Transmission Cooler – Something more need to know

So what does your research say about the root cause of all the problems in your transmission? Isn’t it the transmission overheating? Yes, it certainly is. The studies show that the ideal temperature for transmission is 170 degrees and anything beyond this is dangerous. In fact, with every increase of 20 degrees in the transmission temperature, the lifespan can be cut by up to half its expectancy. So now, it’s important to determine the factors contributing to any transmission overheating to achieve the maximum results by mitigating them. Major factors generally found behind the cause of transmission overheating are excessive heavy towing, stop-and-go traffic, hotter climates, and the vehicle’s type and size. In addition, the car’s radiator comes into play for cooling down the transmission, but this is not dedicatedly purposed for cooling the transmission as it also serves to cool down the engine oil. So it is obvious for the radiator to get overly tasked, hence hampering the cooling performance of the transmission and engine.

If overheating the transmission is a phenomenon you commonly encounter, then you need a dedicated component for this purpose: an external automatic transmission cooler. It is also called the transmission oil cooler. What it does is – it helps transmission to work with better efficiency and increases its overall lifespan. It would help if you had more queries regarding the transmission cooler in choosing the best one for your vehicle. Here we will try to explain some of the most important aspects of a transmission cooler, such as its working procedure, types, rating parameter, and installation procedure.

Transmission Cooler
Image Source: JEGS


How does a Transmission Cooler work?

The first thing that needs to be clarified before any transmission cooler review to get a better understanding of it is the working procedure. The transmission cooler is a thin, square-shaped component usually placed at the front of the radiator. Another usual location where it is added is the air-conditioning condenser. They are designed to dedicatedly serve one purpose, which is to cool down the transmission fluid, and by doing so, they help extend the transmission’s overall lifespan. When you question how it works with the transmission cooler, we can say that it sends the heated fluid from the transmission to your vehicle’s radiator and eventually to the cooler. After that, the moving air over the cooler fins helps decrease the fluid’s temperature, which is finally driven back to the vehicle’s transmission. This procedure is maintained in a continuous loop. It is not intended to work as an engine oil cooler or the power steering fluid cooler of the vehicle; however, it contributes to your vehicle’s overall cooling system, including these two.

In short, we can say that the transmission cooler is a great addition to your car’s cooling capacity and overall cooling system protection. As it has the sole purpose of cooling the transmission fluid, it has no impact, nor does it affects other components of your car. But again, to have an automatic transmission cooler in your car, you need to have room to install it. Coolers are universally accepted by cars regardless of the make and model unless it has enough room for setting them up. Such external coolers are recommended to use in case of towing heavy loads, doing frequent stop-and-go kinds of driving, or living in a place where the climate is hotter than usual. Coolers are supposed to operate whenever your engine is in swing and constantly do the cooling throughout your journey.

 trans cooler
Image Source: Advance Auto Parts

What type of transmission cooler should I use for my vehicle?

Pretty simple answer. Get one that is the biggest and provides the most heavy-duty performance, provided that it should fit into your car. The bigger it is, the better it will perform to lower the transmission fluid temperature. Some coolers provide a bigger surface area for cooling down the fluid better and faster, and you will get this best in the stacked-plate type coolers and the plate-and-fin type coolers. And this is the reason why these two coolers are immensely popular.

Transmission cooler types

You can find three common types of transmission coolers, although the designs can differ depending on the manufacturer. The three types of coolers are tube-and-fin coolers, plate-and-fin coolers, and stacked-plate coolers. You will find the aluminum-made coolers the most automatic transmission cooler that can dissipate heat faster and with better efficiency. However, effectiveness and durability do vary from one to another. In addition, some transmission coolers come with inbuilt fans for better cooling power.

Tube and Fin Coolers

These basic coolers have a distinguish tube weaving throughout the cooler and the surrounding turbulators. The tube is there to transfer the transmission fluid around when the heat is absorbed by the fins attached outside. However, the tube and fin-type coolers are considered the least efficient coolers.


