Plastic vs. aluminum radiator

I need a new radiator in my 90 Accord (155K) -- ridiculous leak and I'd just rather put something new in than mess around with patching/welding. I've been reading through a lot of radiator
replacement discussions in here and given the amount of time I've already spent looking at and playing with it, I'm willing to give doing it myself a shot.
That said, I'm wondering about the pros/cons of plastic and aluminum tanks. Having had leaks on two plastic-tanked radiators, I'd rather go with aluminum if that's going to tend to develop leaks less. Someone mentioned aluminum being heavier -- is this going to make any substantial difference other than ease of installation?
The prices on the ones I'm seeing listed on line are all reasonable, but I don't see a lot of detailed info on one vs. another (which is info much more in abundance on this group, thankfully).
Any opinions/recommendations?
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Pete from Boston wrote:

    I bought one (plastic) with a lifetime guarantee, and it needed re-done (by me) a few years later. They gave me a new one without any problems. KEEP the receipt. bob
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All-aluminum is best. If you can find one these days. They're getting harder to locate.
An important point to remember is that the rad MUST be free-floating. When the upper mounts are bolted down, the rad should be LOOSE even when the engine is hot. It should wiggle very easily. If it is snugly mounted and not easily movable, excessive stress is placed on the tanks, leading to a greater probability of fractures.
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Indeed I was surprised how loose radiators are these days. My father destroyed the front of his 2004 Saturn. After it was fixed I was checking it over and I couldn't believe how loose the radiator was. I brought the car back and they said it was right the way it was. I drove over to Saturn dealer and checked the new ones out..... yep.... they are loose all right.

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The radiator in my Jeep is rigidly mounted to the front grille, but the hoses are about two feet long each.
Earle

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Radiators expand and contract with temp changes.
and we ain't talking about Jeeps. 8-)

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either install two foot long radiator hoses, or put up with a floppy radiator. ;^)
Earle
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Earle Horton wrote:

The reason for "floppy" radiator installation is to minimize the effects of torsional stress. All frames/bodies flex which ain't good for any high pressure vessel...
JT
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The part you miss is that the radiator itself expands and contracts,and the plastic tanks may not stay sealed to the aluminum core,nor is ordinary road shock and vibration healthy for the plastic/metal seals.
Stick to Jeeps.
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too, and I haven't seen this happen. I didn't like the idea of a plastic radiator twelve years ago when I bought the Jeep, but I am getting used to it. The Civic I also have seems to be doing OK with a plastic radiator. I used to see all metal radiators pop solder joints from heat, vibration, who knows? Maybe the plastic ones are better.
Earle
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This will probably be all right if he follows a reasonable coolant change schedule. There is a voltmeter test you can do too, to see whether electrolytes are building up. Basically, that tells you whether it is too late or not. ;^)
Earle
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Earle Horton wrote:

right, for stuff /inside/ the rad, but not the stuff outside!

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anytime I can avoid a plastic tank radiator its a good thing
On 4 Sep 2006 23:10:55 -0700, "Pete from Boston"

Elbert snipped-for-privacy@me.com
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Pete from Boston wrote:

1. as tegger says, it needs to be loosely mounted. 2. there needs to be normal pressure in the system, not excess due to a leaking head gasket.
regarding 2, a lot of times, radiators are replaced because of "overheating". a low level head gasket leak can persist for a long time, with the chemical and pressure stress that places on the system. if a radiator cracks under those conditions because a prompt and effective diagnosis of the root cause was not made, i don't think there's a huge amount to complain about.
fyi, plastic/aluminum are a great combo for internal corrosion resistance and seal persistence - that's why they're used. just make sure you don't buy the cheapest one and you should be ok.
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Check out www.radiatorwarehouse.com. I needed a new radiator for my '98 CRV and they sent me a Honda OEM unit. The only difference being the filler neck was slightly longer. Otherwise, it was a dead-ringer for the one that it replaced. In fact, 'Honda" on the plastic tanks had been ground down but you could still read it pretty easily.
The price was right and it arrived at my door in two days. I recommend them highly.
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