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Water Cooling With A Car Radiator 282

sH4RD writes "Why go out and buy a water cooling system when you can do it with an old car radiator? That's exactly what One of The Twelve figured when he used the radiator from his brother's 1979 Toyota Corolla to cool his system. His Athlon64 3000+ can hit 2.5GHz smoothly now. Check out the original forum post complete with benchmarks."
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Water Cooling With A Car Radiator

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  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by rusty_razor ( 635173 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:43PM (#10681216)
    If you leave the radiator attached to the car, you could drive your PC to LAN parties!
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:43PM (#10681219)
    After having seen that guys work station, I feel better about he mess in my apartment.
    • He's got nothing on this guy [].
    • Maybe he put the duct tape to focus your eyes on something besides how ugly the rest of his kit looked.

      Anyway, I'm betting that when his server got slashdotted tonight it was the duct tape that gave out.

    • Well... All I can see is that they guy is silly. He created the best feet warmer for a cold student dorm and he did not get the idea of using it. All he needed was to rotate the radiator 90 degrees and tilt it so that you can use it as a foot prop. It would have also cooled better this way because the convection air flow would have gone the same way as the air in a car.
  • Antifreeze (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dykofone ( 787059 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:43PM (#10681221) Homepage
    I really appreciate that he still used a glycol/water mixture. Pretty unnecessary, but certainly a nice touch.

    Radiators were made to have a flow of air over them, so putting a fan blowing over that thing would greatly increase its cooling abilities. Of course, he's still stuck with old shitty car parts under his desk...

    • Re:Antifreeze (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:56PM (#10681330)
      Radiators were made to have a flow of air over them, so putting a fan blowing over that thing would greatly increase its cooling abilities.

      That probably won't be necessary. Assuming that the original car had a 130hp engine with 30% thermal efficiency, and making a wild-ass-guess that 10% of the waste heat of the car actually goes through the radiator (rather than exhaust or other means), my calculations indicate that in the car the radiator would have a peak thermal throughput of over 22 kilowatts. A 100W CPU doesn't need to get rid of even 0.5% of that amount of heat. A fan would just seem to supply even more pointless overkill.

      • Re:Antifreeze (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You can never have too much cooling.

        In some tests I did some time ago, a small car radiator (used to water-cool a PC no less!) had a thermal resistance of 0.093K/W with no fan, and 0.018K/W with a fan. In the case of a 100W CPU, that means the difference between 9.3K temperature gradient compared to only 1.8K, which is very significant.
      • Re:Antifreeze (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 31, 2004 @08:03PM (#10681713)
        The general rule of thumb for gasoline engines is thus: 1/3 of the power goes to the ground, 1/3 out the tailpipe, and 1/3 into cooling (which includes running fans, and heat actually being carried out of the radiator, and heat radiating off of the exhaust, and all of the other ways heat can possibly be lost)

        Ideally, it would be good to keep as much heat inside the engine as possible. We could actually run much more efficient engines (by running them hotter) if it weren't for materials and emissions (damn that N2 all to hell!) and fuel (gasoline likes to go poof spontaneously when it's hot and compressed) Too bad, that.
      • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @08:04PM (#10681719) Homepage Journal
        Silly geekboy! There is no such thing as "overkill".

        There's only "kill" with greater and greater measures of assurance.
      • A CPU only needs 0.5% of the heat dissipation this provides? Quiet Beowulf clusters for all!
      • Actually it is necessary... Using car radiators is by far NOT a new process. Infact up until last year most pc water cooling systems used car radiator and many still do. To keep temperatures low pretty much all of us had to use fans.
        • Infact up until last year most pc water cooling systems used car radiator and many still do.

          The proper term for them is transmission cooler or oil cooler, not radiator. The radiator is to cool the engine coolant, while transmission coolers help cool the fluid in automatic transmissions. I don't see the need for an oil cooler in a car, but they usually come with a filter relocation kit, which is cool (no pun intended).
    • Re:Antifreeze (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lord Kano ( 13027 )
      I really appreciate that he still used a glycol/water mixture. Pretty unnecessary, but certainly a nice touch.

      Not at all. There are water conditioners in antifreeze to prevent the formation of scale.

      Regular tap water or even distilled water can cause a radiator to develop deposits when the metal inside oxidizes.

      Since there is no heater core to worry about, the total volume of liquid needed would be smaller. I'd consider using pure antifreeze.

