Transit Cooling Solutions

Bus Radiators: Ditch the Plastic and Go All-Aluminum

Yes, you can still find products made the way “they used to make ‘em.” When radiators or charge air coolers fail in buses, maintenance technicians and parts buyers often have to deal with replacement hassles. They need to get a bus going again, and fleet managers need heat transfer solutions. Sometimes a bus is still under warranty, but the OEM can’t supply replacement parts fast enough to meet the need.

A California Transit Authority Customer Story

Just this week, a primary transit authority in California called KIRKS to place an order. The purchasing manager mentioned that they had buses sitting idle as they waited for OEM replacement radiators. While this transit authority had a strict OEM-only policy, they were open to learning about an Approved Equal TM radiator built by Transit Cooling Solutions (TCS), one of KIRKS’ suppliers.

The purchasing manager was surprised to learn that the TCS drop-in replacement bus radiator exceeded OEM specs, was in stock, and could arrive in two days at a significantly lower cost than the OEM replacement. How could they not give it a go? They placed the order. We’re confident they’re going to come back for more. Why? Keep reading!

Keeping Bus Engines Cool with Radiators and Charge Air Coolers

For those who have yet to become acquainted with the function of radiators and charged air coolers, briefly stated, they keep bus engines cool. We refer to these as “heat transfer” solutions because they move heat out from engine components and transfer that heat in ways that allow it to dissipate safely. Heat transfer solutions maintain optimal engine temperatures and ensure the longevity of buses, making them an essential part of vehicle performance.

Radiators cool coolant. Coolant fluid is circulated through the engine by a pump, absorbs engine heat, and carries it back through the radiator. The radiator then cools the coolant with rapidly circulating air from a fan or the vehicle’s movement. When cool again, the coolant repeats the cycle by re-entering the engine for another round of heat transfer.

Charge air coolers (CACs) cool the compressed air. CACs are used in diesel engines, cooling the compressed air after passing through a turbocharger. The air compression in a turbocharger heats that air significantly, and the CAC reduces that heat and restores density which increases oxygen to prevent heat from transferring to the engine. As the hot compressed air passes through the CAC tubes, it is cooled by the surrounding air or by a separate cooling system, such as a coolant loop. This process reduces the air temperature before it enters the engine.

Lower Bus Engine Temperatures mean Higher Performance.

When every bus on your fleet has a properly functioning, high-quality radiator or charged air cooler, you can anticipate the following:

  • Consistent performance: Low temperatures from intake air and coolant circulation maintain an engine’s stable and reliable performance. Quality radiators and coolers keep buses at high performance in even the most demanding climates.
  • Fuel efficiency: With cooler operating temperatures, engines use less fuel for combustion, reducing fuel consumption and cost.
  • Longer life: Proper heat transfer protects the engine and its components from the wear and tear of thermal stress, increased pressure from hot air, and overheating.
  • Less maintenance: Reducing wear-and-tear means less need for repair, lowering maintenance costs and time that buses spend in the shop. Your buses are doing what they’re supposed to do: keep people moving!

Challenges when Bus Radiators and Coolers Fail

Typical bus radiators and charge air coolers incur premature failure, usually due to a leak, tear, or worn-out components. Without adequately functioning heat transfer systems, engines quickly overheat, leaving buses inoperable, and can cause extensive damage to engine components. Fleet managers need to get vehicles back in service, but dealing with OEM replacements is often a frustrating process.

When technicians want to troubleshoot radiator or cooler problems, OEMs have limited resources to learn about these parts and their maintenance, and many OEM reps won’t be able to provide part
information or maintenance direction.

Many OEMs do not maintain an inventory of radiators or charge air coolers. Instead, they are made to order. Supply chain disruptions due to mandated shutdowns during COVID have added to delays, and it can be as long as five months to get a replacement part for an inoperable bus. Even more egregious is that OEM parts usually come with higher costs.

Plastic is the Weak Link in Radiators and Charge Air Coolers

In the 80s, the automotive industry began manufacturing radiators with plastic tanks and transitioned away from copper. In the 2010s, bus manufacturers followed, manufacturing radiators with plastic end tanks.

Plastic tanks create three points of failure: the O ring, gasket, and tabs. Additionally, the plastic tanks are merely crimped on and held by tabs. Plastic material wears out quickly, leading to leaks and
cracks—sometimes within months. Despite their high cost and brand recognition, OEM parts don’t guarantee quality.

New Radiators and Charge Air Coolers: Alternatives with Transit Cooling Solutions

In contrast to radiators and CACs with plastic-mounted tanks, TCS manufactures solid, all-aluminum radiators and CACs. Welding removes the three points of failure found on mounted plastic tanks for a longer life cycle. Bonus: this added durability and built-in expertise come with surprisingly-sweet cost savings compared to an OEM replacement.

Transit Cooling Solutions has been providing high-quality radiators and charged air coolers for transit and independent coach buses since 1979. With over 40 years of experience, they have honed manufacturing and engineering expertise to produce high-quality, all-aluminum heat-transfer solutions. President and founder of Transit Cooling Solutions (TCS), Randy Lalonbe, served as president of NARSA: International Heat Transfer Association, with members in 34 countries.

“I’m privileged to be connected to a global network of experts in the heat exchange industry. This is TCS’s area of specialty. We’re deliberate about coupling our expertise with the manufacturing of exceptional products. When customers have questions, we’re a small enough company to hop on a call and talk it through; and we’re big enough to keep bus engines cool throughout North America.”

Randy Lalonbe, President, Transit Cooling Solutions

Radiators and charge air coolers from TCS meet or exceed OEM specifications and have earned KIRKS’ Approved Equal TM seal. TCS parts deliver quality with innovative aluminum end tank designs.

We understand the time and budget constraints of transit authorities and independent coach fleets. For the US market, KIRKS has radiators and CACs in stock, offering same-day or next-day shipping on most purchase orders, often with cost savings compared to OEM replacement prices.

Escape the Parts Trap with KIRKS and Transit Cooling Solutions

KIRKS’ partnership with Transit Cooling Solution is another way we’re working to help the transit and independent coach industries escape the parts trap.

When parts fail, costly OEM replacements are not the only solution. KIRKS Approved Equal TM parts and heat-transfer solutions from Transit Cooling Solutions offer affordable alternatives that meet or exceed OEM specifications.

KIRKS makes it easy to get everything you need in a single purchase order. Contact KIRKS today—your partner for parts!