Show or Go? Radiator Cooling Panels

22 01 2008

Hmm well you learn plenty in a week of having a blog. Technical pages get heaps of hits, opinion pieces go untouched. Well give the people what they want! Allow me to introduce my new column. Show or Go? Here I’ll be taking a hard look at some of the more dubious performance upgrades you can attach to your car and finding out if they actually make the car go faster, or if they’re just for show.

My first analysis will be an old favourite of mine. Radiator Cooling Panels.

Aka Hood Panels, Aka Bonnet blockers, Aka Mega happy cooling panel 3000!

I first came across these while working in my local tuning shop. A good earner, they sold well and were easy for modifiers to fit. Everybody wants their cars to run cooler and you’ll find these fitted to some seriously high performance machines in the D1 series. So they must work… right?

For those not in the know, a radiator cooling panel is a sheet of metal or carbon fiber that fits across the front of the car above the radiator. The idea is to prevent air from traveling over the top of the radiator, and instead force it through the radiator where it will have an actual cooling effect. A picture is worth a million words methinks.

Example of a Radiator Cooling Panel


The gap left open above the radiator that all the air escapes through 


All nice and plugged up now!

Ho ho ho, silly manufacturers. Don’t they know that leaving a big gap above the radiator means all the air will just flow past it? Whatever will we do with them.

Well of course they bloody well knew there was a gap there. Ladies and gentlemen, if I may direct your attention upwards. Have a long hard look at the bottom of your bonnet. You will notice, this:

OMG! Someone drew some badly photoshopped arrows underneath my bonnet!!1!

No as a matter of fact I’m pointing out the rubber seal that sits on the underside of your bonnet. And lets all look downwards again…


Got it yet? Hang on I’ll draw some lines that will explain a lot.

Ooooooh, anyone feeling like an idiot yet?

Yes in fact the manufacturers have blocked the top of the radiator using that rubber seal along the bonnet. Once air is forced into the front of the car it comes up against that rubber seal. It cant get past there so it finds another way out, by going through the radiator.

The reason cooling panels are popular in D1 is because they use carbon fiber hoods. These stripped out bonnets don’t have the rubber seal, so they need to make do with a cooling panel. But have a look at the pictures above, see all the gaps in the cooling panels to make room for the bonnet latch and so forth? Make no mistake, the near airtight seal of the rubber is a far better alternative that some chopped up tin.

So the Verdict. Unless your car is sporting a carbon fiber bonnet, cooling panels are definitely


How bad is the damage?

If you’ve got a full carbon fiber bonnet then your in the clear. It’d give you a better result if you had a rubber seal, but because that isn’t possible at least your cooling panel is of some use. 

If you have a stock bonnet with an aluminum Cooling panel your officially baby rice. Plenty of people have been in your shoes, don’t be to embarrassed, yes it has absolutely no use, but least you didn’t pay lots for it.

If you bought the $600 full carbon fiber cooling panel… Sorry buddy, you’ve paid through the nose for something that does little more than add weight. Rice king for you!






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