    • Re:Antifreeze (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cylix ( 55374 ) *
      Glycol is neat, but it isn't without problems.

      I was talking to an engineer who retired from PAX, but now does solely contract work.

      Anyhow, apparently there is a problem they found out with glycol. It coats the metal surface and of course transmitters produce lots of heat. So after a period of time this glycol coat solidifies. It becomes an insulator.

      I guess not so long ago, they finally started diagnosing OLD dead transmitter tubes. It is expected to burn out at some point in its lifetime and normally a
    • Re:Antifreeze (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BlueAdept ( 1649 )
      I did this over a year ago, but my radiator was brand new when I installed it... and it's mounted in the wall in the garage with fans on it... the water is pumped with a central heating pump and piped to 3 PC's in the house.

      Anyone have bandwidth big enough to hold a picture or two because I'd get slashdotted instantly..
  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyPez ( 734706 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:45PM (#10681231)
    I hate to sound like an elitist, but this is fairly common practice for water cooled PC's. Except most people tend to use smaller heater cores. That, and tend to buy them new and clean.
    • Re:And? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SorcererX ( 818515 )
      Yes, and back in the old days this was the most common way to watercool their system. The overclockers would make their own waterblocks, get some hoses and a pump from a local aquarium or gardening shop and they'd go to the nearest scrapyard to get a good car radiator. Back then this would also generally turn out cheaper than going for high-end aircooling, not so anymore however. These days all and everyone just go to the nearest computer enthusiast shop and get a waterblock, a pump and hoses and an overp
      • These days all and everyone just go to the nearest computer enthusiast shop and get a waterblock, a pump and hoses and an overpriced mass produced radiator.

        Which is, usually, an automotive transmission cooler or heater core in a new package.


    • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by catch23 ( 97972 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @08:13PM (#10681764)
      Agreed. I'm using a 1990 Honda Accord radiator that was bought new off of ebay. It was the cheapest radiator that was still new. I use it to cool a total of 3 computer and 2 video cards. The hose adaptors to keep it from leaking were purchased from home depot. I bought a $40 500gph pond pump from petsmart to circulate the system... works pretty well.
  • Heh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:45PM (#10681235)
    They could have pushed it to 3.5GHz if they'd used the radiator from my '78 Chrysler Cordoba. It probably weighs more than the entire car that they pulled their radiator out of...
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:46PM (#10681242) Homepage
    After looking at his desk area I'm still trying to figure out how he gets air flow to his pc...

    Something tells me that half of this would have been unnecessary with 10 minutes of cleanup...
  • by MyNameIsFred ( 543994 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:48PM (#10681269)
    With the amount of coolant in the radiator, would it have been easier to use a five gallon bucket? It's not like he's really using the radiator's fins.
  • by Zoc_All_Alone ( 177585 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:49PM (#10681271) Homepage
    I'll give someone $5 if they can do this with a VW beetle radiator :P
  • from the forum (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Imagine a Porsche or Ferrari fan with it

    Real Porsches have air cooling.
    • They used to, but not anymore.

      As for water cooling in general, air cooling has always meant higher reliability for engines. Even after all those years, the water cooling is still one of the systems that fails most often in cars.

      Nothing beats blowing cool air on a chunk of metal for simplicity and reliability. Well, except for convection cooling, but you'd have to use humongous heatsinks for that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:50PM (#10681282)
    "Why go out and buy a water cooling system when you can do it with an old car radiator? That's exactly what One of The Twelve figured when he used the radiator from his brother's 1979 Toyota Corolla to cool his system. His Athlon64 3000+ can hit 2.5GHz smoothly now. "

    Unfortunately the brother's car no longer goes anywere.
    • Actually, the car could probably still go somewhere - it just wouldn't make it back. ;)
    • Unfortunately the brother's car no longer goes anywere.

      That might not be true. The last time I ran a 1970's Corolla without a radiator the only thing that happened was it blew a head gasket. This is actually very common on the 2t-c / 3t-c engine. For 40 miles I was limited to 40mph, and efficiency was shot to hell, something to do with fire and smoke spewing out the top of the engine.

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:50PM (#10681283) Journal
    You might be a redneck if ....
    Moonshiners occasionally used radiators to make cheap stills instead of doing the work of winding copper pipe. It was a really spectacularly bad idea, because they tended to have lead solder in them and other compounds that were really unwise to drink after they'd leached out into your distillate.

