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Old 09-17-2016, 01:59 PM   #1
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Thoughts On Electric Radiator Fans?

On vacation in Mich. recently I was chatting with my friend (former heavy mechanic) about the new pick up trucks with only electric cooling fans on the radiators. He said several of his friends have them and they work fine.
I want to investigate these as a possible solution to the horrendous noise the fan makes on my old '88 Itasca with a 454 Chevy engine.
On our almost 5K mile trip by the end of the day my ears were ringing much worse and normal and was also somewhat dazed.
Previously I had insulated as much as possible on the firewall area and inside with thick foam and carpet. New seal on the doghouse also.
If anyone has any info on the cfm rating of the fans and what the cfm might be for my original 7 blade engine fan it would be appreciated.
I also was thinking of moving the a/c condensor from the radiator to lessen the heat going thru the radiator. When I do not have to use the a/c, which is seldom in Az., the fan engaged much less frequently. I had a VW bus that had 2 condensors mounted under the center of the bus so I know they can be moved.
The current engine fan when running the a/c makes a difference of about 1 1/2 to 2 mpg depending on other factors like towing and terrain.
I did do a search here but came up empty but do remember a thread on this several years ago where someone was installing electric fans but don't know the outcome.
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Old 09-17-2016, 02:14 PM   #2
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I like the idea of putting in electric fans , and I can sympathize with not enjoying the noise. I plan on using electric radiator fans when I get that far in my own project.

I don't know the cfm of the original fan, but there other things to consider besides the cfm. The electric fans are mounted up against the radiator increasing their efficiency. Also, they don't need to take into account the engine movement so they can be better shrouded, also increasing their efficiency.

One thing to keep in mind is that electric fans will have an additional draw on your electric system. You might need to upgrade your alternator to supply the current you need for the electric fans.

If you aren't using the A/C, there is no additional heat being transferred to the radiator. Check out the recent thread on removing the A/C condenser for a good discussion. You can always wire up the A/C fans for a push/pull fan setup.

I would start with checking out a similar engined truck with electric fans to give you some good ideas, especially mounting. I am not a fan of the trough-radiator mounts that you often see. I would make a mount similar to the mount that holds the A/C fans.

Also, check out the condition of your A/C fans. After almost 30 years, you might consider upgrading them as well.
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Old 09-17-2016, 02:42 PM   #3
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Old 09-17-2016, 03:12 PM   #4
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I think you are asking for trouble moving the AC condensers under the RV.

It sounds like your fan clutch is frozen....

Since you have an '88 RV, now 28 years old....... Does it have a thermostatic fan clutch? Or a fixed fan???? If it's a FIXED fan, meaning it does not have a 'clutch' to engage and disengage the fan as needed. A broken or fixed fan could be the source of your noise and MPG loss. Takes power to run a big fan at high RPM.

Or, was the OEM clutch fan replaced by someone with a 'better idea?'

It could be your fan clutch (if you have one) is duff. If it is, or if it has many miles/years of use, it could be frozen 'ON'.' Meaning it is 'pulling' all the time. Not good.

There are ways to check it but were it me, I'd just replace it. (And checking/replacing the water pump!!! Hoses!!! Belts!!!!) I haven't had a vehicle with a clutch fan in over a decade. IIRC, companies like Hayden make fan clutches for 'normal' use and 'heavy duty' use. Probably what ever came as an OEM fitment would be OK.

If you don't know.... here's how they work. They have a silicone material that expands and contracts with hot and cold. When cold, the fan will pull a little bit because the silicone is stiff. Once it warms up due to friction, the fan should spin freely. Under most conditions, the fan sort of free wheels or pulls very lightly. As the air passing through the radiator is heated up the fan clutch (with that fancy aluminum ribbed hub) also heats up. There's a thermostatic coil spring on the face of the hub. As it heats it uncoils and turns a valve inside the hub closing or opening small openings to control the flow of the silicone. It works like a throttle to give just the right increase in fan speed. If it gets really hot.... it will 'lock' the fan on and it will be driven hard by the engine creating max cooling for the radiator and AC condenser. When it cools down.... it just backs off and the fan may be lightly driven... or just free wheel.

It would be a mighty fine idea to look at the area in front of the AC condenser coil. And IN BETWEEN the AC condenser and the radiator. Just to be sure that you don't have leaves, old paper bags, dead squirrels, etc., blocking the air flow.

Did the RV come with a shroud behind the radiator surrounding the fan??? Is it still there and in good condition? Was there a chin spoiler under the bumper that has now gone away?

Is there anything in front of the AC coil that is blocking air flow? A bug screen? A 'been there-done that sign?

