When you drive, your car's engine produces a considerable amount of heat. And it is the radiator's job to eliminate this excess heat so that your vehicle can operate smoothly and safely. It is the main component to your vehicle's cooling system, and without it, your engine would overheat and cause damage to other auto parts every time you drive.
The radiator doesn't manage the heat levels in your engine all alone; the heat exchange process is coupled with the utilization of a well-known, heat-absorbing liquid called coolant. Coolant must be replaced in your radiator on a routine basis in order to maintain a properly-functioning radiator and engine. Coolant is also known as anti-freeze, because it also prevents the engine from freezing up in cold weather.
How They Operate
A radiator is typically made from aluminum because it is a terrific heat-dissipating metal and low in weight. But it can be made from steel and other metals as well. Radiators work by sending coolant through the inner components of the engine to absorb heat; and once enough heat is absorbed, the coolant travels back to the radiator to be cooled down, and the cycle continues as you drive.
A Little History
Before coolant was used, water was poured into radiators. But as automotive and aeronautics industries grew in technology, engines became too powerful for just water. It would boil too quickly and damage other components of the vehicle. Commercial coolant use was introduced shortly after the Second World War, and is now a readily-available product on the market. It can withstand much higher boiling points, making it effective and economical.
The most common issues with radiators are leaks. Coolant leaks can cause poor performance, overheating engines, and sludge inside the radiator. All this can damage many other areas of the car. A frequent cause for coolant leaks is broken coolant tubing. Annual car maintenance and inspection can catch small problems like this early on, before they turn into costly repairs.
Another common radiator issue are damaged fan belts. If a fan belt is defective, it will not allow the coolant to be pumped all throughout the engine block, so it is necessary to repair these as soon as possible. In minor cases, a coolant leak is caused by loose tubing. A mechanic can simply tighten the radiator hose clamps so the leak is stopped. In more serious cases, the best repair option is replacement.