BTR Radiator: great product; mediocre customer service; good alternative to OEM/CSF. - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 12:29 PM Thread Starter
mschi772
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BTR Radiator: great product; mediocre customer service; good alternative to OEM/CSF.

So after a ton of delays, I've finally replaced my radiator. CSF gets recommended a lot around here, but I was skeptical. The way that people just bark, "CSF!" the instant someone asks about radiators for the XJ without any real explanation had me worried that a lot of people were just regurgitating a recommendation that they'd read on the web without any real experience.

I'm not saying that CSF rads are bad because they're not, but I didn't like they idea of following the masses just because they tell me to especially when I couldn't find a single instance of anyone providing a quality comparison of CSF to any other radiator other than stock which many people have unfair, negative biases toward. I found it suspicious that so many people could claim that CSF is the best without even knowing of another option.

I actually wanted a quality OEM radiator, but I could not ever find one that had clear information regarding construction quality, manufacturer, or often even country of origin. I didn't like buying a "mystery repro," and while an all-aluminum radiator would have interested me, the price tags on them kept me from venturing down that path. That left copper/brass.

BTR (www.btr-radiator.com) is a company that has earned a good reputation among some other automotive niches such as some full-size SUV and pick-up truck guys. I've seen them used in some incredibly hardcore applications, but while they offer radiators for XJs, I could really only find vague posts by XJ guys mentioning their existance. I decided that people have kind of blindly given CSF a monopoly on XJ rads around here, so I was going to give someone else a try and do my best to relay my experience so that the next time someone looks for an alternative, they can find more than just a couple dated posts with nothing but a mention of BTR as a company.

Depending on your year/application, a radiator from BTR costs $190-220.

I apologize in advance that this post will not have many, if any, photos. I do have some photos attached of the packaging and the radiator when I received it. I was far too pressed for time when the opportunity to do the work presented itself that I could not spare the time/energy to take photos. There's not really much to show, anyway; once you've seen one radiator and/or radiator install, you've seen them all. Well, that's the case here anyway because there were no modifications necessary, and the radiator fit in perfectly.

Why did I replace my radiator?
I had a copper brass radiator of unknown origin that had badly bent fins and was leaking. It was narrow--one row; maybe two--and had the overflow tube on the driver's side of the rad cap/fill neck. Anyway, I had been experiencing climbing temps on hot days at idle and at highway speeds. All other areas of my cooling system were fully functional if not new except my thermostat.
What did I use?
  • Radiator hoses from NAPA.
  • Radiator hoses were clamped with fancy stainless constant-tension worm-drive clamps from McMaster-Carr.
  • New 16 lb radiator cap.
  • 195 degree Stant Superstat (45359).
  • New "high-flow" (it just has some material machined out to smooth the flow) thermostat housing from Hesco.

Now, about the radiator... BTR requires you to phone them to place an order. It is because they offer variations on the radiator depending on your year/application, and they want to be sure that you and they know what you're getting and so that they can answer any questions. Assuming you know what you want and know what you're doing, it's a very fast phone call, BUT they can sometimes be a pain to get a hold of. I've had emails and voicemails to them go unanswered. I have to say: that's pretty poor conduct for a company especially when they insist on having a dialog with you so that you may order.

Additionally, they did get my order wrong at first as well. I was sent a radiator with a threaded port in the driver's side tank for a thermal fan switch--earlier XJs used this instead of the temp sensor via the computer to turn the aux fan on/off. This was also a fairly disappointing mistake given that one of the main reasons for ordering over the phone was to determine which radiator I needed for my Jeep regarding differences over the years such as that switch port. BTR offered to send me the correct radiator ASAP with a return label (shipping paid by BTR) to send the wrong radiator back with. I opted to keep the "wrong" radiator because I will also be replacing my stock fans with a Dirtbound 3x electric fan setup, and I decided I'd like to put my fan controller in that port rather than chopping my heater hose and having wires running there.

Despite the unreliable customer service, the radiator's construction is top-notch. Extra effort has been made to ensure a strong filler neck and angle it slightly downward as it should be. BTR asked me to check the radiator over immediately upon receiving it before letting the delivery guy leave if possible, and to pay extra attention to the neck as it is the weakest point during shipping. Well, if it's the weakest point, this thing is bomb-proof because they've done a quality job securing it to the tank as well as the inlet/outlet.

