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  1. #1
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    Frankencooler is Here. Modular Auxiliary Cooling For The 5.7/6.1

    The Frankencooler project, originally announced in this thread came about to address a situation found to plague -- and in some cases disable -- LX vehicles driven in extreme circumstances... particularly with respect to track days. I would, however, not limit this project to tracked cars only. For example I would argue that ANYONE who has installed a high-stall torque converter needs the tranny cooler.

    I'll let that original thread stand as an intro to this one, and not re-cover the ground that was gone over there, so if you haven't looked at least at the initial post of that thread, go check it out, read the background and come back afterwards.

    As was noted in the original thread, unlike the Frankentake project, Frankencooler is a project that needs a shop to do the work, or someone experienced enough with automotive maintenance -- who has the tools -- to take it on. this is not a job for the noob. Now that we've done a couple of installs we can say this for sure. We had some surprises, some redesigns and some difficulties, all of which were worked through. And it turned out to be more expensive than expected. I would expect that the best you are going to get away with is 5 hours shop time, assuming a meticulous and careful job is done. You should expect six. Lastly, reality bumped off theory as usual and we have had some parts list changes from that earlier thread (although I have, with one exception, kept the lists updated in the other thread).

    Coolers and Capacities
    ----------------------
    I have spent a bunch of time on this, and learned a lot. All coolers are nowhere near alike, even if they are of the same type. Like in many things, you can find "the same" product at different price points and quality levels.

    First of all, we are not using tube-and-fin coolers for anything here. The tube-and-fin design is good for minimal restriction but in terms of capacity, its not optimal. Instead the stacked-plate type of design is what you want if you want to pack in a lot of cooling capacity into a small area. Not surprisingly, stacked plate coolers are relatively expensive. An excellent description of how stacked plate coolers work is at the Setrab USA web site.

    In general, it seems as if most of the stacked plate coolers out there and available to us ordinary slobs are made, in alphabetical order, by Derale, Earl's Performance Plumbing and Setrab. Actually calling Derale a manufacturer is incorrect, since Derale is buying coolers from a 3rd party and simply packaging them, unlabelled, in their own name.

    Derale
    ------
    These coolers were the original choice for all three coolers in this system. While their pricing isn't cheap, its still the least expensive out there. However Derale has more than its share of problems. First of all, all units are on "custom order" status at Summit Racing or anywhere else you try to buy them. The individual I spoke to repeatedly at Derale told me this is because what Derale does is wait until enough orders accumulate for their coolers to allow them to get *their* required minimum order quantity, at which time they buy coolers from the manufacturer to in turn hand off to Summit. We discovered the hard way that the month-long wait we experienced could very easily stretch to at least two as our oil coolers came in, but the tranny coolers were projected to be a wait of still another month by the time it was admitted that no coolers had arrived, nor would they be arriving anytime soon. A call to Derale yielded apologies and evasions but nothing positive, which was kind of a pattern when talking to them about getting product shipped. Not only was the transmission oil cooler replaced by another brand, so was the engine oil cooler. Why drop Derale coolers for both applications? Thats another story, and not so flattering to Derale, either.

    Lest you think I am totally down on Derale, I am not. If you have time and patience, and you are willing to accept a quality level that is "acceptable", then you can consider the Derale units a budget alternative and save yourself about $85 across both engine oil and transmission oil coolers. They should work fine.

    The oil cooler mini-saga
    ------------------------
    After receiving our tranny oil coolers from Earl's, I wanted to know if I could get a capacity ratingg from them, so I called and spoke to an engineer at Earl's and was given some hot-off-the-test-bench efficiency test results. They showed the cooler efficiencies even better than Setrab's published numbers by a fairly wide margin. Meister and I decided to order one each, examine them at time of install, put in the better of the two and send the other packing. when the Earl's unit arrived Bob at SVS compared them and noted that the Derale unit's ID for their fittings was markedly smaller than the Earl's unit. So that was that.

