Flex-A-Lite Black Magic 150 Electric Fan

Black Magic 150 Electric Fan

[circa 2000]

Since putting 35” tires on my ‘94 Toyota pickup, it has been outright anemic. While going up a hill, or even when driving into a strong wind, I have to have it in fourth gear, to the floor, to have a chance of keeping up with traffic. And I’ve got the V6; I wonder how those guys in the ‘85 pickups with big tires but only a 4-cylinder make do.

Needless to say, then, I’m always on the lookout for ways to boost the power a bit. (Yes, I could do an engine swap, but besides the fact that I don’t want to lay out that much money, I also want to keep the Toyota engine because of its longevity.) I heard about gaining some power by replacing the belt-driven fan with an electric one. After some research, I noticed that one fan always got mentioned: the Black Magic series from Flex-a-lite.

I picked up the model 150 for about $200 new. Expensive for a fan, but after the positive things I had heard, I wanted to try it. Installation was quite easy: unbolt the factory belt-driven clutch and fan (but leaving the pulley in place), slide the electric fan in, and bolt it to the radiator. The worst part was finding an ignition-controlled voltage source to control the fan. I had to route a wire through the firewall and tap in to the fuse-box in the cab–not too bad.

So how is the performance? Well, I certainly noticed a difference. Here are the pros:

  • My truck starts a bit more quickly and easily, because there’s less drag turning the engine.
  • Mileage has improved. I get 1 or sometimes almost 2 more miles per gallon.
  • I have slightly more power. When I first drove it, I noticed a bit of extra pickup–enough that it was fun to stomp on the gas a feel it lurch forward a bit more eagerly. (No burning the tires here though.) But now I am used to it, and once again I feel that my truck is anemic, and I still have trouble getting up the hills. So it frees up a little power, but don’t expect miracles.
  • I’ve had it for nearly a year, and never had any trouble. It seems well built.
  • The engine warms up more quickly in the winter.

And the cons?

  • A bit pricey… but considering the quality, I hardly feel that is a valid complaint.
  • In a few situations, it doesn’t offer adequate cooling. The only time I have had my engine get too hot was when I was four-wheeling, up a steep mountain trail, in the summer, in 90-100 degree weather, with the air conditioning on (hey, the wife and kid were with me…) The fan was on constantly, but it simply couldn’t keep up with that much load. Once I turned the AC off, the fan caught up. I don’t much like AC when I’m offroad, so this doesn’t bother me.

The verdict: It’s a keeper. 4.5 stars

2015 Update

Going on 2015 here, and after about 15 years, the fan is still going strong. I have had many things go wrong over the years, but the fan keeps going. I’ve had to refresh my solder joints, but the fan itself keeps going.

I hope they still make them like they used to.

PS - I divorced the bitch who complained about the lack of AC while going up the mountain. ;-)

Updated January 1, 2015