The Cooling System

Going for a run on a crisp fall day, heat seeps from the skin and rises into the atmosphere. You push harder, and your system heats up. Sweat trickles from every crevice, leaving your skin cool and slick to the touch. While you go further and push yourself to reach new milestones, your body focuses to keep your system cool. No one wants to stop every five minutes to rest from overheating.

A vehicle’s cooling system functions similarly to a runner’s body. While the engine and the runner exert a large amount of force to reach new miles, their systems heat up. The sweat of a runner acts like coolant, cooling down the engine so that it does not overheat. Both the body’s and the engine’s cooling systems function to complete the same task: to keep the system cool so that it can go farther.

How Does the Cooling System Work?

The cooling system functions to cool down the engine so that the vehicle does not leave the driver and passengers stranded on the side of the road. Several fundamental components comprise the cooling system: the engine cooling motor, the water pump, the radiator and cap, the radiator hose and clamps, and the thermostat. All of the components work together to push coolant through the system.

Under the hood, the water pump functions to constantly move coolant throughout the cooling system. Coolant, vital to the cooling system, passes through the engine block and heads to absorb heat from the engine. Coolant heated to the appropriate temperature passes through the thermostat and the thermostat valve into the radiator hose. If the temperature of the coolant does not reach a high enough temperature, then the coolant will recirculate instead of passing through the radiator hose. Once, the coolant passes through the radiator hose, the coolant reaches the radiator. The radiator removes heat from the coolant as it passes through its metal fins, and the heat leaves the coolant and transfers to the air. When the coolant reaches the correct temperature, the coolant passes through the lower hose and back to the water pump where the journey begins again.

Problems in the Cooling System

Failed Thermostat

A failed thermostat does not allow the coolant to flow properly throughout the cooling system. A failed thermostat may keep the valve open, allowing the coolant to move through without reaching a high enough temperature. When this happens, the system runs cool, which can affect the heating system. If the thermostat malfunctions and causes the valve to remain close, the hot coolant will recirculate and not pass through the radiator like it should. High temperature coolant in the engine causes the engine to overheat.

Clogged Radiator

A clogged radiator does not allow the radiator to properly perform its function. When the radiator is clogged, the heat from the coolant cannot dissipate into the outside air. The radiator cannot remove the heat from the coolant, and hot coolant leaves the radiator to travel back to the engine. Hot coolant recirculating to the engine causes overheating.

Faulty Radiator Cap

The radiator cap helps maintain the coolant’s pressure in the cooling system. A faulty radiator cap allows coolant to boil over from the reservoir or the engine. When the coolant boils over, the engine overheats.

Worn Water Pump

The water pump helps circulate the coolant throughout the cooling system. Without the water pump, the coolant remains stagnant and will not circulate. A worn water pump will cause the engine to overheat because the coolant cannot go through the heat absorption and removal process.

Airflow Problem

An airflow problem in the cooling system can cause the system to overheat. When air gets trapped inside the engine and cannot escape, then the vehicle has an airflow problem. A vehicle whose engine runs hot in idle and at a normal temperature when the vehicle travels at highway speeds may have an airflow problem.

Faulty Radiator Cooling Fan

The radiator cooling fan drives air through the radiator when the vehicle is not moving. A malfunctioning radiator cooling fan does not move air through the radiator, which prohibits the coolant from properly cooling. As the coolant travels through the radiator, the coolant looses heat, and the radiator cooling fan dissipates the heat from the coolant into the outside air.

Blown Head Gasket

The head gasket seals in the internal combustion process and keeps the coolant from mixing with oil in the engine’s cylinders. A blown head gasket lets the vehicle’s coolant leak into the vehicle’s oil pan. When the oil and coolant mix, the vehicle overheats rapidly as combustion pressure from the engine enters the cooling system. Sweet smelling smoke and water droplets spewing from the exhaust usually mean that the vehicle has a blown head gasket.

Low Coolant

Coolant levels should be regularly checked and maintained. When the coolant reaches a low level, the engine will overheat. An internal or external leak of coolant in the cooling system may cause the driver to constantly fill the vehicle’s cooling system with coolant. Old or dirty coolant may diminish the functionality of the cooling system, so the cooling system should receive regular coolant flushes to avoid backup.

Maintaining a Healthy Cooling System

The cooling system ensures that engine does not overheat so that your vehicle does not leave the driver and the passengers stranded on the side of the road. The importance of the cooling system should not be forgotten, and maintaining a proper maintenance and inspection schedule lowers the risk of more serious damage. As part of the maintenance schedule, the vehicle should receive a coolant flush every 30,000 miles to ensure that the vehicle has a clean, efficient fluid level. An auto technician can also identify any potential trouble down the road so that components can be replaced before they become a larger problem.

Hopewell Tire and Auto Repair can service your Cooling System to keep your car or truck AC working when you need it most.

ASA ASE - Automotive Service Excellence AC Delco


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