    However when my own cooler arrived I compared it to the Derale and found no such fitting size differential (although there was a definite difference in fit/finish/materials, with Earl's winning the comparison). Upon my arrival at the shop I held the two coolers side by side and saw that clearly the Derale had the wrong size fittings... so wrong the -10 fittings wouldn't screw into it. After making their customer wait for over a month for delivery, they sent a cooler with -8 AN fittings packaged as a -10 AN. Meister would have been screwed if we hadn't had this backup plan already in place.

    My Derale cooler vs. the one Derale sent to Meister


    Earl's 25-row unit next to the comparable Derale. Note the earl's fittings follow the industry norm and are interchangeable whereas the Derale fittings are permanently fixed. there's no way to fix it without sending the cooler back and waiting another month for the right one to arrive.



    Setrab
    ------
    Setrab is a big name in coolers. Their stuff is top quality. With that reputation comes the top price on the market. Interestingly, Derale told me they used to buy their coolers from Setrab, but did so no longer due to increased pricing. Indeed, a Setrab cooler could be almost double the cost of a Derale cooler even at the best internet price to be found (Google "Setrab Coolers" to find them). Their heat transfer ratings are certainly excellent. Setrab's pricing coupled to their heat transfer ratings when compared to Earl's coolers kept them from being considered for this project.

    Earl's Performance Plumbing
    ---------------------------
    Originally written off as unnecessarily expensive given the Derale products' pricing, Earls' coolers wound up being our coolers of choice. The fact that they could be had in a single day without any hassles was certainly a big factor, but after talking with an engineer at Earl's, and directly comparing the quality of the coolers they delivered, Meister and I both are happy we made the move away from Derale. In hot-off-the-bench performance figures made available to us, Earl's heat transfer ratings beat out Setrab by a substantial margin.

    NOTE:
    -----
    All parts numbers below are for for Summit Racing, where you can buy everything you need in one shot. If you want to shop around maybe you can beat some of these prices, but Summit prices their products aggressively

    ADDED Jun 16 2007: You can save a few bucks over the parts lists shown below by using Summit Racing's house brand for some fittings and for braided hose. For example,
    AER-FBM4034 costs $23.95 and you need two of them on the oil cooler. You could use two of SUM-220087 priced at $15.95 each and save $16. However no one as of this writing has purchased these parts and reported on their relative quality.
    Last edited by MattRobertson; 06-16-2007 at 04:57 PM.
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    Engine Oil Cooler


    Is an engine oil cooler for everyone? I don't think so. If you live in a cold-weather climate I would want to see oil temps that are regularly too hot before I started thinking about one of these. Scott at the Hemi Shop told me a poor man's oil cooler is to simply change your oil right after a track day. Thats probably good enough for most folks.

    The oil cooler is mounted behind and under the bumper. It gets its inrushing air supply from the lower grille on the Magnum. While not totally exposed to direct airflow thanks to the bumper, it still gets one hell of a lot, and the fact that we chose a deliberately oversized 25-row cooler works in our favor here. Why did it go behind the bumper? Because if we sat it atop the bumper as per the original plan we were worried about robbing the main cooling system of too much airflow. Also with a 25-row cooler the thing is just so large it may be this is the only place it could go, period. As it stands now, the hoses are effectively in contact with the lower plastic shroud of the fascia.


    • Setrab rates their 25-row cooler at up to 46,000 btu/hr when used to cool engine oil. Internet prices range from about $215 to $245.
    • Earls Performance Plumbing rates their 25-row cooler at up to 57,000 btu/hr when used to cool engine oil.
    • Derale rates their 25-row coolers at 33000 GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). No its not the same unit of measure and we can't figure out a conversion, although that is a hefty number as GVW ratings go.