  • Low price
  • It works well for older cars


  • The least efficiency compared to others
  • Not recommended for the overdrive transmission

Plate and Fin Coolers

These coolers have distinguished parallel plates capable of running horizontally. Regarding the looks, it is similar to a mini radiator. However, this transmission cooler works more efficiently than the previously mentioned tube-and-fin type. The reason for this is the bigger surface area that has scope for extra fluid to get in touch with the cooling surface. This works in a way that forces the fluid through every row of those little plates; as a result, the procedure of cooling down fluid works quicker and more efficiently.


  • They are more effective as compared to the tube and fin coolers
  • Better durability
  • Size is smaller
  • A large quantity of transmission fluid is cooled at a time at a faster pace.


  • Compared to stack plate coolers, they fall behind in terms of efficiency.
  • Costs a bit higher

Plate and Fin Coolers
Image Source: vorshlag – SmugMug

Stacked Plate Coolers

We have the stacked plate cooler if you are searching for the most efficient and popular cooler. They look more like the plate and fin coolers; however, they offer better airflow having those bigger turbulators. The working procedure of these coolers is almost similar to the plate and fin type coolers that forces fluid through cooling plates to reduce the temperature of the fluid better and faster. Another reason they are so popular is that they are easy to install and remove.


  • Bigger plates compared to plate and fin coolers
  • Most efficient one on the list
  • Small size and great durability
  • Fluid is cooled in a large amount at a time with a faster speed


  • Most expensive among the three

Transmission Cooler Rating Parameter: Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

The parameter to rate an automatic transmission cooler is the gross vehicle weight (GVW). This rating can start from 10,000 lbs to 30,000 lbs and more. While calculating any vehicle’s GVW, the factor considered is the base weight of your vehicle, the driver, passengers, accessories, and cargo. Vehicle manufacturers include the GVW rating to limit the weight your vehicle is supposed to carry.

For the best cooler with your car’s GVW rating, please take the following points into account:

  • Small compact cars with no towing: Cooler GVW ratings should be 10,000 -16,000
  • Mid-size cars with light towing: Cooler GVW ratings should be 14,000 -18,000
  • Mid-size trucks or full-size cars with towing up to 5000 pounds: Cooler GVW ratings should be 18,000 – 24,000
  • Pickup trucks or SUVs with towing up to 7500 pounds: Cooler GVW ratings should be 22,000 -26,000
  • Heavy-duty trucks or motor homes with towing up to 10000 pounds: Cooler GVW ratings should be 22,000 -30,000
  • Super duty trucks or Large Motorhomes: Cooler GVW ratings should be 28,000 +

Transmission Cooler Works
Image Source: Amazon

The installation procedure of an External Cooler

Most of the transmission oil cooler kits have all the necessary hardware, tools, and instruction manual to do it yourself. You were talking about the best location to install it – the front of the vehicle’s radiator or the front of the a/c condenser. After choosing the location, you will need the mounting rods, mounting pads, and fasteners to install it. Next, follow the instruction manual to properly hook up the inlet and outlet hoses since it’s important because it works as the pathway the transmission fluid is being sent from the vehicle’s transmission into the cooler.

Some more tips

While choosing the best transmission cooler and installing it into your vehicle, some other tips you should keep in mind are –

  • Ensure the cooler has enough room and fits perfectly into your vehicle.
  • We should keep hoses away from the hot or moving components
  • Installing location should have a more than sufficient amount of airflow, and the rocks and debris of the road should not come into its contact
  • The fins of the cooler should be kept parallel with the fins of the radiator
  • You can also add a fan if you have installed your cooler in a location where the airflow is minimal
  • Do not install any cooler that has comparatively smaller fittings on a bigger system (like a 5/16 inch cooler on a 1/2 inch system)


We tried to give you a compact and brief idea about all the necessary aspects of a transmission cooler. If you pay attention to these aspects, you should be able to achieve the maximum result with your transmission cooler, thus increasing its performance and life expectancy.

Click Here to Read Our Previous Article on Transmission Cooler.

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Mia A Chloe
Author: Mia A Chloe

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