While there are many important parts to your vehicle, they do not get much more critical than the radiator. Just try driving very far on a hot day with a radiator that is on the fritz. Your engine is almost sure to overheat to the point that you can no longer drive. The car radiator acts as a cooling agent to keep the engine from reaching dangerously high temperatures that can cause damage to your engine. As such, it is essential to know what your car radiator is and how to maintain it properly.
This is How a Car Radiator Works
When coolant is added to a radiator, it effectively pushes through to the engine and helps absorb the heat. As you can imagine, a car engine can get really hot. This is particularly true when driving in the dead of summer. As the heat rises, the engine will rely on the coolant that passes through the radiator hoses to continue working correctly.
You will notice several hoses attached to the radiator and engine. This is how the coolant flows properly from one part to the other. You do not want that coolant to end up boiling. This is where your radiator comes into the picture.
Think about it this way. The coolant begins in the radiator. The small passages and fins of the radiator allow for air to pass through it which in turn cools down the fluid that is in those passages and fins. Once your engine reaches a certain temperature, your thermostat or t-stat opens up allowing the hot fluid to flow into the radiator to begin cooling, and the water pump then pumps the fluid from the radiator that is already cool into the engine to continue keeping the engine cool.
This system has nothing to do with your air conditioning as your a/c is cooled using a gas called freon, not using coolant. Coolant is also sometimes referred to as antifreeze. This is because if you were to put water into your radiator and the outside temperature were to get cold enough, the water could actually freeze and then cause damage. That is why you put coolant /antifreeze into the system instead of water.
Your radiator is the part of the cooling system that actually cools down the coolant once it has been heated up by the engine. We recommend never to use products like stop leak in these systems when possible because, as you can imagine, all those little passages that the air has to flow through to cool your coolant down hold the fluid, the coolant, and if the stop leak plugs those passages, then there is nowhere for your fluid to go and thus the fluid will not cool down properly before its ready to go back into the engine. If you put hot fluid back into the engine, it will risk overheating and causing engine damage including head gasket damage.
Make Sure You Perform Routine Maintenance
You may not know when exactly your radiator will fail you, but there is some preventative maintenance that you can perform to extend its life. First, you will want to consider having your radiator hoses replaced based on inspection or failure. Plastic and rubber expand and contract with temperature, so depending on the temperature swings in your area, your hoses may have less or more wear and tear on them. Some hoses may be due around 60,000 - 100,000 miles of driving, while other times the recommendation may be based off how old the vehicle is (and how many winters it has gone through), making the recommendation more between 6-10 years or so. If a radiator fails, most times the shop will also recommend replacing the hoses if they haven't been done in a while at the same time as there is overlapping labor and can save you some money doing it at the same time.
It is also important to visit a service center and request them to test your coolant every once in a while. Coolant, like all fluids, breaks down over time and the chemical properties will not perform the same whey they once did. The service center can check for the freeze point to make sure that the coolant won't freeze in the engine block in the cold winter, and they can also check for electrolysis. If you ever wonder how often you should change your coolant, consult your owners manual as there should be a recommended mileage there as well. Click her for more information about cooling systems or check out our blog here.
If your radiator requires a replacement or repair, you can bring it down to our auto repair shop, and we will take care of you right away. Call or make an appointment online today!