    My install needed a last-minute rework of the parts around the oil sandwich adapter due to an 'oops' on the parts list (the parts lists below have been corrected). We needed a swiveling elbow adapter that ran from 3/8" male NPT (to connect to the sandwich adapter) to -10 AN male. We did find Earl's part #EAR-829011ERL, but its a hard 90-degree bend, is very expensive at $66 for the needed pair and besides... it wasn't available from any supplier in the Sacramento metro area. Bob wound up figuring out a better, cheaper solution anyway. Use 3/8" NPT male to -10AN male straight adapters, and then use a -10AN female to -10AN hose end swiveling elbow. This gives the same result, is cheaper by about $20 for both fittings and, since its a sweeping bend rather than a hard 90, promotes better flow. The results are pictured below.





    Note that to get the straight adapters to seat deeply enough to allow the whole assembly to clear a crossmember support thats in the way, the threads on the sandwich adapter had to be tapped out to let the straight adapters seat as deeply as possible.





    Meister's variant uses the Earl's billet aluminum sandwich adapter. Now that we've seen it we know that this unit, rather than using the bi-metal spring that the Derale uses, takes advantage of a wax thermostat similar in operation to your typical engine cooling thermostat. Certainly a more sophisticated design.

    5/9/2012: Eventually this fancy sandwich unit leaked and Meister replaced it with the above Derale sandwich adapter.
    Reportedly the billet sandwich adapter was developd for hemi truck engines and some sort of issue existed - at the time of failure - as a result. No further information is available so talk to Earl's for current information.

    4/16/2013:
    Now that I have an oil tstat sensor plumbed into the oil pan, I'm seeing oil temps no higher than 240 degrees under hard mountain driving. Track temp readings are pending.





    Last edited by MattRobertson; 04-16-2013 at 03:29 PM.

  3. #3
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    Transmission Oil Cooler

    Setrab rates their 16-row cooler at up to 32,000 btu/hr. Internet prices are about $175.Is a transmission oil cooler for everyone? I have to say "yes". Cooler fluid is almost always going to be better than warmer, and its going to be REAL tough to make the fluid too cool. The hotter the fluid, the more wear on your tranny. Even if you don't drive hard. Even if you leave your torque management alone. Even if you have not installed a hi-stall converter, your transmission will benefit from cooler fluid. Now, thats just my opinion and you are free to disagree with me here or anywhere else. But I consider this unit as cheap insurance to put off that transmission rebuild and a required component in an enthusiast-driven automobile. This system uses a 16-row cooler


    • Earls Performance Plumbing rates their 16-row cooler at up to 37,000 btu/hr.
    • Derale rates their 16-row coolers at 22000 GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). Again not the same unit of measure and we don't have a conversion, but still a big number.


    Meister's system uses the spec'd -6AN anodized elbows and braided hose.




    My system uses hard stainless lines. Slick and max durable, but not even remotely economical.




    Note that the transmission cooler is hooked up as a standalone and NOT in series with the existing cooler, which now sits unused. While the 16-row Earl's cooler has an enormous cooling capacity, the fact is you almost can't get your tranny fluid too cool. If you're going to go this far spend the time to go further and hook them up in series. In my own case this was an expedient of time. 160 miles from home, the clock is ticking and its the second install ever. While I want to leave no stone unturned this is one we had to leave alone. For now?

    UPDATE 3/26/07: Track experience and torture testing indicates that leaving the cooler hooked up as a standalone as shown will significantly reduce engine cooling temps (i.e. water) since the transmission cooler is no longer in direct contact with the radiator. If you do not have a torque converter installed the method shown below may in fact be the best route. Hooking the coolers up in series will lower tranny temps and raise engine temps when under stress (i.e. track).

    UPDATE 4/16/13: Its only been six years since the last update, so there are a couple things to cover:
    1. If you read on in the thread you will see that soon after this install it was found that the best way to set this cooler up was to run both coolers in series, with the Frankencooler being in the first position and getting the hottest fluid. This still allows water temp reduction as the fluid is air cooled the first time via the Frankencooler and there is enough air blowing around that the heat exhaust does NOT get dumped back into the stock cooler and radiator.
    2. In early 2013 the stainless lines were subject to some accidental rubbing after a XXL radiator was installed. This pointed up one danger of using hard stainless lines: they don't like contact with anything and when you rub a hole in one, it makes a catastrophic mess. After one attempt at a repair, I went to braided lines as you see in the parts lists and photo of Meister's unit above.







