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Caveat Emptor - Cheap Radiators

4128 Views 15 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  180OUT
Fellow Alfisti,

This is a consumer warning. The names are withheld to protect the guilty (and save me from a possible liable suit).

I recently purchased a radiator for my 1989 Grad at a tremendous price – under $200 – from a Fiat/ALFA parts supplier. The rad arrived promptly and looked pretty good. The top cover was chipped and needed repainting but, although not ALFA factory quality, acceptable.

The first problem I noticed when I slipped it into place. It would not go in far enough to line up the right side mounting bolt. I removed the rad, compared it to the original and found that the bottom outlet is about ¼ - ½” lower than the original. This caused it to hit the radiator support. I was able to grind the flange on the support out a bit more to keep from contacting.

The second problem was that it still wouldn’t go far enough down to line up the mounting holes on both sides. I fixed this by grinding off the ridges on the bottom of the rubber “U” the rad sits. I found the third issue after I filled it, ran it, burped it and started to reassemble everything. (So much for my powers of observation.) The overflow outlet is on the left side. The bottle is on the right.

I checked the picture in the supplier’s online catalog. The pic has it on the right (correct) side. I sent a very nice email to the supplier complimenting it on the price but describing the issue. No response. A week later, did the same. No response. Today I called. Explained the situation again and was told that the solution was to run the overflow line to the other side. Wish I’d thought of that.

Believe it or not, I actually had but the line is precariously close to the fan blades not to mention that it just isn’t right. A terrible situation for a guy with my nickname – OCD Herb - bestowed on me by the Jag Club.
The gentleman I spoke with essentially told me to pound sand – very politely of course. After all, it is Texas.

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). It is true. You do get what you pay for. From here on I stick with the big 2 unless 1)I can’t find it anywhere else, 2) I can’t have it made and 3) the car won’t run without it. I’ll have my original rad rebuilt and sell this one on Ebay with full disclosure, telling everyone where I bought it.

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Sorry to hear about that. I'm pretty sure I know the sand pounders you are referring to. Although not the ideal solution, if you take it to a radiator shop, for not too much money, they can probably fix the inlet so that the overflow nipple is on the correct side.
Tell us where you bought it. If you get into legal trouble I will personally start a "free Herb, defense fund". Its important that we know about deceptive advertising and bad customer service.
Also, factor in the 'oops' factor that can happen with repairing your existing radiator.
My '64 suffered from a leaky core so I took it to my long trusted AC/radiator shop.
New core (copper, old one was steel) and the top tank nicely brought back closer to its originbal shape.
But when I went to install.....
side rails just off enough to not line up with the brackets. A real pain !
Herb: Part of me says "hey, for $200, what did you expect?" But the other side of me feels that the supplier crossed a line when they showed a correct radiator on their website but supplied something different (with respect to the overflow outlet location). Now that's deceptive advertising.
For what it's worth, here's the relevant section from the Texas Business & Commerce Code (adapted from Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code):


(a) Express warranties by the seller are created as follows:

* * *

(3) Any sample or model which is made part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty that the whole of the goods shall conform to the sample or model.
(b) It is not necessary to the creation of an express warranty that the seller use formal words such as "warrant" or "guarantee" or that he have a specific intention to make a warranty, but an affirmation merely of the value of the goods or a statement purporting to be merely the seller's opinion or commendation of the goods does not create a warranty.​
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My name is Jerry Phillips. I have owned Vick Autosports for over six years. My company sold the radiator in question. Maybe you should hear a few facts:

1. Herb22 tells you we did not respond to his emails. He is incorrect. His first email is dated Sat., March 21st. Our manager responded when he arrived back at work Monday March 23rd. My manager sent a reply at 10:12 AM. Herb22 sent another email to us on the 25th and in this email he states, “I have not checked my email today so if you responded to my first email, forgive me”. So, we did not respond to his email of the 25th because he already had an email from us awaiting him.

Herb22 has tried to disparage my company by telling you we are not responsive. As you can see, that is untrue.

