Cooling system failures are the leading cause of mechanical breakdowns on the road. Overheating caused by a poorly performing cooling system can also lead to performance problems and even failures of the engine and transmission. Your vehicle’s coolant plays a vital role in the performance and longevity of your vehicle.
To function properly, your radiator must be clean, free of leaks, clear of blockages and filled with the proper coolant. Our Cooling System Service includes:
- Pressure test for system integrity
- Inspection of belts, hoses and radiator
- Power flush of the cooling system or a drain and refill
- Refill with fresh coolant
Cooling System Operation
The main function of the Cooling System is to carry heat away from the engine via the radiator and maintain the desired operating temperature. This is accomplished by circulating antifreeze/coolant through the engine, where heat is generated, and carrying it to the radiator to be cooled.
Modern automobiles operate in a wide variety of ambient temperatures, from well below freezing to well over 100 F. The fluid used to cool the engine must have a very low freezing point, a high boiling point, and it must have the ability to transfer heat.
An adequate amount of an antifreeze/coolant and water mixture is necessary to reduce the possibility of engine overheating and freezing, and contain additives to prevent rust and corrosion in the cooling system.
Water is one of the most effective fluids for holding heat, but water freezes at too high a temperature to be used in automobile engines alone.
The fluid used in most vehicles is a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, also known as “antifreeze” or “coolant”. By adding antifreeze to water, the boiling and freezing points are improved significantly.
The temperature of the coolant can sometimes reach 250 to 275 F (121 to 135 C). Even with antifreeze added, these temperatures would boil the coolant. To prevent this, the cooling system is pressurized, which further raises the boiling point of the coolant. Most systems have around 14 to 15 pounds per square inch (psi), which raises the boiling point approximately 45 F so the coolant can endure the high temperatures produced in the engine.
The main function of the radiator is to re-distribute heat created by the operation of the engine so it doesn’t seize up or overheat. This is achieved primarily through the radiator’s design. The radiator is comprised of two holding tanks either vertically or horizontally mounted that are connected by a series of small water carrying tubes. Mounted between the tubes are a series of fins that resemble an accordion bellows, creating a large surface area. These fins create a swirling effect around the tubes when the radiator fan pushes cool air through them that carries the heat away from the coolant. The radiator’s large surface allows this process to happen very quickly. The cool fluid is then returned to the engine and the process is then repeated.
The radiator and heater hoses are inspected by opening the hood and visually checking them. We make sure that the hoses are not brittle, swollen or cracked.
After the cooling system is refilled with the proper coolant mixture, a pressure test is performed to ensure that there are no leaks.
On most of the older vehicles, the water pump is driven by either a V belt or serpentine belt on the front of the engine that is also responsible for driving the alternator, power steering pump and air conditioner compressor. These types of belts are easy to inspect and replace if they are worn. We check for dry cracking on the inside surface of the belt.
On newer vehicles, the water pump is often driven by the timing belt. This belt usually has a specific life expectancy at which time it must be replaced to insure that it does not fail. Since the timing belt is inside the engine and requires partial engine disassembly to inspect, it is very important to replace the timing belt at the scheduled interval.
A cooling fan circulates air through the radiator so that it can release engine heat into the surrounding air. The fans can be mechanical or electric. If the cooling fan malfunctions, your engine can quickly overheat.
We will inspect your cooling fan and make sure the drive belt, or fan belt, that makes it turn, is not loose or cracked. We can also repair and replace damaged fans.
A pressure cap is sometimes, but not always, called the radiator cap. It may be on the radiator or on the coolant reservoir.
A pressure cap should be inspected at least once a year. It’s important to have a technician do this as a cap that’s taken off while the engine is still hot could result in severe burns from the spray of boiling coolant.
The coolant reservoir indicates the level of coolant in the system. This is checked during every oil change.
The thermostat is a valve that regulates the flow of coolant based on coolant temperature. A poorly performing thermostat can result in over heating, engine knocking, poor fuel economy, and more.