same thing from Titan part vendors when I asked if they could make a similar part for the Frontier.

This radiator and fan shroud cost me $950 shipped, and I'll probably have another couple hundred in parts/materials to install it. Honestly, there are just a handful of people on this forum who would even think of spending that kind of money. The rest just complain it's too expensive and never commit their dollars to the cause. Ron Davis makes a Titan radiator and they told me they've barely sold a half dozen of those... meanwhile, they've sold a TON of Raptor radiators. It sucks we don't have more aftermarket support but it's largely our fault.
It is a nice radiator. I wouldn't consider myself cheap but I could not justify nearly $1000 for a radiator either. Thanks for the write up.
 

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Solid is an understatement. This radiator is fantastic... the welds look practically robotic but you can really see the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Top notch.

Unfortunately we have a problem in this community which revolves around spending real money for real quality. Every aftermarket vendor I've talked to who was interested in making parts for the Frontier, but didn't, said it was because we're too cheap. Heard the same thing from Titan part vendors when I asked if they could make a similar part for the Frontier.

This radiator and fan shroud cost me $950 shipped, and I'll probably have another couple hundred in parts/materials to install it. Honestly, there are just a handful of people on this forum who would even think of spending that kind of money. The rest just complain it's too expensive and never commit their dollars to the cause. Ron Davis makes a Titan radiator and they told me they've barely sold a half dozen of those... meanwhile, they've sold a TON of Raptor radiators. It sucks we don't have more aftermarket support but it's largely our fault.
You really can't compare aftermarket support or the willingness of owners to spend big on the high quality between the Raptor and the Frontier or Titan... The Raptor starts at $44k while the Frontier and Titan start at $22k and $29k and almost always sell for less than that. People who buy a Raptor probably have quite a bit deeper pockets than most Frontier/Titan owners. Besides, almost every Raptor I've seen has been customized, I've only seen a handful of Frontiers customized, a decent number of the Titans around here are customized but that is usually limited to plastidip mods only. You wouldn't expect to see the same quality of aftermarket parts on a Toyota Camry as you see on an STI would you?
 

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Thanks for the well documented write up.

That is one neat radiator/fan setup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sorry for the delay, guys... I've been busy and haven't had time to post any updates on this project.

Needless to say, the radiator is fully installed now and working great. I drove in 92 degree weather for about an hour with the A/C on full blast, doing numerous full throttle fulls, and the second fan never even clicked on once. I have it wired into the OEM fan control which turns the first fan on at 100*C and the second fan at 110*C.

Just to fill you in on cost, the $950 I quoted prior includes the radiator, fan shroud, and both SPAL fans. I spent another $180 or so on the aluminum u-channel, some silicone couplers, a corrugated radiator hose, and other odds and ends. All told, I think this was well worth the cost and I've effectively solved two problems at once.

I will post some final photos to detail the fan wiring, top bracket hold downs, and the rest of the install soon. Should be able to do it this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You really can't compare aftermarket support or the willingness of owners to spend big on the high quality between the Raptor and the Frontier or Titan... The Raptor starts at $44k while the Frontier and Titan start at $22k and $29k and almost always sell for less than that. People who buy a Raptor probably have quite a bit deeper pockets than most Frontier/Titan owners. Besides, almost every Raptor I've seen has been customized, I've only seen a handful of Frontiers customized, a decent number of the Titans around here are customized but that is usually limited to plastidip mods only. You wouldn't expect to see the same quality of aftermarket parts on a Toyota Camry as you see on an STI would you?
Fair enough, so I'll compare them to Tacoma owners or Ranger owners. Or any other truck out there for the most part. Those are more popular platforms, sure, but I see a ton of modded Rangers with expensive parts.

Prior to working on this truck I came from the world of DSMs (Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talons) which I thought had the cheapest owners of all time. Those guys NEVER wanted to spend money. However... I think this crowd is worse in a lot of ways unfortunately.