2. Herb22 infers our radiators are cheaply made. Not so. The only thing cheap about them is the price. As far as I know, there is only one company making stock radiators for Alfa Spiders. Why are our prices so low? Because we buy in huge volume directly from the manufacturer and then pass on the savings. Two years ago the same radiators were available from us for about $200 more.

3. Herb22 states the photo of the radiator on webstore shows the overflow nipple on the passenger side. If you will look at the picture at it clearly shows the nipple pointing to the drivers side. Because we are from Texas and prone to be polite, I will simply say Herb22 is misstating what he sees in the picture.

These radiators are provided for cars with the coolant tank on the drivers side. Hundreds of Alfa Spider owners with their tank on the passengers side have used this same radiator without issue by simply bringing the coolant tank hose around the cap.

And about fitment, we have sold hundreds of radiators– again from this same manufacturer– and have had very few fitment issues. Minor fitment issues can occur across large volume runs however rarely. When given the opportunity, we have a policy to fix it, correct it or replace it.

4. Herb22 also states when he phoned us March 30th we told him to “pound sand”. Pound sand sounds like we told him he has no recourse. Again he is misstating the facts. When he purchased the radiator online he was required to accept our Terms of Service to complete the order. Our Terms of Service clearly states Herb22 can do what millions of people do each day when they are unhappy with a product and that is to return it for a refund.

So, again, Herb 22 disparages my company when he has the option to simply return the part.

My company has been selling Alfa Romeo parts for 33 years. I purchased Vick Autosports on January 1, 2009 on the cusp of the Great Recession. In this period my company has tripled its Alfa parts sales. This would have been impossible without good customer service and high quality products.

Best Wishes to Fellow Enthusiasts,
-Jerry Phillips
Proud owner of Vick Autosports
Proud owner of a 1977 Alfa Spider with a great replacement radiator from VAS
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I'm going to assume that if Herb returned the radiator, he'd be responsible for paying shipping both ways. That could be a significant amount of money.

The question is, when Herb says "left side" for the overflow, is he looking from the front of the car, or from the back? Does the one he got exit on the passenger side or the driver's side?
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..when Herb says "left side" for the overflow, is he looking from the front of the car, or from the back? Does the one he got exit on the passenger side or the driver's side?
Here's photo of one of the $199 radiators offered on Vick's website. I assume this is the one Herb22 got. Vick describes it as Alfa Spider 1984-89 - OE Fit - with straight upper neck

The upper outlet is indeed straight and the overflow connection is on the left side. I've never owned an '84 - '89 Alfa, but it sounds as if they have their bottles on the right side, necessitating putting a "U" in the hose to the bottle.

Here's photo of Vick's other $199 radiator. This one is described as Alfa Spider 1969-84 - OE Fit - Curved upper hose outlet

While the upper outlet is curved, the overflow connection is on the right side. I know that some pre-'84 Alfas have their bottles on the left side, again necessitating a "U" in the hose to the bottle.

Is it as simple as every Alfa with a curved upper hose has its overflow on the left and every Alfa with a straight upper hose has its overflow on the right? I honestly don't know, but if so, the direction of the overflow connection is wrong on both of these radiators. However, Vick's website appears to present this information accurately and dealing with the problem doesn't seem insurmountable.
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I'm going to assume that if Herb returned the radiator, he'd be responsible for paying shipping both ways. That could be a significant amount of money.

Oh, good grief. When I first saw this thread I thought we were talking about a serious problem here. We're not. Rather than send the radiator back to Texas for a refund, just take the radiator to a radiator shop and have the overflow outlet repositioned! This is no-brainer 10 minute job for any decent radiator shop and shouldn't cost more than $20. Then you'll have a brand-new $220 radiator with the overflow pipe pointing in the right direction. Scheech.

Our cars are old enough that we've long since used up the supply of genuine oem parts, like radiators. In their place are "pattern parts" which are often close approximations of the real thing but which, typically, require adjustments ranging from quite minor to major efforts in order to fit and function the way the original parts did. You can usually (take a look at the threads on door gaskets for instance) get perfection or something close to it but that usually requires some extra effort on the part of the owner.

