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Installing an External Oil Cooler

Tags: Tech, Tech, Hot Rod, Street

In my quest to help keep my Big Block Chevy running cool I've decided to add an external oil cooler. We all know we need radiators, fans, and shrouds to tame those water coolant temperatures. We use coolers to keep our automatic transmissions performing correctly. So why not use an oil cooler. Especially if your engine likes to run hot. Oil is the most important fluid to the engine and one of the most neglected. The number of moving parts within an engine transfers to a lot of friction. Friction quickly builds heat and will cause inevitable damage if not lubricated correctly. Ever rub your hands together really fast?

There are a few considerations when adding an oil cooler. Engine oil is designed to run between certain temperatures hence the different viscosities of oil. The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to deformation at a given rate. In engine oil, as the heat builds, the viscosity breaks down (thickness) and oil becomes less effective at lubricating the necessary parts. If you add an external oil cooler and drive during cold weather the oil may not reach its desired viscosity and remain thick. This will cause the oil not to flow as needed through the engine and will do more harm than good. In this case, you would need to add a thermostat in line with the oil cooler, allowing the oil to build the proper heat before opening and allowing oil to pass through the cooler.

Speedway offers two universal oil cooler adapters from Earls that incorporate a thermostat and simply attach where your oil filter mounts on the engine. Part number 425503ERL fits a 13/16"-16 thread pitch spin-on filter, part number 425502ERL fits 3/4"-16 threads. The thermostat within these begins to open at 160 degrees and is fully open at 180 degrees. For my vehicle, I chose part number 573185, Transdapt Oil Cooler Block Adapter. This adapter also mounts onto the block and simply attaches where your oil filter spins on. It has 2 ports that are 1/2" NPT so you will need fittings to attach your hose from the adapter to the cooler. For the cooler, I chose part number 106LL7B, AFCO's 24-pass stacked plate oil cooler which also has 1/2" NPT ports. To connect the cooler lines I used four, 1/2" NPT to AN8 straight adapters, Speedway part number 61760491. Two AN8 straight push-on hose ends part number 62020031, that connects to the block adapter fittings. And two 90-degree AN8 push-on hose ends for the cooler fittings, part number 62020171. For the hose, I used Speedway part number 620108 black AN8 hose and utilized hose clamps as well since I would be at the upper temperature range of this hose.

I installed the pipe thread adapters into the cooler and block adapter using ARP thread sealer 1011009904 to prevent any leaks. Next up I positioned the cooler where I wanted it off to the driver’s side behind the grill opening of my 54 Belair. To mount it here I needed to fabricate my own bracket. So I turned to my scrap pile of metal and found some 1" square tubing, some re-bar and some 1-1/2" flat plate steel. The square tubing I used for the upper and lower mounting surface of the cooler and the rebar I welded to the backside of the tubing to connect them.

To strengthen this after bolting the cooler in place I used the flat steel to make an angle brace from the top mount of the cooler to the core support of the car. So I bolted it in place on the filler panel behind the grill for maximum airflow and to the core support to add stability.

Next, I installed the block adapter to the engine. Simply remove your oil filter and place the adapter up into the block, O-ring side up and thread the center adapter to the existing oil filter stud. You can spin the adapter to orient the inlet and outlet of the hose connections however you choose and tighten down. The only thing left was to run my hose to the connections on the adapter and cooler. Using AN8 push-on hose ends allows you to clock the direction you want the hose to run. I ran my hose in line with the bock to the front of the car and through the core support to the cooler. Be sure to use grommets when running through any sheet metal so the hose does not get punctured or cut. A couple of hose clamps and zip ties to keep the hoses in place and I was done. After an oil change with Penn Grade 1 10W-30 synthetic blend oil and new filter, my installation was complete.

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