The radiator thing just seems like such an obvious problem to fix, I really can't believe nobody has done something like this before. That's all.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Here are some final details on my Ron Davis radiator install:

The fan wiring was done using two fan relay kits from Jegs. I wanted the fans to turn on using the factory settings and not with a temperature probe, so I did a little research and found which wires control what.

The factory electric fan operates on a low/high setting depending on your coolant temp, whether the AC is on, and what the AC refrigerant pressure is. The first fan relay comes on at roughly 208 degrees; the second relay activates at 221 degrees, putting the fan into high speed mode.



I wired it to turn on each fan individually. Here is a close-up of the wiring you need:

OEM fan




I cut the plug off the stock fan so I could reuse it on my setup.



On the truck side of the plug, the pink and brown wires deliver 12v power to the fan. In the 'low' mode, the low fan relay in the IPDM is activated and delivers power through the brown wire. In 'high' mode, the high fan relay kicks on and delivers another 12v to the fan through the pink wire.



This is good because it allows us to use each 12v wire as a trigger for the relays to deliver power to each fan individually straight from the battery.



The blue and green wires deliver the power to the fan, so I wired those to the yellow wires which trigger my relays. Conveniently, the other two wires (black and yellow) are both grounds, so I used those to ground my relays.



WARNING: do NOT simply wire the SPAL fans directly to the blue and green wires. They are small and thin and will not carry the amperage that the SPAL fans can pull. The dinky little stock fan is nothing compared to the SPAL units and you will likely overheat and fry your wiring (at best) if you do it that way. You NEED to use relays to deliver power straight from the battery.



Be good and solder these connections, cover them with heat shrink, and wire looms. Take your time and don’t be a wiring hack! I mounted the relays on the radiator near the bottom with a couple sheet metal screws.



Once I had the wiring set, I used some 3/8” foam strips I bought at Home Depot to complete my air sealing of the radiator edges. The foam compresses and seals the radiator to the AC condenser on the sides and on the top to make sure air passes through the radiator.





I also used a harder durometer neoprene rubber to line the bottom and sides of my u-channel tray to isolate the radiator from metal-to-metal vibrations. I used some on the bottom of the radiator itself as well for a nice, snug, soft fit.



Then, I fabbed up a couple L-shaped brackets out of 1/8” x 1 ½” aluminum to hold the radiator on top. I drilled holes through the brackets and used nut-serts so I could thread bolts through the truck’s radiator core support. I re-used a hole that was already in place for the plastic clips that hold the grill in place, and drilled another directly behind that. I also used more neoprene rubber strips on the L-brackets so they are isolated from the radiator.





Finished product



The upper radiator hose was a little tough because there isn't a lot of distance between the stock hard line and the radiator inlet. I used two 45 degree silicone hoses with a piece of corrugated stainless line in between. Not pretty, but it works great for now.



I had to extend the stock coolant overflow line using about 1' of hose; I will clamp this to the top of the radiator somehow in the future so it looks a little more clean.



This project was great because it solved several issues for me. One, I will be working on a VK swap shortly and I wanted to ensure proper cooling. I would also be losing the stock pulley driven fan, so now I am all ready to go. Second, it solved the issue of the low hanging stock radiator which always made me nervous to do anything borderline extreme on the trail/dunes. Now, there is basically nothing that hangs even close to my skidplate aside from the AC condenser which is not a ‘total failure’ point if it’s damaged.

Lastly, I have a 2005 which are prone to radiator/trans cooler failures. This radiator does not have a transmission cooler/warmer; I simply bypassed this connection directly to the front mounted cooler. In the future, I will be adding a larger trans cooler with a thermostat to aid cold weather warmup.
 
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Looks great, good luck with the install. Ron's stuff is usually pretty decent and solid.

I set up a group buy, nobody was interested in a true solid aluminum radiator though. They decided on a lesser radiator IMHO.

And as far as I know there is still no direct-fit application for 2nd Gens.
I found an all aluminum radiator for 2nd gens from csf pn 7029. Going to be ordering it soon
 
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