    Last edited by MattRobertson; 04-16-2013 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Added update

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    Power Steering Fluid Cooler

    Is a power steering cooler for everyone? No. Unless you drive the car hard, I wouldn't worry about it. But if you do drive it hard I would worry given the experiences we have seen on the track with splitting hoses, spilled superheated fluid and blown pumps. Given that this is the cheapest cooler on the project, I'd say its well worth doing on general principles if you go for extended spirited drives with a lot of negotiated curves. If not, don't sweat it.

    UPDATE 3/26/07:
    I've changed my mind somewhat, based in part on background discussions with knowledgeable individuals who have acknowledged that even the much beefier SRT cooling system can blow... and if it can go a 5.7 can go a heck of a lot more easily. If you drive the car hard put a cooler in. Cheap insurance.

    UPDATE 4/16/13: Just over six years after this initial post, I still have my factory original power steering pump on the car, along with the cooler pictured below.


    First and foremost, this cooler is, well, its huge.



    Two feet long with fins on the inside and on the outside, its cooling capabilities are bolstered simply by the fact that it holds over a quart of fluid.

    Originally spec'd to go on the bottom of the bumper, directly in the lower grille's airstream, its been instead mounted up on top. Doing this requires some welding to provide the brackets necessary to affix it at this location.



    The brackets have to be welded on at a slight angle. Fitment was accomplished by c-clamping the cooler to the desired location, marking with a pencil the line where the support to be bolted onto was, clamping a sized aluminum strip to this location and welding it on.



    Bob says yes his ability to make nice-looking aluminum welds sucks, but it will never come off.



    the cooler fits splendidly in this location, but whats missing here?



    the car horns, which have been relocated to the drivers side bumper support.



    For an easier install of this cooler, especially if you opt out of the oil cooler, consider doing what we originally planned: Mount this thing on the bottom of the bumper. The only modification necessary to the car or the cooler should be the removal of some of that foam insulation off the bumper bottom.

    Last edited by MattRobertson; 04-16-2013 at 03:31 PM. Reason: updated parts lists

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    General Installation Notes

    The original plan was to surface-mount both coolers on top of the bumper, after cutting away some of the foam insulation that the slip-on bumper pad places in front of the coolers. The p/s cooler was to be bottom-mounted on the bumper, getting air from the lower grille. On install it was determined that the two coolers lined up would obscure too much of the radiator's direct air feed. So installation was re-thought. The power steering cooler was mounted up top on the rigid plastic framework that makes up the top portion of the support behind the fascia.



    The oil and tranny coolers were mounted bottom-to-top, with brackets sandwiched in between and bolted to the bumper. This is a semi-rigid mount on its own, and this is not an accident. If a harder mount were effected, and somebody makes an 'oops' with a surprisingly deep dip, curb or otherwise low flying object, the give thats available thanks the mounting incorporates some fault tolerance into the picture. If you beat on it it might not break.

    There are a couple of inches of air space in front of the coolers, and another couple behind them so there is no contact with the a/c condenser.



    The brackets are actually held on with two bolts per support onto the bumper. The above picture was taken midway into the mounting process. Furthermore, the bolts are mounted with nuts and washers to ensure that once on they stay on. To accomplish that, two holes had to be cut into the bumper itself, as seen below.



    Once you attach lines to the top and bottom, and lash those lines down, the system isn't going to wobble around and will in fact be rigid unless you bash it and your front end with the ground, or a wall.

    Use Anti-Seize on all threaded connections.