I was also impressed that the lower transmission quick disconnect fitting pipe was very strongly attached and shaped perfectly as to not require any grinding or hammering on my part to make sure it cleared the wheel well. The fit was perfect. Installation was pure drop-in, plug-and-play goodness with all posts and fan shroud anchors exactly where they belong. Despite being a HD 3-row radiator, I still have plenty of room between it any my stock mechanical fan (I have not installed my electric fans yet; I have installed my fan switch in the radiator to plug the hole of course, though).

I have been driving with it in 90+ degree weather, and am happy to report that my temperatures have not only stabilized at all speeds and ambient temps but that my average temp has also decreased slightly (this is likely due more to a new stat and better flow).

Attached Thumbnails
1.JPG   2.JPG   3.JPG  

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post #2 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 06:24 PM
AZ Jeff
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Good write-up. I might mention that my CSF from Dirk at DPG came packaged similarly, and I found the workmanship on that rad to be the BEST I have seen on a modern production radiator in MANY years. Best of all, not a SINGLE FIN was bent as it came out of the box. They actually handle the product at the factory like they CARE about it.

That's more than I can say for the replacement aluminum/plastic rad I just put in my 1991 F150.....

AZ-Jeff
I don't own an XJ any longer, but I still think they are the best of all the Jeep products ever made. My XJ was my favorite vehicle in my 50+ years of driving.
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post #3 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 08:45 PM
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How thick is the BTR core?

Man Law - hoods should be raised at least once a week.....have a look see.
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post #4 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djb383 View Post
How thick is the BTR core?
I did not measure it directly--another thing I should have done but was in too much of a hurry to remember--but the website says:
Quote:
Core Dim: 31 x 11 x 2 Row of Tubes: 3 Inlet hose: 1 1/2 Outlet hose: 1 1/2 TOC: Yes
If anyone feels super serious about possibly buying one of these, I will do my best to provide whatever information I can for you. I will opening-up the front end of my XJ again within the next month or two to install my fans, an aux fuse block, and rewire my headlights, so I will try to gather info/measurements and maybe snap a photo or two of it installed if I think of it.

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post #5 of 26 Old 06-23-2013, 12:45 PM
djb383
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It would be interesting to compare the BTR core thickness to the OE 1.25" thick 1 row core. Wonder how the fins/inch compares as well. Oh well, guess it'll remain two of lifes mysteries. LOL

Man Law - hoods should be raised at least once a week.....have a look see.
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post #6 of 26 Old 06-23-2013, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djb383 View Post
It would be interesting to compare the BTR core thickness to the OE 1.25" thick 1 row core. Wonder how the fins/inch compares as well. Oh well, guess it'll remain two of lifes mysteries. LOL
Confirmed that the core is 2" thick and is 14-15 fins per inch.



Remember how I said that they sent me the wrong rad at first and sent me the right one ASAP, but I opted to keep the "wrong" one? Well, I only arrived at that choice after receiving the new one but never receiving a return shipping label to return the "wrong" one. I called them (no answer) and left a voicemail. I emailed them. I was never contacted, and I was never sent a return label. That's right: I have two BTR rads. The other reason for using the "wrong" one was that if I decided to sell one, the "right" one would be in greater demand.

To be clear: I have a BTR radiator (with internal trans cooler for automatic trannies) for any open cooling XJ that does not need a radiator-mounted fan switch. I'm not sure what year the XJ stopped having that switch, but if you have one, it would be mounted in the driver's side tank just above the lower radiator hose (you can see the port clearly in my attached photos); if you don't have one, my extra radiator is the one for you. I'm not sure what shipping costs on it, but I can ship it EXACTLY as it came from BTR (in the same box and packing materials they used--I've kept it all). It has not been used or even installed. I simply kept it around on a shelf in the event I'd decide to use it or if I needed to use it instead of the other one for some reason, but I now have the other rad in and functioning.

I'm thinking I'll just offer it for sale. PM me, but please understand that I might not be able to move super fast--I've been working from 4am to 7pm Mon-Fri.

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post #7 of 26 Old 06-23-2013, 08:39 PM
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Presuming a 1/4" space between the 2 rows, that makes it 1/2" thicker core than OE stock......interesting. It also appears to have 4 rows less vertically than OE (OE has 30) and fwiw, OE has 15-16 fins/inch.

Man Law - hoods should be raised at least once a week.....have a look see.
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post #8 of 26 Old 07-22-2013, 07:14 PM Thread Starter
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I've been stuck in some nasty traffic in some very hot weather, and my temps have been quite stable. I think the only way my temps could creep up now is if I sat for an hour+ idling and thoroughly heat-soaking the engine.

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post #9 of 26 Old 08-15-2013, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Still going strong. The only thing that even makes my temp creep is when it's so hot out and/or I'm idling so long that heat soak begins to become an issue.

