Tech Corner: Selecting and Installing an Electric Cooling Fan

A major setback of using a performance car for daily driving is that they sometimes lack in practicality. A lot of hot rodders make an effort to install things like overdrive, disc brakes, comfortable seating, and maybe even a great stereo system for their daily commute. At speed, cruising down the highway, this might be all that’s needed. Inevitably though, that car will find itself idling at a red light. And when this happens, an unsuspecting driver may find himself watching the temperature gauge steadily climb, until he’s stuck on the side of the road waiting for things to cool off. The installation of a proper electric cooling fan is the solution to this issue.

Mechanical vs Electric Cooling Fan

Daily driving purposes aren’t the only reason drivers may want to consider swapping to an electric cooling fan. Mechanical cooling fans are flawed in various ways. The major reason for overheating issues is that they only spin as fast as the engine does. Therefore at low RPMs, a mechanical fan may not be moving as much air as your radiator actually needs. Additionally, belt-driven fans have a reputation for being detrimental to horsepower, as the engine exhausts energy spinning the fan.

With that in mind, electric cooling fans operate at a consistent rate, regardless of the engine speed, and they do so without causing any loss of horsepower. If you choose to run a cooling system solely on electric cooling fans, you also save on engine space.

Understanding Airflow

When selecting the proper electric cooling fan, it really comes down to understanding your vehicle’s needs. There are pushers, pullers, single, and dual setups that come in various CFM measurements. CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is how much air is being moved by the fan. So how do you know what’s right for you? A good rule of thumb is the smaller the engine, the less CFM you’ll need. A 4-cylinder engine will likely only require a fan that can move around 1500 CFM. A big block V8 could need something up to 4500 CFM.

Point in the Right Direction

What direction do you want to move that air? Well, that gain depends on the application and your preferences. For most applications, a puller is recommended over a pusher. The reason being that, despite it being the fan’s job to cool the radiator, it will also cover most of it. As the vehicle moves down the road, and air is naturally pushed through the radiator, any areas that are covered won’t be able to reap the benefits of this natural occurrence. So if the application is running only on electric fans, a puller is often installed behind the radiator to pull the air through it and provide cooling. Pushers can be effective as well but, when it comes to maximum performance, are often recommended in an auxiliary capacity.

Measure Twice

Obviously, another thing to consider when selecting a fan, is what will physically fit into the space. The position of the radiator or changes made to the engine or cooling system can affect the area available, and therefore what style of set-up may fit. Additionally, there are some builds that use both a mechanical fan and an electric fan. It may sound like overkill but while the electric fan is a generally more efficient system, especially at low RPMs, a belt-driven set-up is better at pulling air at higher engine RPMs. In these instances, most builders will either run a toggle switch or connect the fan to the thermostat, keeping that electric fan as a backup. The room to mount an electric cooling fan on the inside of the engine bay is quite limited in this situation, so a push type fan would be best.


Installing an electric cooling fan is relatively easy, assuming you have done your research, measured properly, and selected the proper product. Even in the case that you have to actually pull the radiator from the car, it remains a fairly simple process.

Flex-a-lite is likely the brand you should opt for, as they are pretty much the go-to name in this division. Their fans typically install by using a nylon bolt with speed-nuts. You simply push the nut through the fins of the radiator, place the speed nut on the opposing side, and cut off the excess. Once you’ve done this all that is left to do is run the wiring for the fan. If you don’t feel comfortable attempting this installation, there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for a helping hand. Upon completion, your fears of the improper cooling will be a thing of the past. You can cruise comfortably and carefree, no longer fearing the dreaded red light.

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