How to tell if stock radiator has been upgraded? - Nissan Armada Forum: Armada & Infiniti QX56 Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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How to tell if stock radiator has been upgraded?

The previous owner of my 2010 Armada, based on the vehicle history report, appeared to be quite conscientious and informed of recalls, etc. I have a slight suspicion he may have swapped out the OEM radiator for one with metal lines less likely to crack and dump fluid into the tranny. How can I tell if my radiator is OEM or aftermarket? Is there an OEM upgrade that uses metal lines?

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 07:44 AM
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If you take some pictures of the radiator from various angles (top, bottom, etc...) then someone here can probably tell you.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 08:16 AM
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Here’s a DIY thread in the DIY forum you may want to smoke over. It may help answer a question or thrice...

https://www.clubarmada.com/forums/33...eplacment.html
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
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That thread is very informative. I think the key thing to look for is the white plastic hose nipples on the bottom? If they are metal, then it's been swapped. Right?
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 02:45 PM
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That thread is very informative. I think the key thing to look for is the white plastic hose nipples on the bottom? If they are metal, then it's been swapped. Right?
All metal (or rather, aluminum) construction would be a better option than any radiator with plastic end caps, such as the stock radiator.

The OEM design uses the heat from the engine coolant (sealed top section of radiator) to heat up the transmission fluid in the sealed lower section of the radiator unit. The problem is that the two "sealed" sections don't always stay isolated from each other, which causes coolant to mix with the transmission fluid, and it ends up killing your transmission.

Lots of people seem to think this is an oil cooler; it is not. It's a heat exchanger.

Most people with the factory auxiliary transmission oil cooler, aka "big tow package" bypass the "fluid heater" and remove the potential leaking situation. Or, if there is no factory cooler present, then they buy an auxiliary oil cooler, and bypass the "fluid heater" with the aftermarket parts.

There are some YouTube videos showing how to do it. It's easy.
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Last edited by DanF.; 05-07-2019 at 01:56 PM. Reason: not a fluid heater
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. And how is the real-world performance of the aux coolers that people install?

I had an Xterra with the same problem, and I did the bypass without adding an aux cooler. Everything was fine for years until I tried to aggressively drive up a long steep dirt road up a mountain, and my transmission overheated. Didn't end up hurting it, but I had a new all-metal radiator put in after that with all the bypassed lines reconnected, and drove that road again with no issues.

Similarly for my Armada, is it low risk to do the bypass now without installing an aux cooler, assuming I'm not going to be aggressively driving in the desert any time soon, and add the cooler later as time/money permits?
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Last edited by lava; 05-06-2019 at 03:24 PM.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-07-2019, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
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Thanks. And how is the real-world performance of the aux coolers that people install?

I had an Xterra with the same problem, and I did the bypass without adding an aux cooler. Everything was fine for years until I tried to aggressively drive up a long steep dirt road up a mountain, and my transmission overheated. Didn't end up hurting it, but I had a new all-metal radiator put in after that with all the bypassed lines reconnected, and drove that road again with no issues.

Similarly for my Armada, is it low risk to do the bypass now without installing an aux cooler, assuming I'm not going to be aggressively driving in the desert any time soon, and add the cooler later as time/money permits?
For the first few years of productions Armadas without the "big tow" package didn't have aux. trans. coolers. I suspect you'll be fine.

Also, they're like $80, and take an hour to install.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-07-2019, 11:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the info.

I'm a little confused - if the lower part of the stock radiator is a transmission fluid heater, then what good does installing an auxiliary cooler do after the bypass if it's not warming it up? In my service manual, the ports on the bottom of the radiator are titled "A/T fluid cooler hose".

Also, the 2004 and 2005 Armada factory service manuals show the transmission fluid ports on the bottom of the radiator exploded view.

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Last edited by lava; 05-07-2019 at 11:38 AM.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-07-2019, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
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Thanks for all the info.

I'm a little confused - if the lower part of the stock radiator is a transmission fluid heater, then what good does installing an auxiliary cooler do after the bypass if it's not warming it up? In my service manual, the ports on the bottom of the radiator are titled "A/T fluid cooler hose".
The "fluid heater" is only there to help get the transmission fluid warmed up so it shifts easier, and presumably helps with MPGs. After the initial warm-up the transmission will continue to heat up the fluid to a higher temp than the residual heat from the engine coolant-to-trans. fluid heat exchanger in the radiator.

The transmission fluid temperatures still need to be brought down for towing, heavy loads, etc... so the cooler is routed to be the last piece of equipment in the system before the fluid goes back into the transmission.

Does that help explain things?

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-07-2019, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. So when the radiator is bypassed and an aux cooler installed, the transmission fluid will be slower to warm up but will still be cooled once it's hot?

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