Cooling Packages: Bundling Vehicle Heat Exchangers for Design Continuity

Cooling Packages: Bundling Vehicle Heat Exchangers for Design Continuity

Cooling Packages in the Automotive Industry 

How many different parts would you guess are found in your average vehicle, from the largest body panel down to the smallest fastener?  About 30,000, it turns out, most of which are intentionally selected to work together to provide an excellent driving experience.  While trim and upholstery parts might be chosen for their aesthetic synergy, engine and powertrain parts are chosen for their technical compatibility, assuring that these systems will perform safely and reliably over time. 

This is where bundling into a cooling package comes into play, which is the process of specifying, designing, and selecting components that are specifically engineered to complement each other, driving a higher level of overall performance over parts selected independently.  Vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions control is of especially high concern today, which provides us with perhaps the best possible place to apply component bundling: vehicle heat transfer components.  In this article, we'll discuss the benefits of cooling packages, as well as provide several example applications.  

Out of the average 30,000 vehicle parts we mentioned above, how many of these parts have direct bearing on the vehicle's fuel efficiency and overall performance?  One answer is 'all of them', as they all contribute weight to the vehicle which consumes fuel to move around.  More directly though, only the several hundred parts that make up the vehicle's power train govern how much or little fuel is consumed.  Of these several hundred powertrain parts, most of them are exposed to widely varying temperatures, and temperature plays a huge role in fuel efficiency. 

For example, if an internal combustion engine runs too hot or cold, it will over-consume fuel, and the same analogy applies to electric vehicles (though they are less sensitive to lower temperatures).  Thinking now about just these several hundred parts that are impacted by temperature, only a handful of parts are able to do anything about controlling that temperature.  These components are categorically referred to as heat exchange or heat transfer components, including individual parts such as:

  • Radiators 
  • Charge-Air Coolers (including Intercoolers and Aftercoolers) 
  • Oil Coolers 
  • Cabin Heaters
  • Transmission Coolers 

Beyond just fuel efficiency, controlling temperatures in these vehicle systems is also critical for protecting against heat-induced damage and failure, premature wear and tear, and unsafe operating conditions.  Traditionally, individual heat transfer components are designed independently of each other, even though their integrity is so highly dependent on the other components doing their jobs.  For this reason, today heat transfer components are ideally designed and selected as a bundle referred to as a cooling package, so that performance and risk can be more appropriately managed across all components collectively.  

Benefits of Bundling Vehicle Heat Exchangers into a Cooling Package

Let's dig into two key questions:  how exactly does bundling work, and how does it benefit my vehicle?

How Cooling Packages Work

Vehicle OEMs and aftermarket service providers can take a wider, more collective look at a vehicle's heat transfer conditions, and build a perspective on how individual components technically bear on each other.  For example, radiators are typically sized for just the engine cooling load, but if that radiator receives incoming engine coolant that has also flowed through an oil cooler, the radiator would have more work to perform as the coolant will have a higher temperature picked up from the oil cooling step.  Considering how these parts work together changes their design and sizing, as well as how they'll operate during different uses and weather conditions.  Ideally, the radiator and oil cooler in our example here would be designed and purchased together as a cooling package, assuring a higher level of coupled performance than if purchased independently.  

Benefits of Cooling Packages

Considering examples just like our above radiator and oil cooler scenario, let's look at several distinct benefits of bundled vehicle thermal components:  

  • Proper Component Sizing - for multiple heat exchangers sharing the same coolant or engine compartment airflow, sizing units to work with the actual thermal conditions impacted by other involved heat gains or losses assures that no single component is under- or over-sized.
  • Energy Efficiency - most vehicle heat exchangers serve to dispel waste heat to the atmosphere, but that heat can also have other beneficial uses within the vehicle which can offset fuel use.  Bundled heat exchangers can be connected in this way to redirect waste heat from one source to serve as input heat for another source.
  • Warranty and Reliability - working with one vendor to design, specify, and fabricate all of a vehicle's heat exchangers provides a wealth of positives, from centralizing all technical support and warranty questions with a single vendor, to assuring heightened reliability knowing that each thermal component is designed specifically in congress with each other bundled part.  
  • Simplified Maintenance and Long-Term Support - using bundled heat exchangers from the same manufacturer in a vehicle helps standardize the involved maintenance procedures, repair processes, and replacement parts.  Even better, applying bundled components across a multi-vehicle fleet further simplifies maintenance training and spare part stock, as well as makes vehicle performance and proactive maintenance planning much more predictable.   

Example of Cooling Package Applications 

Vehicle thermal cooling packages serve one of three application types: 

  1. Separate, Co-Dependent Components - in this application type, components may be independent and not share air or coolant circuits, but will still influence each other and thus benefit from bundling.  For example, a separate radiator and oil cooler bundle could be designed to install in the same OEM radiator footprint, one above the other, solving for a superior installation and limited overall space even though each heat exchanger does not touch the other's air or fluid flows.  

  1. Heat Exchangers Sharing Airflow - another great application for cooling packages is where heat exchangers are sandwiched together, one behind the other, and airflow pushes through both units front-to-back.  Because of this shared airflow, the front heat exchanger should be designed to flow more air, ensuring adequate air reaches the rear heat exchanger.  At the same time, the rear heat exchanger has to be designed to receive the heated and slowed airflow coming through the front unit, which typically requires the rear unit to increase in surface area.  This is common in radiator, oil cooler, and transmission cooler bundles, as well as multi-zone coolers on aircraft (since the airflow in aircraft is so high, the stacked heat exchanger air resistance is less of a  problem).   

  1. Heat Exchangers Sharing Coolant - great for heavy duty, long runtime applications, putting additional cooling loads onto the main engine coolant loop can help dispel heat faster and more consistently.  Most commonly, liquid-to-liquid heat exchangers are added for oil and transmission fluid cooling, and these units are piped into the engine coolant loop to run through a larger main radiator.  In some cases, additional radiator zones are added, as are additional small branch circuits to cool steering or brake fluids.  This makes the coolant loop complex but highly efficient, calling for bundled heat exchangers designed to work together.      

Mission-critical vehicles and equipment in over a dozen infrastructure sectors rely on heat transfer components manufactured by Cincinnati Radiator. CR works directly with Original Equipment Manufacturers and Aftermarket service channels to supply premium-grade, long life radiators, coolers, and full cooling packages into extreme applications all over the world.  With our expanding inventory and fabrication space at our Fairfield, Ohio facility, we pride ourselves on having a personal touch, ultra-fast lead times, and one-off custom design capabilities.  

For your next vehicle or heavy equipment heat transfer project, call us at (513) 874-5555, email us at, or visit our website at

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