DIY Auto Maintenance and Servicing Tips

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How Does Your Car's Radiator Work?

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In an internal combustion engine, petrol, air and electricity combine to create a controlled explosion that pushes the pistons downward to create energy and motion. As you can imagine, this creates a significant amount of heat within an enclosed area and this results in a rapid temperature buildup as the engine runs. While your car has several inbuilt cooling systems to take care of this issue, one of the most important components is the radiator. How does this work and what can go wrong?

How Does it All Work?

Unlike the typical radiator in your home (which is designed to add heat to the environment), the radiator in your car does the exact opposite. This component is connected to the engine through a series of hoses and sits at the very front of the vehicle and as you move along, cooling air is forced over the surface of the radiator. Sometimes, the unit is augmented by an additional, electrical fan that's positioned nearby. As the warm water from the engine passes through the radiator it is subsequently cooled and then pushed back into the system, to begin the cycle again. A thermostat (connected to a temperature sensor) helps to regulate the flow of water from the engine to the radiator and vice versa.

What Can Go Wrong?

As time goes by, the coolant within the system can become contaminated and this might lead to a blockage within the radiator itself. Eventually, this can lead to inefficiencies and may restrict the amount of water that gets to the engine. On other occasions, road debris can be thrown up and cause damage to the surface of the radiator, giving rise to a leak. In either case, prompt action needs to be taken as the engine will overheat very quickly and this could result in some internal damage.

What Should You Do?

If you get a dashboard warning to tell you that temperatures are too high, have a quick look at the condition of the radiator to see if you can see any noticeable damage. If not, you may have to take the vehicle in to get the radiator flushed out and this will get rid of any blockages. Sometimes, an older radiator will be beyond repair in this way and you may have to get it replaced.

If you need car radiator repair, begin by scheduling a trip to your mechanic to pinpoint the actual problem.