In order to work properly, it is vital that your car’s engine be kept cool so that it can continue to operate without problems. That’s why within your engine resides a cooling system that’s designed to keep the temperature low and and your engine running. But what is a cooling system, and how does it work?
A typical cooling system is made up of many components that run throughout the engine. The largest and most obvious component is the radiator at the front of the engine, but there are a number of other elements that help to facilitate cooler temperatures within the engine.
First among these is the antifreeze which operates as a coolant, rust inhibitor and lubricant. This coolant circulates within the engine as follows:
- First, the water pump will draw coolant from the radiator and transfer it to the main engine block.
- The coolant draws heat from the engine block, performing its eponymous function before arriving at the thermostat.
- The thermostat monitors the temperature of the coolant. Once it heats up and becomes ineffective for cooling, the thermostat will allow it to be transferred to the radiator.
- The radiator is made up of a series of thin tubes that increase the surface area of the coolant liquid and let it “radiate” heat very quickly. Airflow from driving and even special cooling fans might also be used to lower the temperature of the coolant.
- The process then repeats itself as the water pump again draws the now-usable coolant from the radiator.
This is the basic process. As you can see, there are a lot of components, and each one has its own lifespan and potential problems to be alert for as a car owner.
Belts & Hoses
There are a number of belts and hoses in this system that can become soft or cracked with age, much like in a commercial chilling system. This causes leakage, which could greatly decrease the functioning of other parts depending on where the leak is. This also can cause the loss of precious coolant and require you to refill it more often.
Hot coolant increases the overall pressure in the cooling system. A device known as the radiator cap regulates the pressure and releases it in case there’s too much. If your engine ever overheats, the radiator cap might have incurred damage from the extreme pressure conditions, so it’s best to replace it.
The water pump is a very important component as it’s what starts the coolant circulating in the first place. When it malfunctions, your engine is at great risk for overheating, so be sure to replace this component in the case of leakage or reduced coolant flow.
The same is true of the thermostat. Without this component, no coolant will be transferred to the radiator, causing dangerously high heat conditions.
Any fans that are incorporated into your system run the risk of ceasing to work as they age. In the case of a failed fan clutch, the water pump itself could be greatly damaged.
As you can see, the cooling system is a complex one. Its proper functioning ensures that a modern internal combustion engine runs smoothly.