Even in heavy vehicles, copper has a tough row to hoe

Aug 21, 2008 | 12:17 PM |

Copper might stand as a viable contender to aluminum in radiator applications, but it could be a hard sell for auto radiator manufacturers, who say they are unlikely to switch back to copper-brass models from aluminum despite the strength and corrosion-resistance benefits offered by the relatively new CuproBraze technology.

Radiator manufacturers like Dana Holding Corp., Toledo, Ohio, ceased making copper-brass radiators in 1989, shifting its focus exclusively to aluminum. The change was primarily sparked by aluminum's big weight-savings advantage over copper-brass, which translates into better fuel efficiency.

Despite the development of CuproBraze, manufacturers don't see a shift coming anytime soon. "Even though they're touting it as a new technology, most of the heat exchanger people would say aluminum is now entrenched and brass would have a hard time kicking it out," said Ted Zielinski, technical director of the Thermal Products division of Dana's Automotive Systems Group.

Aluminum is used throughout the engine, and introducing a brass heat exchanger could cause some corrosion. "We don't like to mix metals," Zielinski said. Heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers also have shifted to aluminum, attracted by the lower cost of the metal vs. copper.....

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