What is a Cooling System?
The car’s cooling system is designed to take the heat away from the engine and dissipate it through the radiator. Everytime the engine’s cylinders fire, they produce a lot of heat. If this heat isn’t removed, the engine will destroy itself in no time.
How Does it work?
There are two types of cooling systems found on motor vehicles: water cooled and air cooled. Air cooled engines are found on a few older cars, like the early Volkswagens, and 911 Porsches and a few others.
The cooling system is made up of the passages inside the engine block and cylinder heads, the water pump to circulate the coolant, a thermostat to control the temperature of the coolant, the radiator to dissipate heat from the coolant, a radiator cap to control the pressure in the system, and hoses.
A cooling system works by pumping the coolant through the engine where it picks up heat from the engine. The heated coolant then makes its way through the radiator hose to the radiator. As it flows through the radiator, the hot coolant is cooled by the air passing through the fins of the radiator. Once the fluid is cooled, it returns to the engine to do it again as the water pump keeps the coolant moving through this system.
A thermostat is placed between the engine and the radiator to keep the coolant in a specific temperature range; too cold and the engine uses too much fuel, too hot and it damages the engine. If the coolant temperature falls below this temperature range, the thermostat reduces the coolant flow to the radiator. The coolant will continue to circulate like this until it reaches the design temperature, at which point, the thermostat will open a valve and allow the coolant back through the radiator.
In order to prevent the coolant from boiling, the cooling system is pressurized which raises the boiling point of the coolant. The radiator cap manages the pressure in the system. Too much pressure and hoses will burst.
The coolant that circulates through the cooling system must be able to withstand temperatures below zero without freezing up. It must also be able to handle engine temperatures in excess of 100 degrees without boiling. The coolant also contains rust inhibiters to prevent corrosion of the various metal parts of the cooling system and engine. The coolant in today's vehicles is a mixture of ethylene glycol (antifreeze) and water with many manufacturers specifying a specific type and concentration for their cars.
If you ever see green, blue, red, orange and other colored fluid under your car, chances are you have a coolant leak. If this is the case, the leak needs to be discovered and fixed before the engine runs out of coolant and overheats. Finding a leak on modern cars can be difficult but an A Grade Automotive Network workshop has the appropriate tools and expertise to diagnose it.
Part of the cooling system maintenance is to flush the system and replenish the coolant. This ensures that the coolant’s anti freeze/boil and corrosion inhibitors remain effective. Your A Grade Automotive Network workshop will follow manufacturer’s recommendations when doing this.
The radiator is usually made of flattened aluminium tubes with aluminium fins that zigzag between the tubes. These fins transfer the heat in the tubes into the air stream as the car moves along. Additionally, cars have radiator fan/s that also draw air through the radiator. Most modern cars have electric fans that are controlled by the engine computer. Depending on the size of the engine and type of car, the size of the radiator/s will change.
What should you do?
If your car shows any sighs of overheating or a coolant leak, contact your local A Grade Automotive Network workshop before any significant damage is done.