Author Archives: Patrick James Smith

What Is a Radiator and What Function Does It Serve In Your Vehicle?

A key component of any vehicle is the radiator. You probably know your car has a radiator, but you might not understand exactly what it does and why it is important. In the most basic sense, the radiator is the heart of a vehicle’s cooling system.

The radiator helps monitor the temperature of the engine and keeps it from overheating. Engines burn fuel to generate power, and this process and the engine’s many moving parts produce a great deal of heat. This heat needs to be vented efficiently or the engine will overheat and begin to break down, which can cause severe damage.

What Does the Radiator Do?

The radiator eliminates excess heat with the help of hoses that cycle liquid coolant from the radiator to the engine. The coolant absorbs the heat, which is then released as hot air through the radiator. Thin metal fins in the radiator help release the heat as the coolant passes through them. Cool air entering the engine through the grille also aids in the process. When your vehicle is not moving, the system has a fan that blows air in and helps reduce the coolant’s temperature. After the coolant moves through the radiator, it recirculates through the engine to absorb more heat.

All radiators have three essential parts: the core, the pressure cap, and the tanks. The core is the main section of the radiator that looks like a large metal block with rows of narrow metal fins. Hot coolant returning from the engine moves through the core to release heat. The pressure cap seals the coolant system and keeps it pressurized. This pressurization keeps the coolant from overflowing so that the entire system can continue to work. The tanks manage the coolant as it flows between the engine and the radiator. You might also say that the coolant itself is another critical component of the system.

What Happens When Radiators Break?

Radiators can fail, especially when they are forced to operate in very hot weather. This risk increases if the radiator is low on coolant or if there is a leak in the system. However, radiators can also fail because of a thermostat that is not functioning correctly, or a mechanical issue with the fan that helps circulate air. In addition, a faulty pressure cap that does not actually pressurize the system will cause the coolant to overflow. In any of these cases, a failed radiator will cause the engine to overheat, which can result in severe damage to the engine.

This is why it’s important to know the signs of a failing radiator. If you catch the problem early, you can avoid damage to the engine. One common sign is unusual rising and falling of the temperature gauge in the instrument cluster on your dashboard. You may also see smoke coming from under the hood of the car or notice coolant, a green liquid, collecting under the car when it’s parked.

Regularly inspect the radiator for rust or other signs that something could be wrong. Once you notice any of these issues, take the vehicle to a professional mechanic.

How Can You Keep Your Radiator in Good Shape?

Regular maintenance is important to keep the radiator working well. Just as most other parts of the vehicle require maintenance, so does the radiator. Be sure to check and replace the radiator hoses regularly, since they are made of rubber and will dry out and break over time. Typically, it’s a good idea to replace the hoses every three years or 36,000 miles. Hoses should never have more than 50,000 miles of driving on them because they will be at high risk of breaking by that point.

In addition, don’t forget to tend to the coolant. Check your vehicle’s coolant level on a regular basis. If the level seems lower each time you look, there is likely a leak in the system. Slow leaks can be especially difficult to detect, so it is important to be diligent and not let your coolant levels get too low. In addition, you should have the coolant flushed every 25,000 miles. The coolant gets contaminated over time and this limits the overall efficacy of the system. However, don’t just replace the coolant—flushing the system helps lubricate it, prevents rust buildup, and will keep the radiator functioning as well as possible.

An overheating engine is a serious problem. No one likes to be stranded on the side of the road, but that can happen if you do not take care of your vehicle’s radiator. In addition, you can permanently damage your engine if you allow it to overheat repeatedly. Because radiator maintenance is relatively infrequent, it can be easy to forget. Pay attention to the schedule in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and be sure to follow it closely—it will keep your radiator in good working condition and protect your engine.  

Follow These 7 Tips for Staying Safe While Driving in a Thunderstorm

Learning how to drive in dangerous weather is an important skill for drivers to master. While it is always preferable to avoid driving in dangerous conditions, this is not always possible. For example, imagine you are far from home and get stuck in a massive thunderstorm. Understanding how to navigate this weather safely will keep… Continue Reading

Here Are 7 Signs that Your Vehicle’s Transmission May Be Failing

The transmission is an extremely important part of your vehicle. This component multiplies the engine torque and translates it into usable power that turns the wheels at various gear ratios to allow a full range of speeds. Unfortunately, transmissions often get neglected and owners may ignore some of the warning signs of an issue. In… Continue Reading

These Are 10 of the Most Common Reasons an Engine Stalls While Driving

One of the most stressful issues that can occur while driving is the engine stalling. A stall can occur for several different reasons; some are easy to fix, while others mean a considerable investment of time and resources. Moreover, depending on where the stall occurs, you could be put in a dangerous situation, which only… Continue Reading

Follow These 7 Tips to Keep Yourself Safe While Driving through Fog

Even the most confident drivers can get nervous when it comes to driving in foggy conditions. When fog is thick, it can become very difficult to make out much in front of you, which is why it is one of the most dangerous weather conditions for drivers. Fog often causes multi-vehicle pileups and other minor… Continue Reading

How to Start Driving a Manual Transmission

How to Start Driving a Manual Transmission

Driving a manual transmission for the first time is stressful, but with practice you will get confident and it will become second nature. Continue Reading

Here Are 6 Strange Smells That Could Signal a Major Car Problem

Here Are 6 Strange Smells That Could Signal a Major Car Problem

If you notice any of these six strange smells while driving, you likely have an issue that needs to be addressed. Continue Reading

What Is an Alternator and Why Is It Important for Your Vehicle?

What Is an Alternator and Why Is It Important for Your Vehicle?

An alternator is an essential component for your vehicle in that it generates the vast majority of electricity used. Continue Reading

Follow These 6 Tips for a Safer, Less Stressful City Driving Experience

Follow These 6 Tips for a Safer, Less Stressful City Driving Experience

Driving in the city can prove stressful for someone who does not do it frequently. These tips will help keep you safe and confident. Continue Reading

When Conditions Get Extremely Windy, Follow These 7 Tips to Stay Safe

When Conditions Get Extremely Windy, Follow These 7 Tips to Stay Safe

Windy conditions can be quite dangerous for drivers. Follow these seven tips to help keep yourself safe. Continue Reading