You might try JEG's racing equipment. They may have nifty fans. Or maybe a dual fan set up that would be quieter than the OEM. But to power them you are going to have to have some good quality wiring off the battery set. They do a lot of that kind of modifications on big engine custom cars with very tight under hood space.
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Old 09-17-2016, 03:15 PM   #5
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Oh... and about fan clutches..... Do not sit them on end!!! NEVER. EVER. They need to be set in the same orientation as they are used. Even a new one..... Always... in the orientation they are to be used.
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Old 09-17-2016, 04:37 PM   #6
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I do not like the sound of an electric fan.

I would find out if your thermal fan is working correct. Typically they do not have to run all the time. If it is very hot they might.
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:28 PM   #7
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It seems to me some years back there was a discussion of the same thing.
the consensus was that there is no electric fan that comes close to the air movement of a factory fan. It seems the factory fans move about 5 times the air of an electric. If your fan is always on there is a issue with the clutch on it. I have replaced mine twice since owning my unit for 16 years. One of the things I did that helped a lot was seal to up the front end so all air coming in through the grill has to go through the radiator. I have cleaned the A/C coil up front which also helped to get more air through the radiator. Also how is the air dam above the radiator? That needs to be in place so the air can go through the radiator. Last but not least what's the condition of the radiator. i recored mine about 6 years ago. It was quite plugged with silicone silicate.
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Old Crows View Post
Oh... and about fan clutches..... Do not sit them on end!!! NEVER. EVER. They need to be set in the same orientation as they are used. Even a new one..... Always... in the orientation they are to be used.
I believe this might be an old wives tale like setting batteries on concrete will discharge them.


Workhorse does not agree with you either.

At the auto parts store all of the fan clutches are in a box and are laying flat. So with that in mind I would think there would be a lot of fan clutches not working due to your theory.

No where on the box does it say to store vertical, if fact it says it on the fan clutch itself to store flat.
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Old 09-17-2016, 07:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BA-in-Mich View Post
It seems to me some years back there was a discussion of the same thing.
the consensus was that there is no electric fan that comes close to the air movement of a factory fan.
I doubt this is fact. I once owned a 96 Chevrolet 9c1 and as part of the heavy duty service package the mechanical fan was completely eliminated, replaced by 2 electric fans. One or both would run depending on temperature and load. And these were cars designed to idle 8 hours at a time with ac running then be expected to drive high speeds for who knows how long in all temperatures. Never had an overheat issue during my ownership.
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Old 09-17-2016, 08:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leadman View Post
On vacation in Mich. recently I was chatting with my friend (former heavy mechanic) about the new pick up trucks with only electric cooling fans on the radiators. He said several of his friends have them and they work fine.
I want to investigate these as a possible solution to the horrendous noise the fan makes on my old '88 Itasca with a 454 Chevy engine.
On our almost 5K mile trip by the end of the day my ears were ringing much worse and normal and was also somewhat dazed.
Previously I had insulated as much as possible on the firewall area and inside with thick foam and carpet. New seal on the doghouse also.
If anyone has any info on the cfm rating of the fans and what the cfm might be for my original 7 blade engine fan it would be appreciated.
I also was thinking of moving the a/c condensor from the radiator to lessen the heat going thru the radiator. When I do not have to use the a/c, which is seldom in Az., the fan engaged much less frequently. I had a VW bus that had 2 condensors mounted under the center of the bus so I know they can be moved.
The current engine fan when running the a/c makes a difference of about 1 1/2 to 2 mpg depending on other factors like towing and terrain.
I did do a search here but came up empty but do remember a thread on this several years ago where someone was installing electric fans but don't know the outcome.
leadman:

Check out this link. Brian has a lot of info on 454.

Electric fan conversion | Harris Performance, INC
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Old 09-18-2016, 03:23 AM   #11
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I do not like the sound of an electric fan.

I would find out if your thermal fan is working correct. Typically they do not have to run all the time. If it is very hot they might.
Just curious Glenn, is it the sound of an electric fan or the thought of having a fan that's electric that you don't like?

Electric fans are much quieter than their mechanical counterparts. All 3 of my Mercedes diesels and my ZR-1 Corvette have electric fans and I have never had a cooling problem with any of them. As far as reliability, I think the electric motor is at least as reliable as the fan clutch. Most of the time I have seen issues with an electric fan has been poor wiring installations.

As I said, just curious. Your experience may be different.
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Old 09-18-2016, 07:26 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by DeOrellana View Post
Just curious Glenn, is it the sound of an electric fan or the thought of having a fan that's electric that you don't like?

Electric fans are much quieter than their mechanical counterparts. All 3 of my Mercedes diesels and my ZR-1 Corvette have electric fans and I have never had a cooling problem with any of them. As far as reliability, I think the electric motor is at least as reliable as the fan clutch. Most of the time I have seen issues with an electric fan has been poor wiring installations.

As I said, just curious. Your experience may be different.
It is the sound.

