How Active Grille Shutters Work – Video

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Automakers have been looking at all sorts of different ways to improve fuel economy. One of the promising ideas is active grille shutters that utilize engine air flow better. Third-party companies like Magna have also been working on new ideas. Here is their newest product for the Ram 1500 and a great video on how active grille shutters work.

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The idea behind active grille shutters is that they would react to the driving environment to reduce drag. For example, when you are driving on the highway, the louvers would close. This would push the air around the vehicle creating less drag and improving fuel economy. However, if you are towing a load or sitting in a hot traffic jam, the louvers would open allowing the engine to maintain the “optimal engine temperature.” By having the louvers open, the vehicle would not use the system’s cooling systems as much which allows for less fuel consumption.

Incredibly, Magna was able to create this product in just 18 months and it is now being used on the 2013 Dodge Dart and Ram 1500 (part of the Ram’s goal to reach 25 MPG). Magna says that it has four additional vehicles it plans to use the product on (it doesn’t say specifically which ones).

Most likely the additional vehicles will be pickup trucks and SUVs that typically receive the largest benefit from the active grille shutter system.

While the idea is pretty solid, we don’t have any specifics on the exact MPG that is saved with this type of system. But, Dodge says the active grille shutters are key components in the Ram 1500 “thermal management system.”

What do you think? Will active grille shutters become the next standard feature on pickup trucks or is it just one more thing that will break?

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  1. LJC says:

    Let’s see how it works when it snows, then rains, then the temperature drops to about 10 degrees–a fairly typical winter event in the northeast. A lot of ice can build up in the most creative ways. I heard that GM ditched the idea of power folder mirrors because of ice build up; the plastic gears in the power folding mechanism get chewed up because the mirror can’t fold.

    • LJC,

      It does seem like this idea needs some “real-world” situations to better determine if it will work or not. My guess is the “unknown” is keeping most manufactures from fully implementing it.


      • Racer M says:

        If the heat of the engine does not defrost them then they don’t need to open! So no issue great idea!

    • KMS says:

      Good point. Personally I’m a bit leery of this since it adds just another component that, if it fails, can lead to larger and much more expensive repairs.

      Now if this proves to be reliable, and actually helps increase MPG, then I would like to see all the manufacturers adopt this then.

      Gotta give kudo’s to Dodge on this though in the innovation category.

  2. Art64 says:

    Where’s the wind tunnel result??

  3. mk says:

    Won’t make a hill of beans difference on a pickup truck. Think about it, the grille is near flat/vertical with no aerodynamics. Whether the louvers are open or closed doesn’t matter since the airflow with either hit the radiator or the louvers, won’t matter at all. If the hood was slopped and grill slooped upward/angled in back as well then yes it would help in mpg by guessing .1 to .2 mpg at best.

    I wish GM or Toyota would come back with power folding mirrors. I miss that feature on my previous GM silverado’s when I go into my garage I can fold the mirrors in so I don’t hit the mirror on the edge of the garage door sill. Never had an issue with freezing of the mirrors since my truck is in the garage all winter long. Nice classy feature to have, very upscale.

    • MK,

      They seem to believe it is a big deal. Like I said, still waiting for real-world test results.


    • mk – That’s a good point about the mirrors – folding them in at highway speeds might make a difference, only lane changes would be a bit more dicey.

      The louvers have a small aerodynamic benefit over a radiator, and since trucks are sort of like bricks in the wind, a small benefit can make a difference at the pump. Just as importantly, this system helps the engine warm-up more quickly, which has a few MPG benefits too. All told, it’s good for 1-2mpg.

    • eric says:

      No u dope, the vents will be sloped outwards and thus force the air outwards. Yes the front is is more flat than a car, but its a bigger benefit for SUV’s and Trucks due to the larger volume of the engine block. Think of it this way, that the air is water instead of air. Now with just open vents, the engine block fills up with water and adds more resistance/weight and forces more energy to move forward. Now imagine the vents closed and no water getting into the large volume of the engine block. Now the most important thing to picture is the speed of the car. The speed of the car will quickly push the water to the edge. Yes, it would be better if the front end was more aerodynamic but whats more important is the force/speed of the car to do the work!

      Also, dont worry about the vents breaking in cold icy weather cuz last time i check the ambient temperature is the best coolant. Remember, ice forms at below 32 degree…

  4. AD says:

    My question is how would this affect the ecoboost and other forced induction engines that need more cooling?

    • AD,

      Agreed that this would seem to be more difficult. My only guess is that the system would have to adjust the louvers to keep up with air flow demands. It would be quite a bit of technology working with engineering.


    • AD – The shutters would only close when the engine management system said it was OK to do so…my guess would be that these times are:

      1. highway travel with no load
      2. immediately after start-up
      3. exceptionally cold weather

      So, I’d say they would be a good thing on any vehicle (only they’re going to be on trucks and SUVs before we see them on a lot of cars).

  5. Mickey says:

    I’ve been reading but not yet convinced of this. mk does the newer Tundra’s don’t have power folding mirrors. That happens to be a must for me back into my side of the garage.

  6. swcc43 says:

    well another one that bites the dust!!! pushing air whether up or down make thing or trucks work harder, this is why airplanes do not push air up or down, man!!! if you believe this BS… well lets say you need to go back to junior high!!!!

    • Swcc43,

      Seems like Dodge doesn’t believe this is BS. Incidentally, I think they are using the same physics that airplanes use. The air isn’t being “pushed” per se, it is being rerouted. This allows for a more aerodynamic front that allows the air to move around the object. This is very similar to airplane flaps on wings. They move up and down to reroute the air keeping the airplane flying.


    • swcc43 – LOL. I think you failed thermodynamics. Try again.

  7. Mickey says:

    The Burnolli principal.

  8. k9115 says:

    This is already successful on the 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Chevy Cruze!

    And for inquiring automotive minds here’s an article from the original manufacturer of the active grille shutter actuator that was originally used in Europe–with some actual numbers and outline of the fuel savings.

  9. Mason says:

    I know this has been said before, but none of the stuff on the 2013 Ram is really “new”, though in fairness Ram never claimed it to be. I like the guy in the video he isn’t snarky and full of himself like the other guys in the 2013 Ram videos.

  10. Joe says:

    I’m a diesel mechanic….heavy trucks have been using this for years,leave it to the auto industry to sell you something that’s been around for decades,charge more for it and act like they cured polio when it’s in use already

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      LOL! Yep, most of these “automotive” advances from RAM and others were developed years ago. It is all marketing.


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