How Does Your Vehicle Cool Down?

Vehicle Cooling Systems: What You Should Know

A functioning car engine burns fuel continuously and generates a lot of heat. While the majority of the heat is exhaled through the exhaust system, part of it is absorbed, which could cause harm to the engine. The engine is cooled by absorbing its heat through a car cooling system that includes coolant liquid. Many drivers wonder how a car cooling system works, how radiators work, and more. Here’s everything you need to know about your car cooling system.

Cooling for Cars: System Explained

The cooling system in your vehicle is meant to keep your engine cool during operation. It should not be confused with the cabin heating and air-conditioning system, although that system can pull heat from the engine block when set to a heating mode.

As soon as a hot enough temperature is detected, the engine cooling system engages a circulating loop that starts in the radiator. Coolant moves through the loop from the radiator to the engine, absorbing heat. The coolant then returns to the radiator, where some heat gets lost through the air moving through the radiator fins and the vehicle’s cooling fans. That same coolant then returns to the engine, completing the cooling cycle, which constantly repeats during regular driving.

What Are the Main Parts of a Car Cooling System?

There are five main elements of a car’s engine cooling system:

  1. The radiator collects heat from the coolant and stores the coolant itself.
  2. The cooling fans, which usually operate from the serpentine belt, help disperse heat from the radiator and engine.
  3. The thermostat allows the coolant fluid to flow in response to the temperature rising, usually beyond 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. The temperature sensor is a computer-controlled device that senses the engine’s heat or coldness, converting it into an electrical signal.
  5. The dash temperature indicator shows the driver a temperature range on a dial in response to the temperature sensor. A reading in the middle between C and H, or slightly lower, is considered a good operating temperature.

If any of these have a problem, your car might not be able to cool the engine effectively. Some drivers don’t realize they have a car cooling system issue until they miss a coolant fill-up or drive during a hot summer day, but the consequences could be expensive. Contact our service department at #1 Cochran for more information on when to check your car’s engine coolant and radiator.

What Does a Radiator Do?

The radiator functions similarly to evaporator coils on an air conditioner. Because of the heat-conductive metal and high surface area, the fins of the radiator easily carry the heat from the hot coolant, which is then released into the environment. Without a functioning radiator, heat would generate to unsafe levels as the coolant cycled inefficiently, leading to worse performance, higher temperatures, and greater susceptibility to overheating. The radiator usually also uses the forward wind force while driving to help disperse the gathered engine heat, which is why radiators are placed up front behind the grille.

Because they handle so much heat, a radiator can develop cracks with age and start leaking. Cooling will be less effective and sediment plugs can develop more easily. This kind of issue could catch someone unaware even if they top up fluid at regular intervals if they aren’t checking the levels.

What Does Coolant Do in a Car?

The coolant’s purpose is to keep the engine from overheating while also protecting the cooling system’s key components from corrosion. When coolant becomes old or low, it is unable to perform its function effectively, and you risk constantly overheating your engine. Engine overheating requires extensive repair work and could lead to an inconvenient, if not dangerous, roadside incident.

Every car has a coolant overflow vessel where drivers can check fluid levels against an amount marked on the material and add more if needed. A typical service check at #1 Cochran will include checking the coolant overflow and topping up the container with high-quality coolant suited to your driving needs, if necessary.

What Is Car Coolant Scaling?

Coolant is composed at least partially of water, and it’s not uncommon to refill lost coolant with water in a pinch. However, one issue with water is hardness. Even filtered water usually contains some trace amounts of substances, and the more substances that make up the water’s volume, the harder it is. Unless you use completely distilled water, mineral deposits can develop over time within the turns of tubes or pipes, especially if coolant replacements are neglected.

How Do You Remove Scaling From a Car Cooling System?

A power flush, which should only be performed by professionals, is a procedure where a high-pressure solution is flushed into the engine and cooling system to remove any contaminants, including water scaling and coolant chemical residue. Whether you need such a serious treatment depends on the extent of the scaling, but with many years on a high-mileage vehicle, it’s possible for a high-mineral raw water used as coolant to leave significant deposits.

Are Car Coolant and Antifreeze the Same?

Though some consider them identical terms, car coolant and antifreeze are technically different things. Proper commercial coolants will usually contain a mix of water and antifreeze. Antifreeze is the chemical ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, which are both only effective when mixed in water.

Antifreeze allows a coolant mixture to perform a double duty: heat-transfer and freeze prevention. The vehicle’s coolant transports heat from the engine to the cooling system, where it is dissipated into the atmosphere. In cold temperatures, antifreeze chemicals lower the freezing point of water, stopping it from freezing. This is essential, as when water freezes, it expands and can potentially cause irreparable damage.

A car’s cooling system is no less important than the ignition system. Keeping them in especially good condition will help maximize performance and avoid roadside emergencies. Since it’s one of the most common tasks for any Youngstown dealership service center, our team is happy to help you pick the right coolant and top it up regularly. We make it easy to stay on top of all your vehicle’s filters and fluid changes, from power steering and oil to windshield washing fluid. We welcome you to contact or visit #1 Cochran for any of your car cooling system needs.