    And plenty of this stuff when making up your high-presssure hose end connections. A bit of tape wrapped around the hose end when assembling the connectors will tell you if your hose is backing out of the connector vs. the connector screwing itself in like it should be.



    ADDED April 6 2007:

    You can see from the above pics that the two stacked plate coolers were originally mounted with Cat 8 nuts and bolts attaching their floor plates to an aluminum strap, which in turn is mounted to the bumper. Concerns were expressed privately to me that this can allow enough 'give' to cause the coolers to vibrate and -- over time -- break a seal and leak, despite the additional anchor points found at bottom and top from the secured hoses. One possible solution was to use the mounting kits provided by Earls Plumbing which essentially surround and cradle the cooler. InferAl's transmission cooler, detailed further on in this thread, uses this and more custom bracketing to get the mounting job done.

    A representative from Earl's Plumbing came up with an entirely different solution when I asked him to take a look at this project (picture and a full report will come soon). While the solution was unique and innovative, I felt it required a lot of (expensive) metal fabrication to accomplish.

    I wanted an inexpensive solution that didn't require disassembly of the coolers to fit. Here's what I came up with (and when I went to Bob at SVS, I found he had come up with almost exactly the same idea on his own):

    Go down to your local hardware store and get yourself some stainless steel all-thread -- essentially a threaded metal dowel... a giant screw without a head. Instead of using bolts that secure the coolers only at their bases, run the all-thread entirely thru both coolers, from top to bottom. Secure the bases on each cooler with a cat 8 washer, lock washer and nut, thereby providing firm support for the bases. Then at the top of each cooler on the inside of the support 'ear', do the same, except provide a bit of outward pressure so the nut/washer combo is providing support as opposed to clamping down. lastly, on the outer ends of the tops of both coolers, use a bit of 2" x 1/8" aluminum strap, drilled to match the coolers' 'earholes', and clamp down onto the ends of the all-thread with cat 8 nylock nuts and washers so the force of the nuts is distributed across the ear more evenly than it would be if you bolted them in directly.

    Its a lot easier to just show pictures of than it is to explain:





    The resulting mount is absolutely solid while still retaining the flexibility of the strapping mounted to the bumper (remember, that provides a bit of fault tolerance in case of a fender bender of some kind that would otherwise blow out the coolers if they were rigidly mounted).

    I got all of the parts at Lowe's for about $20.

    Also, when the above was completed I also had the styrofoam insert cut down so it doesn'tt obscure the coolers at all. put 3 more rows of the tranny cooler in direct airflow (i.e. all of them) and did the same for the oil cooler on the bottom.


    ADDED JUN 16 2007: Looking at the parts lists above you can see that EAR-309110ERL, used down at the oil sandwich adapter, is about the same part as AER-FBM4034, used on the other end at the oil cooler. The use of two different elbow fittings was an accident of necessity on install day -- the Earl's fittings were all we could get. However, the parts are a little different. EAR-309110ERL is a tighter, more compact turn than the Aeroquip elbow. Since space wound up being an issue down at the sandwich, I would be cautious about buying 4 Aeroquip fittings -- which swivel on both sides whereas the Earls parts only swivel on one -- and expecting them to fit down below. Likewise you could buy 4 Earls fittings and save $6 off the project cost, but the Earls fittings do not swivel on both sides and this can promote hose kinks, skinned knuckles and foul language. I would spend the extra $6 if I were you.
    Last edited by MattRobertson; 06-16-2007 at 04:56 PM.

