Your car’s radiator cools the engine. It circulates liquids (coolant and water) that helps keep your car from overheating, something that can cause you to be stuck on the side of the road with your hood open and steam rising into the air. When your radiator is faulty, it can cause all sorts of issues.
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What Does Your Car Radiator Do?
There is an entire process to the job of the radiator, to move coolant and cool your vehicle down. There are a couple of basic radiator types. They include the crossflow and the downflow. Newer cars use the crossflow type of car radiator because it has a better design.
Here is the basic three-step process of radiators:
Step 1 – Intake
Your vehicle’s water pump controls the flow of coolant in and out of the radiator. The thermostat controls how much coolant moves into the radiator, and it does this by opening and closing according to the engine temperature. Through a hose located at the top of the radiator, the coolant moves through to cool things off.
Step 2 – Cooling
The coolant tank starts the flowing from one part of the tank to the other through a tiny passageway. The ribbed look of the radiator comes from the metal fin rows within, usually made of aluminum or copper. These metals are both known to transfer and conduct heat. Excess heat is absorbed by these fins, with the help of the coolant, and directed away from the engine.
Step 3 – Outlet
After the hot coolant moves through the passages, it goes into the other tank and then goes through the outlet hose, which connects the radiator and water pump. It’s through this hose that the cooled-off coolant is supplied to cool down the engine when needed.
When something goes wrong with the radiator, water pump, the thermostat, or any of the hoses, it causes your vehicle to run hot or overheat, and it can damage your engine.
Most Common Radiator Issues
The importance of your cooling system to the running of your engine makes radiator repairs important. Not typically a repair you want to do at home, it depends on what the issue is. Even though radiator repair makes you think of an overheating car and steam rising from the hood, numerous things can go wrong with this system causes overheating.
Here are seven common issues you might have with your car radiator system:
1. Thermostat Failure
If your car overheats, it’s often the fault of the thermostat. While it’s not an actual part of the radiator, it does determine how much coolant flows through the radiator, so when it’s not working properly, it causes the radiator to quit working right.
2. Hose Leak
Radiators can sometimes leak, but most commonly the leak is coming from the radiator hose. Hose leaks are a fairly easy fix, but you want to deal with it quickly. That hose allows the coolant to get to the engine. These hoses wear out after a while, so it’s important to keep an eye on them during regular maintenance checkups.
3. Radiator Leak
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If it’s not a hose leak, but you’re losing coolant and finding proof of it in puddles under your vehicle, it is probably leaking straight from the radiator. This leak is difficult to repair, and you may want to take it to a professional mechanic. Bubbles in the area of the leak are a sign that the issue is in the radiator itself.
4. Trapped Air
There is a chance that air has gotten trapped in your vehicle’s cooling system. This trapped air can slow the flow of coolant through the system. This reduced flow causes your car to run hot. The fix is to have the coolant system drained to remove the air bubbles.
5. Obstruction in Cooling System
Air isn’t the only thing that can obstruct your cooling system. If your system was damaged in an accident, it could cause blockages. Bent fins can also cause problems.
6. Water Pump Failure
If your water pump fails it no longer circulates the water that helps keep your engine cool. That means your car will overheat. Water pump failures are a common issue with the cooling system of vehicles, no matter how new they are.
7. Fan Failure
There is also a fan in the cooling system of most modern cars. It’s an electric fan that pulls air through the radiator to cool the car off when idling or going at slow speeds. If your vehicle is overheating when it’s idling, or you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, the fan is probably your issue.
Getting Your Car Radiator Worked On
If your car is overheating or running hot, it’s a wise idea to get it looked at by a mechanic. Your engine could be damaged if you don’t deal with car radiator issues promptly.