For those of us that have made engine modifications, particularly larger-engine transplants, overheating is a common problem. There are a number of cures for this, but in the end, there are only a few things in your cooling system that will make a big difference – your radiator, your fan / shroud combo and your water pump. Any other change you make will only net you small differences.
We’ve been using a Flex-a-Lite Black Magic electric fan (part # 150-puller) for about 5 years with little complaint, and it did a good job of keeping our rig from overheating during normal on and off-road runs. On occasion however – particularly when we’re racing through the sand dunes – our Project Land Cruiser would suffer from some overheating problems where the little, but powerful Black Magic electric fan just couldn’t keep up.
When we got news from Flex-a-Lite about their new Black Magic X-treme puller fan, we couldn’t wait to get our greasy little hands on one. FAL (Flex-a-Lite) claimed it to be the most powerful single electric fan available. They also touted that the newly designed shroud would provide full radiator coverage on most applications and that the shrouded fan would create 45-50% higher heat transfer than a cage fan of same performance.
We received our Black Magic X-treme electric fan (part # 180-puller) and in typical 4X4REVIEW fashion, decided to see if there really were improvements made. NASA and Jet Propulsion Labs PhD’s performed these highly scientific tests in a controlled environment using highly sophisticated measuring and monitoring devices.
OK, we know we’re full of it, but we did perform some rudimentary tests to see if there was a difference in the amount of air and/or the pressure of air moved between these two fans. Sure, we could reprint FAL’s claims (and we do below), but what does this mean to you? What we wanted to know was, 1) Will this fan, compared to the original Black Magic, move more air through our radiator and 2) Will this fan, compared to the original Black Magic, cool our rig’s engine more effectively?
Test #1 – Airflow
We setup, what we think, was a simple and effective way to measure the amount of air being moved through the fans. Now, for all of you engineers out there, we know this isn’t a super-scientific approach, but our goal wasn’t to get exact measurements on the volume and pressure of air measured in millibars or some other technical jargon. We just wanted to know if the fan produced more volume and/or pressure to move an object. We did make sure that most things were consistent during our tests though. For example, the fan was run directly off of our Optima yellow-top battery while a battery charger was attached. We also marked the floor where the first fan set and took a relative measurement of the angle of the fan relative to the floor. Lastly, we let each fan run for exactly 2 minutes.
As you can see from the pictures, the Black Magic X-treme did move slightly more air and moved our large piece of cardboard higher up the scale. Since the cardboard oscillated while the fan was blowing, we marked the lowest point.
Initially we expected a larger difference between the two results, but as we thought this through we realized that without an air plenum, the measurements would be skewed the farther away the moving cardboard piece got from the fan. Also, the biggest difference between the two fans are variable pitched blades, larger shroud area and faster fan speed, which is where the real difference will be made when the fan is mounted to a radiator.
In the end, our simple test did show that the Black Magic X-treme moved more air than the standard Black Magic fan and pushed the large piece of cardboard higher up the scale.
Test #2 – Installed on Vehicle
Before we began, we noted how quickly the standard Black Magic fan would reduce the temperature from 200 degrees to 180 degrees. We also noted how frequently the fan would turn itself on, how long the fan would run, and how well the fan kept our engine running at 180 degrees under varying circumstances.
After we installed the Black Magic X-treme, we found the fan would reduce our engine temperature from 200 to 180 degrees on average 45 seconds more quickly. We also noted that the fan would run for a shorter period of time than the standard Black Magic fan and that it was more effective at keeping the engine at 180 degrees.
As with anything electrical, always disconnect your battery. Installation will also vary depending upon vehicles, so use this as a guide, rather than a set of instructions.
NOTES: Getting our old fan removed and installing the new fan took about 4 hours, including taking notes and pictures. We were lucky enough to be able to use all of the existing wiring from our original Black Magic electric fan, so factor in another hour or so for wiring.
The part that took the longest amount of time was fashioning the brackets. Being as picky as I am, I chose to do some fabricating which included using a torch, shaping the metal and some light welding. We also took extra time to route all of the wires within the fan shroud, mount the thermostat control and more, for an extra-clean look, which added about 1.5 hours to our install. In the end, we feel that installation can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours depending upon your rig and your preferences.