How to Maximize Your Mustang's Cooling System
Written By: Glenn Cope II

One of the most important mechanical systems on a car is also, very often, one of the most overlooked and neglected—Your Mustang's engine cooling system.

Should I use water or coolant?

On today's engines, cooling system maintenance is critical to the life of the engine. With the variety of metals used in your Mustang's motor, there has to be something besides the water in the cooling system to protect those metals from corrosion. There are a variety of different coolant formulas in a variety of colors in use by automakers, all with specific metal protection factors. It's not like the old days when you just grab the good old green stuff off the parts store shelf. Run the wrong coolant in your motor and you take the chance of damaging corrosion taking place.

Should I run an aluminum radiator in my Mustang?

Radiators or, more technically correct, heat exchangers take the excess heat away from the engine and release this heat to the air. For the most part, radiators in today's cars are made with an aluminum core with composite tanks. These radiators are lighter, stronger and more efficient than the copper brass radiators once used. They are also a good deal less expensive to produce. A few cars use all aluminum radiators and most aftermarket performance radiators are also made entirely of aluminum. The other advantage to aluminum radiators is that since the aluminum dissipates heat so well, the radiator cores can be smaller, yet still offer the cooling capacity of larger copper brass units. Another advantage to aluminum is that it is very easily recycled, an ever growing concern in today’s world. One disadvantage is that aluminum corrodes very easily so proper coolant mixtures are critical.

Properties of an Aluminum Radiator


Lighter, stronger and more efficient
Lower cost
Better heat disbursement
Larger cooling capacity
Easily recycled


Easily corroded (another reason to use the proper coolant!)

TIP: Never use tap water in your Mustang’s cooling system!

What Coolant Should I Buy?

The best coolants to buy to maximize the cooling system efficiency and protection are the ones that are premixed with deionized water. You should never use tap water in your engine's cooling system, only deionized water. Deionized water is water that has been purified of contaminants and the mineral elements have been filtered out, minimizing deposits that may collect in the cooling system that can block critical water passages in the motor or the cooling tubes of the radiator.

How does a Mustang's cooling system operate?

The coolant flows out of the radiator outlet near the bottom of the radiator and is pushed into the motor by the water pump. The coolant then travels through the block and up through the heads on its way toward the water outlet. Just behind the water outlet on most motors resides the thermostat. The thermostat regulates the flow of water, restricting the flow to the radiator until the water temperature reaches the point where it is fully open. Once fully open the hot coolant flows out of the motor to the inlet near the top of the radiator. The coolant then passes through the tubes of the radiator where it gives up heat to the passing airflow.

Why Replace Your Mustang's Stock Radiator?

Aftermarket all aluminum radiators are a great upgrade for any Mustang owner looking to cool things down. They are built stronger and provide enhanced cooling over the OEM radiator. And an extra benefit is the good looks that a shiny all aluminum radiator adds to the under hood appearance of your car.

One area you should be sure not to neglect is your Mustang's cooling system. Proper maintenance of which will go a long ways toward extending the life of the motor and keep it operating at its full potential.

When Does My Mustang Need Better Cooling?

Generally, for basic modifications a stock cooling system is substantially adequate. They perform quite well and last a long time. However, if an engine is being custom built or having a supercharger/turbocharger installed, it might be a good idea to upgrade the radiator. Utilizing something such as an aluminum radiator does a solid job of dissipating heat and keeping operating temperatures at a respectable level.

For a daily driver, it will hardly be necessary. For a racing application however, cooler temperatures never hurt to attain when highly modified. If you plan on doing some heavy road racing, looking into a differential cooler could be a solid idea. They generate some heat and while normally not an issue, over prolonged periods of high rpm it can get hot.