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What Does My Vehicle’s Radiator Do?

When you picture a vehicular breakdown, it’s likely you imagine a car on the side of the road, it’s hood lifted and smoke billowing from the engine compartment. While this may be a cliche scene, it happens to many drivers and is a strong indication that something is wrong with the car’s cooling system.

While there are many components that work together under the hood to keep your engine nice and cool, the radiator is an integral part of this system.

The primary function of your vehicle’s radiator is to keep the engine from overheating. Without a radiator, your vehicle could overheat and cause significant damage to the engine and other parts of your vehicle.

How the Radiator Works

As engine coolant, or antifreeze, circulates through the engine it absorbs the engine’s heat. It is then moved through the radiator where it loses that heat to the atmosphere before returning to the engine.

Radiators are typically made of aluminum with thin aluminum fins soldered to flattened aluminum tubes. The coolant flows through the tubes while the fins conduct heat from the tubes. This heat is then transferred to the air flow created by the radiator.

Overheating and the Risks to Your Vehicle

Allowing your vehicle to overheat poses significant risks to the engine and other important components of your vehicle.

Overheating can cause seals and gaskets to melt which could lead to oil-related problems. Without a functioning system to keep your engine cool, your cylinder heads may warp and lead to head gasket damage or could directly crack the head gaskets, allowing water leaks into the cylinder.

If your vehicle overheats, it is imperative that you shut the engine off immediately. Attempting to continue driving will cause costly and devastating damage.

Signs of a Bad or Damaged Radiator

If your vehicle’s radiator is damaged, you may notice a coolant leak on the ground under your vehicle. A pressure test performed by a licensed mechanic can help you determine if this is the issue.

More noticeably, if your radiator is not working properly, your car will likely begin to overheat. While it may not overheat to the point of breaking down, it will overheat consistently over a period of time.

Another telltale sign of a damaged radiator is the presence of sludge. Coolant is either yellow, red or green but when contaminants from other areas of your engine are present, the fluid is discolored and thickens into a sort of sludge.

This could be caused by mixing incompatible coolants, a bad head head gasket or cracked cylinder allowing oil and coolant to mix or a chemical reaction between the coolant with metallic surfaces.

Repairing a Radiator

If left unfixed, a broken or damaged radiator will cause your vehicle to continue to overheat and lead to a complete breakdown and potential damage to the engine.

There are a few reasons why your radiator may not be functioning properly:

  • Failed thermostat
  • Radiator hose leaks
  • Leaks in radiator
  • Obstructions in cooling system
  • Air in cooling system
  • Failed water pump
  • Failed radiator fan

Whatever the reason for a damaged radiator, a professional mechanic can properly diagnose the problem in order to carry out the necessary repairs.

Noticing issues with your vehicle’s radiator? Don’t become a cliche! The professional and licensed mechanics at Park Muffler will be more than happy to inspect the condition of your vehicle’s radiator.

Contact us for a free estimate today!

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