    Not sure if there's any relationship to the safety of using this for your computer cooler, though. And a 1979 Toyota seems about right for recycling by now - we just got rid of our 1985, which was still running after ~190K miles, albeit pretty roughly.

  • D'oh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:51PM (#10681288) Homepage
    $420 bucks saved in return for having a junk yard in your house. Proof of concept? Cool. Pontless 'because I could'? Cool. Way to save money? Lame.

    Pretty nifty idea though... I have a Brish Leyland duce and a half truck rad around here somewhere... now that thing should be enough to keep even a P4 within normal operating temperatures.
  • Nothing new. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pirow ( 777891 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:53PM (#10681300)
    People have been using old car radiators for water cooling for ages, probably before the advent of commercial water cooling kits, so I don't see what the big deal is. A quick google search [] shows that people using car radiators for water cooling is nothing new so I'd hardly class this as news.
  • Apple did it already (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caveat ( 26803 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:53PM (#10681302)
    The G5's liquid cooling system is manufactured by Delphi [], a pretty well-known auto parts manufacturer.
  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @06:56PM (#10681324) cool a Class-A amp i'm building right now that dissipates 200w of pure heat continuosly. My first thought was a small motorcycle oil radiator, but that would need a small fan to help the airflow and i wanted too keep it as noiseless as possible. Car radiators are so big that the surface area is enough to cool the "modest" power requirements of electronics without aditional fans.

    Those old car radiators can be found in different sizes, and they're dirt cheap if bought as replacements for old models - or free if found lying arround as junk.

    The tricky part is to make it look good though...
    • might want to look into the coil unit from an automobile heating system.

      I remember seeing a previous /. article about using one from something like a 57 Buick.

    • but that would need a small fan to help the airflow and i wanted too keep it as noiseless as possible

      Not a problem... just wire your radiator fan to run at 7 volts and you'll hardly be able to hear it. 5 volts tends to not get enough air flow... 12 volts is too loud. I had one beside my desk for a year or two... []

      • My main concern, besides noise, it's that it introduces another "break point" in the system; which means i'll have to monitor the waterblock temperature constantly (extra circuitery). Not only in case the fan dies; also if the pump dies, or the radiator becomes clogged. Besides that, it's all advantages.

        Other thing i considered was a smaller heatsink inside a pipe with two fans blowing, again, at low voltages (5-9 volts). If the sink is large enough this would work quite nicely, but dust acumulation i
        • With a decent amount of water in the system, you get several hours before significant heat buildup occurs... and of course when the system is idle, you aren't generating heat. So you if you are at home, using the system and the fan fails, you'll notice it. If it fails when you are away, hopefully you'll be back before it's a problem! ;)
    • Thought about using a bike rad instead of an oil cooler? They often come with fan attached, almost always come with a coolant temperature sensor, which can be used to turn the fan on. (Although they probably kick in at ~220 degrees F, which might be a little high for you).

      I have one here with an 8" fan, fan plus rad is about 5" deep; the rad itself is about 10x12x2".

      And instead of running coolant, I'd just run soft water in it. It will cool a little better, but not kill your dog.
  • by rshimizu12 ( 668412 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @07:03PM (#10681372)
    The real question his how long will your wife or girlfriend put up with a car radiator in the house...????
    • I just had a thought: If you were building a house with airconditioning, pretty standard, how hard would it be to plumb the aircon cooling lines to certain rooms (just one or two; basement, office, etc...) and finish with tops and standard fittings. Then you can just connect all the hardware in that room to the house's full strength chiller, woot!
  • Does it run Gentoo []?
  • by to_kallon ( 778547 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @07:14PM (#10681444)
    It was really difficult to attach so that not a single leak occurs.
    notice the use of duct tape in a number of the pictures...
    when it's gotta be *totally* leak proof, i choose duct tape. remember kids, there's no problem so great that duct tape can't solve it.

    • What I don't get is why (on the Radiator side) the typical radiator screw-down fasteners weren't used -- Duct taping them on there will work, and since there's effectively little PSI in the lines, they won't pop that way, but still...

  • Heater core (Score:4, Informative)

    by anethema ( 99553 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @07:22PM (#10681485) Homepage
    What most people do with home brew water cooling is take the heater core out of a car.

    The fins are generally finer and denser, and the core itself is a much more managable size.

    Then you get a beefy aquarium pump, small resevoir...and make your own waterblock with a drill press.
    The waterblock is the one part you might want to buy.