I hate (and that is not to strong of a term) the angry buzzing sound they make.

I think there is nothing worse than looking at a beautify hot rod, listening to the rumble of a big block exhaust, only to hear it's electric fan cut on.

People have been using electric fans successfully to cool engines for many years.

Gillig, a bus chassis manufacturer, uses 12 fans to cool their transit buses.

I am on good terms with the Corporate Manager of Service of Gillig. He tells me they will no longer use the hydraulically driven fan to cool the transit buses and are now exclusively using the electric fans.

I agree the clutch fan is problematic. I have removed them in the past and used flex fans in their place. I have one on my 1984 Jeep, which are known to have cooling problems. Even in the very hot days we have had this summer it has not overheated. Another factor there is I also installed a three row desert radiator in it. A note here is you can have the best fan available and to small a radiator and you will never keep an engine cool.

We are drifting away from the topic here but let me say this. Operating temperature of an engine is very important to it's performance. Temperature of the engine is controlled by it's thermostat. You can have a huge radiator and fan and have the engine run at the correct temperature.

Moral of this story is what ever you do, have enough cooling capacity to cool the engine on the hottest day and heaviest load (radiator, radiator shroud, proper antifreeze concentration, good hoses, water pump capacity, proper flow (to fast and the engine will not cool) and fan).

People do not realize that the cooling system requires a lot of things balanced to work correctly.

I have talked to him (Corporate Manager of Service, back on topic) about the fans. They have a computer control module that turns fans on as they are needed. They require an additional alternator, run on 24 volts, and require 200 amps.

My Motor Home (on a Gillig chassis) uses the old school hydraulically driven fan (it is not belt driven, but driven by a hydraulic motor (side discharge)). It is controlled by temperature sensors.

There is something very satisfying about the sound of that fan coming on.

The thing is HUGE, and when it is running can (and has as I use it as a method of getting the engine to warm up quickly) literally suck a piece of cardboard up against the grill and hold it there.

It is 39 feet away from where I sit when driving the motor home, and you can hear it when it comes on.

Sorry for the long response.

In summery, electric fans when done correctly are very reliable. Some of them are quieter then others. If you are going to build a nostalgic piece it should look and sound correct (What are you going to do with paint? Period correct, or modernistic?)

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Old 09-18-2016, 08:13 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by GlennLever View Post
It is the sound.

I hate (and that is not to strong of a term) the angry buzzing sound they make.

I think there is nothing worse than looking at a beautify hot rod, listening to the rumble of a big block exhaust, only to hear it's electric fan cut on.

...

In summery, electric fans when done correctly are very reliable. Some of them are quieter then others. If you are going to build a nostalgic piece it should look and sound correct (What are you going to do with paint? Period correct, or modernistic?)

Glenn
I do believe we are in agreement on this point, Glenn. A period vehicle should have a period sound.

In this case, though, the OP is looking to quiet down his vehicle. I do not hear the fan when it kicks in on my ML 400cdi, and that fan is not that far from me. On top of being well designed, I believe it's also speed controlled so it kicks in at a lower speed and only goes to high when absolutely necessary. But before I would make any modifications to the system, I would make sure that all parts, as Glenn mentioned, are operating correctly so that the fan doesn't have to run unnecessarily.
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Old 09-18-2016, 10:19 AM   #14
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There is no mechanical problems with my cooling system or fan clutch. The radiator was new a few years ago along with the heavy duty fan clutch. It cycles on at 195 degrees and off at 185 degrees. Shroud is in place and functioning. I closed up any open space around the radiator support and replaced the condensor recently and the rubber around the edge of the electric fan mounts. Relays and wires for the electric fans were replaced and I can turn them on manually if I want. I do turn them on before shutting the engine down to fuel when traveling. This helps keep the air moving over the carb.

if I am traveling on level terrain and not towing anything and I don't run the air then the fan clutch will stay disengaged most of the time. Normal conditions here in Az. are I am towing either the wife's Tracker or a boat and the air is on and we are climbing in elevation. Even when climbing a 6 miles grade the engine temperature will seldom go over 195 degrees.

I have lost the top third of the range of my hearing and the noise really bothers me. Also can not wear the hearing aids when driving so talking with my wife is out going down the road. I tried using ear plugs but really don't like not being able to hear other sounds.

I do have room behind the front bumper to mount 2 condensors with electric fans and should still get good air flow there.
Today it is supposed to get to 105 degrees, tomorrow 107.

I do have considerable experience with cooling systems having starting my career working for Cummins in 1969 at 17 years old and ending it as a shop foreman for the City of Phoenix in 2007. I just have not seen an electric fan conversion done successfully to an older vehicle like my motor home. As a mechanic I did retrofit electric fans to equipment like sewer cleaners with hydraulics that needed extra cooling in our climate.
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