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CSF recently released their drop-in radiator solution for the Porsche 944, along with their optional fan shroud with twin 9” SPAL 1180 CFM fans. Annnnd the timing couldn’t be better lol. Because…

best porsche 944 radiator

To put it eloquently, cooling has always been a thorn in my ass with this 944.

Even with a lower temp fan switch & upgraded late-model 944 fans… my temps still had a tendency to creep up in these hot & humid, 90+º summers. Especially in situations where I’m driving more spiritedly… & then catching a redlight, and/or slow traffic. Man I hate that feeling. It causes doubt, mild road-rage tendencies, & kills my ability to fully enjoy the car. The way I figure, I plan to have this 944 for a long time, so the CSF radiator setup is worth the investment if it eliminates this uncertainty. And I appreciate that CSF has done the research here for the 944 platform. 

CSF radiator Porsche 944

Porsche 944 radiator install

The CSF radiator is designed to work on all Porsche 944 variants… 

Including turbo models, early-models, late-models, S-models, everything. Install is straightforward. Just jack-up the nose of the 944 pretty high, because the radiator comes out from the bottom. There are 6 bolts that hold the fan shroud to the radiator (3 on top, 3 on bottom)… and 2 plugs for the fans. With the fan shroud dropped & out of the way, there will be plenty of room for the old radiator to drop down. Just loosen the 3 cooling hoses, 2 brackets on top of the radiator (don’t lose track of the bushings underneath the brackets), and disconnect the 2-prong fan switch. I also removed that bracket for the air-box, just to get it out of the way. 

The new CSF radiator installs the same way the old one came out…

Just remember to move the fan switch over. If you’re using the CSF shroud & SPAL fans, you’re going to have to cut/modify the SPAL plugs. It’s no big deal. I used a pick to disconnect the 2 wires from the SPAL’s plastic plug, and plugged the freed ends straight into the Porsche’s OEM plugs (the brown wires are ground on the Porsche). You can also just use butt connectors… whatever you choose to get the job done. And good news – the new CSF fan shroud has a lip on it, so you can set it in place and then bolt it to the radiator casually… without having to keep a hand on it & fight gravity. 

CSF fan shroud

944 fans

I’ll be honest…

My goose brain had somewhat of a hard time accepting that the SPAL 9-inch fans are undoubtedly better than the late-model 944’s 11-inch fans. I know size isn’t everything (thank God eh!), and I know fan speed, blade design, & efficiency has probably come a long way since the ’80s. But I also know that Porsche knows their stuff, and the aftermarket can have a hard time beating ’em sometimes. So I called my friend Matte Forte at Motor Werks Racing, just for further knowledge & peace-of-mind.

Matt eased my doubts…

Saying that the OEM 944 fans were in fact bigger… but not better. They didn’t move as much air, they ran inefficient brushed motors, and the big fat blades ‘got in their own way’ to an extent & blocked airflow. Notice in the photos how the OEM fan blades fill up so much of ‘the airflow space’ compared to the design on the newer fans. He also said that CSF’s solid-backed fan shroud is a good design, especially for street applications, because it helps to regulate heat. If you have large fluctuations in temperature (spiking & cooling) that could come typical stop-&-go street/traffic scenarios, you end up with uneven temperatures in the engine. Cylinder 1 will be overall cooler than cylinder 4. And that’s not great.

At the end of the day…

The engine will be happier & healthier if temps are consistent… even if they’re consistently a little warmer. Plus – airflow (just like water flow) is going to take the path of least resistance. And the solid-backed fan shroud helps to really PULL more air through the radiator when those fans kick on. Imagine an analogy where air is water in a full bathtub… and then when the fans kick on, it’s like opening two big oversized drains on the bottom of that tub. 

Porsche 944 fan shroud

lowered Porsche 944

New thermostat…

“While I was there”… those are infamous words right? But “while I was there”, I changed the thermostat with a cooler 160º thermostat. It was a straight-up not a fun time. My best advice is to watch this video featuring some fellow who never gets irritated. 

This fellow’s snap-ring plier removal trick actually did not work for me.

As I could not squeeze the pliers hard enough to budge the snap ring that holds the thermostat in place. It’s unreal how strong that snap-ring is… at least in my case. In the end, I got that bastard of a snap-ring out with a small pick. I was able to get a straight pick through one of the holes in the snap-ring (using a strategically placed mirror & magnetic flashlight), and then pry one end out of its grove. It’s a marvel that the pick didn’t break… shout-out to Snap On. From there, it just took a little finagling & a couple more curse words to pull the snap-ring the rest of the way out. 

The new o-ring (aka gasket) that NAPA assured me would work with the thermostat… didn’t. The 944 thermostat needs the type of gasket that surrounds the edge of the thermostat on both sides… like a sleeve. I just reused the old gasket, which is not the ideal move, but it was the only move I had. Then, I put a dab of CRC lube on the gasket, so the thermostat would nestle back in place without pinching that gasket. Finally, getting Thor’s snap-ring back in its grove was just slightly less irritating than getting it out. Going back to that video above, that dude’s vice-grip trick at the end DID work for me on reinstall. But it only got the ring back into the housing… and not all the way seated in its groove. So I had to fight just a little bit more… with a pry-bar that seemed entirely too big & irresponsible for the task. But that’s what it took. Germans…

944 cooling

So far so good… 

The 944 seems to be holding a smooth 190º even on hot summer days, maybe creeping to 200º when you hit a red-light after some decent cruisin’. I’m feeling pretty confident about that. And I’ll update this article if anything changes as I get more real-world hours on the car. But if it can mange to stay consistent in these extreme summer temps, I’m gaining confidence.

944 temp gauge

PS: If you’re interested in the Prosport temp gauge install ^^^^, CLICK HERE. And/or search ‘944’ in the search bar for more articles & installs on this car. 

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