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post #10 of 26 Old 08-15-2013, 09:03 PM
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I am waiting for my BTR rad. Jeff has been very reliable on contact. The only issue I have is the wait. They are waiting for the trans coolers to arrive...1/2 of a shipment came in, the other half is due yesterday. Can't wait to get it and install the new rad, OEM fan clutch and FlowKooler w/p. Not having heating issues, just want the bigger core, better w/p and a new fan clutch because we do 4-5 day trips out in the southern deserts and don't want issues.

Reminds me, gotta call him tomorrow.

And, the spec he lists for his rad is 1.5 in on the inlet. Mine is 1.25. He said postal jeeps have that rad. The original was 1.25 and the NAPA one I got...cracked a neck 1 day before a 4 day trip and got a new NAPA one at the local BY...was 1.25 as well. He said no problem doing the 1.25 inlet for mine.

Can't wait!!

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Just got a 1989 YJ too!

Last edited by M35A2; 08-15-2013 at 09:04 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #11 of 26 Old 08-16-2013, 05:28 AM Thread Starter
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Glad to hear he has been reliable to contact. In retrospect, I believe he was dealing with some business trips during my interactions with him, so that may have played a part.

Your mention about the trans cooler wait reminds me of something that everyone should know: because they have never had a high demand for XJ rads, they don't keep many of them around and generally build them as they are ordered, so there is a little bit of a wait usually.

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post #12 of 26 Old 08-17-2013, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mschi772
Glad to hear he has been reliable to contact. In retrospect, I believe he was dealing with some business trips during my interactions with him, so that may have played a part.

Your mention about the trans cooler wait reminds me of something that everyone should know: because they have never had a high demand for XJ rads, they don't keep many of them around and generally build them as they are ordered, so there is a little bit of a wait usually.
Is your other radiator still available? My son has a 01 Cherokee with and automatic and his original radiator is full of sludge, even after a flush. I'm just going to pull it and replace it, along with a fan upgrade down the road.

Let me know if its still for sale.

Thanks,
Ed
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post #13 of 26 Old 08-17-2013, 09:16 AM
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My rad should ship Tuesday. The package with the other 1/2 of the shipment is lost in transit, the shipping co is trying to find it, but, Jeff has contacted another manufacturer and he will get it Monday, install it, attach the tank and get it shipped. Cool beans, can't wait!

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post #14 of 26 Old 09-07-2013, 06:21 AM Thread Starter
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Update: My extra rad is gone.

I have since spoken with JD at BTR again, and while I'm still unsure how my messages went unanswered, apparently the original radiator mix-up was due to someone losing a note while they rushed to build mine. I really do appreciate how quickly the worked to get their product built and shipped to me asap even when I said I wasn't in a hurry, but if that speed comes at the expense of quality service, I'm not quite as thrilled. They did do a fantastic and fast job of rectifying the mistake though--still gotta give them credit for that.

After many extremely hot days, some heavy traffic, and some long highway drives, my radiator is still handling it all like a champ.

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post #15 of 26 Old 09-07-2013, 09:16 AM
M35A2
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HA! That's the radiator I got! Fed ex man handled it and bent the core. They threw it so hard it bent the locating pins on the bottom rail 25 degrees in the middle of the pins!. The inlet tank got crunched at the drain cock too. The box still has the 8.5x11 "FedEx Pick-up" paper you put on it.

I still have faith, JD has been Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to keeping me up to speed on the issues on his end. The radiator was delivered at 7pm thursday, I called him as soon as I opened the box and saw the condition of the radiator, he called yesterday early morning. We have it arranged for a p/u monday i'm guessing...FedEx needs 24 hrs notice, don.t know if saturday counts...He'll get it back, rob the cooler out of this one, put it in the other tank and ship it out, yes, he's still waiting on FedEx to find his lost box of o/c cores. That's the reason I got the radiator from michi772.

Even with all the issues getting a radiator from BTR, I would still recommend them. Keep in mind, I am in Ca. BTR is in Ga. We are dealing with time zones and distance. Getting product delivered a couple thousand miles away, by someone who doesn't know what's in a package and probably doesn't care, is tough. Packing it would be better, but the cost to the end used would go up, FedEx and Brown are proud of their service, even though it is lacking most of the time. I could go to CSF, they are down the road from me, or through Radiator Express, but I want to be different. Jeff has taken the time out of his day to talk directly with me, not only me calling him, but he calls me. I believe that is customer service.

BTW, I have paid for nothing as of yet. He had product picked up, shipped and delivered with zero dollars from me.

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