    Throw some fans on the heater core, hook it up with clear tubing (put springs inside where the tube needs to bend to avoid kinking), install, fill, add some antifreeze to avoid growth and corrosion, and up you go.

    Its really not that hard, even for a layman.
    • Re:Heater core (Score:2, Informative)

      Water Cooling IS simple and easy to setup.

      But, when it comes to liquids and electronics, the average joe will say "ARe you crazy? I don't wanna destroy my Computer"

      Deal with that. If you can, and in general it's not hard to convince somebody to go with water cooling, they will not regret it.

      Usually water cooling kits, if the pieces are well selected, will last many years no matter which cpu you'll have. The worst would be you'd have to buy a new cpu block but some manufactures sell kits which can fit the
    • Re:Heater core (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bilestoad ( 60385 )
      Five years ago you would have been right - but you're obviously not keeping up. Many mfrs now offer water cooling systems, there are even all-in-one systems from companies like Thermaltake - if you can install a conventional CPU cooler, you can install water cooling.

      When high quality reasonably priced waterblocks became available from Danger Den, Swiftech etc. it became a complete waste of time to make your own unless you're unemployed and have nothing better to do.

      Inside springs are a thing of the past (
      • Problem is that much of the comercial rads are quite weak compared to heatercores from cars.
      • I'm keeping up fine. You will notice I said homebrew watercooling.

        Those kits are shitty as hell compared to even the one i described.

        If you purchase the waterblock a heatercore is a much better rad than any of those shitty ones you get wiht kits like swiftech or danger den.

        Thermaltake and every single other one of those 'fits right in your 5.25 bay' coolers are total garbage. These are barely an improvment over air cooling, although quieter.

        Inside springs work much better than outside springs because th
  • Watercoolers have been using car heater cores (the radiators that go in the dash for the inside heating/cooling) forever to cool their loops. You can even buy them [] with the ends pre-cut for normal hose sizes (I just bought one from a junk yard for $10 and cut the hose ends myself). This is a just a normal "bigger is better" (and impractical...) progression.
  • Why not just run tap water through it, its always cool.
  • Is a forum that has not been /.'ed to a standstill.
  • Aquarium (Score:4, Funny)

    by HermanAB ( 661181 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @07:36PM (#10681558)
    Why not just heat your tropical aquarium with it?

    Or even better, a hot tub? At least that may get you a girlfriend...

  • So how is the power supply being cooled? That fan is the biggest noise source in all of my gear.

    • My guess is that he has something like one of these []. The only disadvantage to a fanless power supply (besides cost) is that the computer usually still needs an exhaust fan to get rid of the heat in the case. But with his setup, I guess he doesn't need it.
      • Re:Power Supply (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kris_J ( 10111 ) *
        I'm running a normally-clocked (Linux) PC 24/5 (doesn't need to be on on the weekends) server with a fanless power supply, a Zalman 6000-series passive CPU heatsink and a pair of passive-only graphics cards. I did install the big fan that came with the Zalman at its slowest setting. (You can't hear it. Pull the plug while the system is live, there's no change in noise.) The only things that make any noise at the two hard drives. I have no exhaust fan and it works fine. Big case though. Haven't used it
  • With the benches only beeing at 2.4 ghz if he can hit 2.5 ghz so smoothly?
  • ...wait a couple months until you can buy a chip that runs at those speeds without a radiator.
  • Initially, and not too long ago, people made use of these sorts of things to do water cooling. It's only recently that 'kits' and purpose-built equipment has become available. The hobby hasn't matured enough for this to become 'old skool' yet...
  • Upscale radiator... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Polo ( 30659 ) * on Sunday October 31, 2004 @09:20PM (#10682049) Homepage
    If you're getting a surplus radiator, it might be more interesting to
    hunt around for a curved radiator like those starting to appear
    on recent motorcycles...

    for example: agusta18.jpg []

  • Not New (Score:4, Informative)

    by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @09:28PM (#10682087)
    This is not something new. The 1986 Chevette radiator for $19 at Autozone is the most commonly used radiator for DIY water cooling on a budget. []
  • by LazloToth ( 623604 ) on Sunday October 31, 2004 @10:54PM (#10682432)

    Ever thought about what you could do with the forced hot water heating system in your house??? The typical 1800-square-foot house probably has, what, a dozen radiator units or so? My god, you could probably run a Z-80 at 36 Mhz with such a thing!
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Monday November 01, 2004 @02:04AM (#10683501) Homepage
    He takes that thing to a LAN Party ???

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor