An automotive engine powers a car through the combustion of a mixture of gasoline and air. This reaction generates massive amounts of force — and heat. In order for your engine to continue running safely, it must keep operating temperatures within safe limits. This responsibility falls on your car's cooling system.
Your cooling system removes excess heat and ensures that your engine temperature remains at an optimal level for efficiency. Unfortunately, many car owners fail to appreciate the importance of their cooling system — let along the various components it contains. Improve your automotive knowledge by understanding three key parts of your car's cooling system.
At the heart of your cooling system lies the radiator, which transfers heat from the engine coolant to the air. A radiator contains numerous thin fins attached to a tube through which the coolant flows. The fins increase surface area and make dispersing heat easier. For maximum efficiency, most modern radiators are made from aluminum.
Radiators do their job passively, without the need for moving parts. For this reason, radiators tend to enjoy long lifespans. Yet as time goes on, a radiator may develop problems that impede your cooling system's efficiency. Rust or degradation may cause holes to form in the radiator, allowing coolant to leak out of the system.
Unless corrected, a leaky radiator will eventually cause your engine to overheat due to lack of coolant. Radiators may also accumulate problematic mineral deposits. These deposits impede the coolant from traveling smoothly through the radiator. As a result, engine temperatures often climb above acceptable levels.
2. Water Pump
The water pump has a somewhat misleading name, one that stems from the days in which cooling systems used water to absorb heat. Today, however, virtually all cooling systems use a mixture of antifreeze, water, corrosion inhibitors, and lubricants known simply as coolant. The water pump's job involves circulating this liquid throughout the entire system.
Without a working water pump, coolant will not move and your engine will quickly overheat. Water pumps often stop working because of bearing and/or shaft failure. Alternately, the belt that drives the pump may break or suffer excessive wear that prevents it from moving correctly. Finally, water pumps may develop problems as the result of coolant contamination.
A trained mechanic knows how to recognize the signs of impending water pump problems. One of the most common symptoms involves coolant leakage from the water pump's mounting surface. Surface rust also indicates that the pump has suffered a leak or internal failure. In most cases, the best solution to a water pump problem involves installing a new pump.
Your cooling system monitors engine temperatures through a dedicated thermostat. The thermostat allows the system to control how much coolant flows to the radiator. The hotter the engine, the greater the flow rate. Yet when your engine is cold, the thermostat shuts down the flow to the radiator.
This function allows your engine to reach an ideal operating temperature as quickly as possible. If your cooling system circulated coolant at all times, your engine would struggle to warm up. The more quickly an engine reaches its operating temperature, the better its efficiency.
Your cooling system's thermostat ensures that coolant only begins absorbing heat once your engine has reached an appropriate temperature.
Your car would not go far without a working cooling system. To learn more about the various aspects of your cooling system and the ways to keep them running strong, please contact the automotive veterans at Kell Radiator Service. We are happy to answer all your questions and address all your concerns about cooling systems.