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    Wrapup and Results

    I'll add to this post as discovery runs its course. For now all I have is this:
    • I wonder if it would be a good idea to snip away the insulation that rises over the bumper top and bottom, thereby exposing more cooler rows to direct airflow. Its an idea I kick myself for not having at the time of install. Can't see what it would hurt, really. Just need 5 minutes with a hacksaw blade.
      Investigation seems to make the answer "Yes" on Magnums for both the top and bottom foam overlap. On 300's the answer is murkier. The bottom portion appears to form fit to the 300 grille and probably provides support, vibration resistance or both. This is unfortunate as, on the Magnum, there is significantly better airflow with our fully open lower grille and it'd be nice to improve the 300 airflow any way we can. Meister's complete removal of the lower plastic underbody shroud comes to mind immediately as a big plus. Chargers are an unknown but likely better than a 300 but not as good as a Magnum, if the size of the air inlet is any indication.
    • The heat sink is certainly doing its job. After a reasonably leisurely, more or less straight-line drive thru town at speeds ranging from 40-60 mph I parked at my office, popped the hood and reached down and touched the p/s cooler. Dang that thing was hot! Not so hot that I needed to pull my hand away, but enough to surprise me. The heat sink is definitely doing its job. The tranny cooler was so hot I couldn't leave my hand on it. (added Mar 05 '07)
    • See Post #61 for my detailed comments after LX Spring Fling's Track Day at California Motor Speedway. Short version: the coolers worked fantastically for me but Meister's 300C behaved poorly. It is either an airflow issue or there's something else going on with his car. (added March 31, '07)
    All comments and observations are welcome. How can we make it better?
    Last edited by MattRobertson; 03-31-2007 at 07:59 PM.

  7. #7
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    InferAl is offline "R.I.P. Lou1355 "The Hellbitch lives On"
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    That list of parts for the tranny cooler is that everything that is needed to do the job. There is only one braided hose on the list and the picture looks like there are 2.Are the Magnum and Charger front ends similar. If I would just do the tranny cooler could it be mounted right on top of the bumper like your original plan or would a bracket have to be fabricated
    Thanks
    Last edited by InferAl; 03-04-2007 at 11:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by InferAl View Post
    That list of parts for the tranny cooler is that everything that is needed to do the job.
    Yes. You have the two elbows that come out of the cooler. Then you have the two hose ends that cap the two hoses and terminate them with a -6AN female connection. Then you use the male -6AN to 3/8 barb to plug into that and into your existing, remaining tranny hose. You get two hoses via cutting the one long one in two. The steel hose doesn't go back much further than you can see, although if you wanted I'm sure you could trace that original hose back and do it all braided steel to its origin point. More $$$ :D No idea how long it would have to be.

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    On my Car, there is a junction on the tranny lines... It appears to be a thermostat of some sort... I assume it shunts oil flow back to the tranny when the fluid is cold, and allows fluid to run through the coolers when its hot.
    If you run new lines, I WOULD leave that in place. Properly warmed up fluid is just as important as keeping it cool.
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    *drool* That's so awesome.

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    Matt...

    You are so CCCCCOOOOOOLLLL now...

    nice work...

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    Quote Originally Posted by lafrad View Post
    If you run new lines, I WOULD leave that in place. Properly warmed up fluid is just as important as keeping it cool.
    Good point. Don't follow/replace those lines too far back. that is indeed a thermostat and it does exactly the job lafrad is talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mighty Noid View Post
    You are so CCCCCOOOOOOLLLL now...
    :D Thanks!

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    Holy sh1t, thats one fancy setup.

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    And yet another great write-up by the Fresno Flash.

    Well, the Mayans and other Soothsayers were right, the end has begun.

    Common sense is so rare it should be considered a superpower

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    Matt, you've outdone yourself. This is one incredible writeup and blueprint; especially when one considers the difficulty that we all were having before you took this bull by its horns. Great work my friend!

    Questions:
    1) Any guess on individual component install times? I understand 6 hours for all 3 coolers, but what do you guess each might take individually. It seems to me much of your time was spent on the oil cooler. Is that impression appropriate?

    2) Clearly you decided against painting these coolers. I know you addressed this late in the original thread, but it might make sense to address it here. Also, did you confirm that the Earl's can come in black?

    3) Clearance... do ya think guys with inset grills (like me) are going to have clearance problems? I dont think so, just in looking at the pics, but I'd like your opinion.

    Again my friend, amazing job!
    On to... ...the next

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