DIY Heatcore: Inexpensive and Great Performance

poster-diy-heatcore

Introduction

With the heat levels produced by most modern processors, watercooling is gaining more and more attention in the mainstream cooling gear market. Of course, the appeal of more efficient cooling that can be had through watercooling, as opposed to traditional heatsink and fan cooling solutions, has drawn overclockers to it since its inception.

The reasons for turning to liquid cooling methods are fairly straightforward – overclocking often requires higher voltage settings for the CPU, as well as other components, to gain stability at higher clock speeds. The increased voltages result in higher temperatures and the need for more efficient cooling. Watercooling can deal with the heat from the higher voltages much more effectively than a heatsink and fan and it can often do so with less noise than air cooling solutions.

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The usual components found in a watercooling loop are a waterblock for the processor, a water pump, a reservoir or t-line, and a heat exchanger. Traditionally, heat exchangers were often items that were originally intended for some other purpose, such as automobile transmission coolers, with modified fittings so they could be plugged into a watercooling loop.

More recently, companies have began developing radiators specifically for use in watercooling systems but most of these have the drawback of being somewhat expensive. While watercooling components have gotten less expensive as more companies have entered the watercooling market, a good watercooling system can still put a nice dent in your bank account. Obviously, any alternative components that will provide equal, if not better performance, while costing substantially less than commercial H2O parts are worth investigating even if they require some do-it-yourself garage time to get them ready for use in a cooling loop.

One such viable alterative that is readily available and easily modified is a heatercore. While there are many different models that can be modified to work in a watercooling system, one that has gained quite a following is the Chevrolet Chevette heatercore. More specifically, the heatercore for the 1986 Chevette, Fedco part number 2-161 or GDI part number 399069, which is approximately 6-1/8″ x 6-3/8″ x 2″. The factory tubes are 3/4″ and 5/8″ which require some modification to work with 1/2″ ID tubing used in a watercooling system but this modification is not that complicated and well worth it considering that most auto parts stores have this heatercore for around $22. Additionally, the tools needed for the modifications are fairly inexpensive and they are likely ones that most already have on hand.

Modding a Chevette Core
The list of supplies, parts and tools needed to modify the Chevette core will depend on the particular method used as well as the skill of the person doing the modification. To make this as straight forward as possible, I’ll break it down into two different methods which require slightly different parts and tools. The first method is an epoxy or cold weld method where the second method is a soldering method that requires a few more tools

Tools and Parts Copper Fittings
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The information contained in this site is for guidance only. The application of this tutorial can differ extensively based on the particular items involved. The information on this site is provided with the understanding that the author(s) and publisher(s) are cannot be held legally responsible for any injury or death that may result from this or any other article at OCmodshop. With this being said be sure to understand what you are doing before you attempt what is being shown. If you have any questions about any aspect of the article please contact the author or another experienced individual before proceeding.

Parts, Tools and Supplies

The Epoxy or Cold Weld Method:

  • 1986 Chevrolet Chevette heatercore
  • JB Weld or two part high strength epoxy
  • 220 grit 3M wet/dry sandpaper
  • A hacksaw, Dremel or copper tubing cutter
  • Two 1/2″ pipe to 1/2″ female NPT thread fittings or two 1/2″ pipe to 3/8″ NPT female fittings (available at most hardware stores)
  • Two 1/2″ brass barb x 1/2″ male NPT threaded fittings or two 1/2″ brass barb x 3/8″ male NPT threaded fittings
  • A short piece of 1/2″ ID copper pipe (this can be cut from one of the original tubes on the heater core)
  • Teflon tape or pipe joint compound

Chevette Heatercore Packaging

Click here for a larger imageThe Soldering/Sweating Method:

  • 1986 Chevrolet Chevette heatercore
  • A small propane torch (like those found in plumber’s kits)
  • Flux and solder (can be found in a plumber’s kit with the torch for around $15) or acid core solder (auto parts store ~$3)
  • 220grit 3M wet/dry sandpaper
  • A hacksaw, Dremel or copper tubing cutter
  • 3M Wet/Dry Sandpaper (600 grit) or a small needle file
  • Two 1/2″ pipe to 1/2″ female NPT thread fittings or two 1/2″ pipe to 3/8″ NPT female fittings (available at most hardware stores)
  • Two 1/2″ brass barb x 1/2″ male NPT threaded fittings or two 1/2″ brass barb x 3/8″ male NPT threaded fittings
  • A short piece of 1/2″ ID copper pipe (this can be cut from one of the original tubes on the heater core)
  • Teflon tape or pipe joint compound

Part and Supplies for the Heatercore once it is finished:

  • Primer, spray paint and clear coat if appearance is important. Duplicolor is a good choice. (optional)
  • A premade shroud like the Coolingworks Coolshroud
  • A good 120mm fan such as a 120mm x 38mm Panaflo or 120mm x 38mm SanAce

Okay…so heatercores get no points for glamorous packaging but we are chasing down high performance for dirt cheap pricing so no harsh comments on the white box. Moving on to the contents of the unbelievably ugly box.

As can be seen in the above picture, heatercores are pretty rough straight out of the box. Additionally, heatercores can have defective seams right out of the box so before modifying anything on the heatercore, leak testing is a very good idea. The best way to test for leaks is to fill up a container (or the kitchen sink if the wife/girlfriend is not looking) and lay the heatercore in the water. Once it is submerged, plug one of the tubes and blow air through the other. If any air bubbles start streaming from any of the seams on the core, take it back and get a new one. Always test them before doing any modifications.