It used to be a common sight during the summer holidays: cars pulled over to the side of the road, bonnet up, overheated and going nowhere. While it’s not such a problem today with better built vehicles, car radiator repairs are still a vital service we provide, and one that must be done right – lest you want to wind up on the side of the road, too.
Here’s what you need to know about your car’s cooling system and what can still go wrong.
How do car radiators work?
A car’s engine generates power by burning fuel and utilising the motion of its various components. However, this power and movement produce a significant amount of heat within the engine. To prevent overheating, which can cause severe damage, this heat needs to be vented effectively.
The car’s cooling system, made up of a radiator, liquid coolant, hoses, a fan and a thermostat, plays a vital role in removing excess heat from the engine. The coolant circulates through the hoses, flowing from the radiator to the engine, where it absorbs the excessive heat, and then returns to the radiator.
When it reaches the radiator, the hot liquid coolant passes through thin metal fins, allowing the heat to transfer to the surrounding air. This process is aided by the flow of cool air entering through the car’s grille. In situations where the vehicle is stationary, such as in traffic, the system’s fan helps reduce the temperature of the heated coolant and expels hot air from the car.
Following its passage through the radiator, the coolant continues its circulation through the engine. This continuous cycle of heat exchange ensures the engine maintains an optimal running temperature and prevents overheating.
Why might I need a car radiator repair?
The coolant in your engine makes thousands of circuits at high pressure, often picking up fragments along the way, such as dust or flaked off bits of metal. Too much, and this detritus can build up and clog the radiator, preventing the coolant from moving through it freely and letting off its heat. Old coolant fluid can be particularly bad, as it gets thicker and has been around long enough to pick up plenty of material.
Anything made of metal (just like your car’s radiator) is at risk of corrosion. If the radiator begins to corrode, it will probably start at the fins. This is a big problem because the fins are there to increase surface area for the coolant to flow over, giving it more chance for heat exchange. As the fins degrade, so does your radiator’s ability to do its job properly.
The radiator is located at the front of the engine so it can take advantage of the cooler air rushing through the grille when you’re moving. But this location also makes it vulnerable to anything that comes flying through the grilles and into the engine. It doesn’t have to be big; a small stone can be enough to puncture the radiator, causing you to leak coolant and quickly overheat.
- Faulty parts
As with any system, all the parts have to be in working order to do the job required. A faulty thermostat, leaking hoses and pipes, broken fans and pressure caps that can’t handle the pressure or all able to render your radiator useless.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to car radiator repairs
As with many car issues, the problem is often signalled ahead of time. The best way to ensure that you never actually need a car radiator repair is by having regular, scheduled car services. At each and every one we perform, a full check is done on your cooling system. We make sure all components are in good nick and replace the coolant fluid if necessary.
Don’t wait for the summer break – you might just end up spending a nostalgic hour or two on the side of the road, watching everyone else zoom past, headed, no doubt, for the beach.