If you get a VIC Alfa radiator and the outlet being on the wrong side is a problem, just fix it and you'll have a good radiator. At $200 the VIC radiator is, indeed, a bargan. My local radiator shop charges $300 for a complete recore.
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This the radiator in my '79. Curved pipe with overflow on the left.


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A received a PM from Vick's asking me if I was sure about the Herb defense fund.
A received a PM from Vick's asking me if I was sure about the Herb defense fund.
I buy from Vick's on occasion because they are kinda local. Generally, they are pretty good, but they seem to be more focused on Fiats than Alfas.
On Redirect

Vic's not getting the last word on this. Consider....

1) I sent two very polite emails over 2 weeks and received no reply. I had to call.

2) The radiator I received was not as pictured.

3) Considering his snappy response, the defect was obviously no surprise to the customer service representative.

4) I was not informed of the issue. There was no asterisk. There was no note in the box. I didn't get an email warning me.

5) I didn't notice the issue until after I removed the original radiator and the new one was installed, filled and burped. And read the post, I had to do some other things to make it fit.

So return it? Presuming Vic pays for shipping both ways. no harm no foul? First of all, the customer service representative I spoke with did not offer to pay for shipping. Second, what about my time? What about the additional down time for my car? I do have a backup but this is my daily driver.

So, take it to a radiator shop and have it fixed? Again, my time! Radiator shops aren't open on weekends. Take time off work, drive to the other side of Denver and, oh ya, pay for it! It wasn't like Vic offered to pick up the tab to fix it and pay for gas. Also, I don't know other folks, but I don't generally buy new parts with the idea of having to fix them.

Well now, if any of my fellow Alfisti choose to purchase one of Vic's very reasonably priced radiators, they do so with full knowledge. Something of which I was not availed. To paraphrase - "The buyer is now aware".

Admit it Vic. I misrepresented nothing!

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For me left is driver's side. Right's for the little woman. (Don't tell her I said that. She scares the $%^& out of me.)

FYI I'm done with this topic. As I said in the original email, this was meant as a consumer warning. Do with the information what you will.

Honestly yours,

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A note for those with future rad problems.

Take the old one to a reputable rad shop and have it re-cored. Some new cores have about 15% more cooling capacity. One cannot know the cooling capacity of a replacement.

The only new car I ever bought was a 69 Super and that rad could handle any kind of hot weather and even a season of novice racing, with a stock 1600. Car rusted out in nine years.

Because of an engine problem and then the installation of a strong 2 L the one I have now was only driven once in traffic on a hot day last September.

After 48 years of service the original radiator has been upgraded.

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So, take it to a radiator shop and have it fixed? Again, my time! Radiator shops aren't open on weekends. Take time off work, drive to the other side of Denver and, oh ya, pay for it! It wasn't like Vic offered to pick up the tab to fix it and pay for gas. Also, I don't know other folks, but I don't generally buy new parts with the idea of having to fix them.
Herb, you haven't said whether you are doing this work yourself or whether you are paying someone to exchange radiators for you. I mean this in kindness, but there's a huge difference in the way people who do their own work experience these old cars when contrasted with Alfa owners who don't fix their own cars. Alfas are old cars, they aren't perfect, parts for them sometimes kinda-sorta fit or fit in ways that are different from what we are replacing or in ways that are different from our expectations. Everybody and I mean everybody---even pros who do this stuff for a living---has gotten into a job only to find that they have to take it apart again because something doesn't fit quite right or they overlooked something so glaringly obvious that they should have seen before they started. Been there, done that. Many, many times.

These are old cars, Herb. Pulling the radiator after you've put in the coolant, driving across town in search of a fix, and then reinstalling everything is just part of the old Alfa landscape. In particular, having to do extra work to get pattern parts to fit is simply a commonplace occurrence; It's something all of us who work on these cars encounter all the time. Having said that, if you've paying someone to install, remove and fix the radiator then your frustration is understandable. But that still doesn't alter the fact that these are cars from a bygone era where cars, especially Italian sports cars, were anything but plug-and-play.
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