Posted on 26th May 2017
Cooling may not be the first thing that comes to mind when building a high-performance car, but when you start getting more power out of your Mustang's engine, it doesn't take much to overload the stock cooling system. Here's what you should look for when deciding what changes to make to protect your car from overheating.
How Your Mustang's Cooling System Works
The water pump, mounted on the front of the engine, pushes coolant around through channels inside the block and heads.
Coolant goes through the pipes in the radiator. These pipes have metal fins that draw out heat from the coolant and transfer it to the surrounding air. To ensure there's plenty of cool air to draw off this heat, the front end is designed to funnel air through the radiator when going down the road, while the radiator fan draws in air to maintain flow at low speeds and when idling.
After passing through the radiator, the coolant goes through the lower radiator hose back into the water pump where it's pushed back through the engine.
Water to air intercoolers, like the ones used in the Shelby GT500 from 2007 to 2012, have their own cooling system circuit with an electric pump that circulates coolant from the intake to a small radiator.
When you start working on an old or abused Mustang, one of the first parts that should be replaced is the water pump. While you can pick up a rebuilt pump at any parts store, these pumps won't be able to handle the demands of high performance engines.
A quality replacement will use larger, higher quality bearings than the stock part paired with more finely machined channels for better flow. A basic replacement will have a stamped steel impeller, while high performance options like the PRW high performance pump use a cold rolled impeller to get a better shape for increased pumping and lower parasitic loses.
Like water pumps, hoses should be one of the first things
you should look at when inspecting your engine: years of holding hot, high
pressure coolant can lead to leaks that can put your engine in danger.
Silicone hoses are a great upgrade from rubber because they can better withstand heat and pressure, helping them handle coolant when you're pushing the engine to the limit on track days. They're also available in different colors to help dress up the engine bay.
Simply put, the more surface area the coolant has contact with, the more heat can be removed. This starts with using a radiator that uses heat-conducting aluminum in place of insulating plastic for the side tanks. Increasing the area of the radiator allows more air to pass through the fins than increasing the thickness of the radiator, but the difference between the two is often overestimated. For most engines, a thicker radiator with better construction can help eliminate most overheating issues while still fitting in the stock location.
Mustangs aren't known for their structural rigidity, and in high power applications, chassis twisting can move the radiator mounts around, separating the end tanks from the core. Mishimoto's stabilizer system addresses this with a floating mount that keeps these forces from torquing the radiator.
For extreme heat, Flex-A-Lite makes a two-row core radiator that has fins to the inside of the tubes. By increasing internal surface area, there's more radiator to coolant contact to get more heat into the external cooling fins to control temperatures.
Want colder air for your supercharged Mustang? AFCO's heat exchanger as all the benefits of a high-quality radiator including more surface area and all aluminum construction.
While metal fans use flat blades and early plastic fans look little different from what you'd find on a box fan, modern designs use finely tuned, high efficiency shapes that can move a lot more air, even in low profile packages that free up engine bay space. Switching to an electric fan from a mechanical fan also decreases parasitic loses, which means more power is left to turn the wheels. Since these fans don't depend on the engine, they can maintain airflow regardless of RPM, helping the motor stay cool when idling and even helping to bring temperatures down when the motor is off. Adding a shroud helps the fan pull air through the entire radiator core, which increases cooling effectiveness.
Get the Parts that Will Protect Your Mustang's
Anderson Ford Motorsport has been helping owners build high performance Mustangs since the dawn of the Fox Body era, so we know what works. We offer everything we need to improve your car's cooling system whether you use it for cruise nights or quarter miles.
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