Whether you?re driving to work, picking up the kids from school or going to the shops ? your engine goes through a lot of stress to make your life easier. One thing that keeps your engine running smoothly is the radiator.
By keeping the engine cool, it prevents overheating and increases the lifespan and performance of your vehicle.
For this reason, you should know what problems to look out for with your radiator. An early diagnosis could save money at the repair shop and keep your car on the road for longer ? what?s not to like about that?
Before you go under the hood, you should know how the radiator works first.
How Your Radiator Works
The radiator is vital to your engine?s cooling system.
To keep the temperature at a manageable level there is a constant supply of coolant fluid that flows around the radiator. When the engine reaches a certain temperature the thermostat opens and allows coolant to flow into the radiator. The coolant fluid is cooled down by thermostat fans which help regulate the engine?s temperature and allow excess heat to escape.
Finally, the coolant leaves the radiator through an exit tube, and if necessary the cycle repeats.
What is a normal temperature range for your car? That depends on the type of cooling system you have. Some newer mass market cars have water cooling systems that maintain a temperature range of 60? to 70? Celsius. While older cars with standard air cooling maintain a temperature range of 75? to 85? Celsius.
Your car instruction manual may give you a more precise range.
Radiator Problems to Keep an Eye On
While driving keep your eyes and ears open for anything suspicious like weird noises, engine smoke and leaking coolant. Be sure to investigate any new sight, sound or smell that is unfamiliar to you. Those minor quips may be a sign of trouble ahead?
Fortunately, there are simple and cost-effective ways you can diagnose a radiator fault ? even if you have little to no experience in car maintenance.
Due to the combination of pressure build-up and temperature spikes, your radiator is put under a lot of stress. This can cause coolant to leak from different parts of the cooling system such as the rubber hose, the stainless steel clamps that secure the rubber hose and radiator cap.
Depending on the source of the leak, coolant may spill onto the ground or engine parts that sit below the leak.
Use a flashlight to inspect the engine bay for cracks or other signs of damage to the above mentioned parts. One often overlooked part is the radiator cap (the cap you take off to top up the coolant tank). When the engine is cool, take off the cap and check if the seal is broken or worn out. If so, replace it with a new correctly sized cap.
If you can?t find an obvious external leak, the leak may be deeper inside the engine head or block. Take the car to a licensed mechanic so they can perform a pressure test and patch up or replace the leaking part.
A blocked radiator can disrupt the flow of coolant and causes the engine?s temperature to spike. There are two common reasons why this happens: there is old coolant fluid in the system that must be flushed, or there is dirt, bugs and other debris blocking the cooling passage.
One of the most obvious symptoms of a blockage is poor internal heating. If you switch on the heater and it doesn?t feel very hot ? that?s a sign the radiator is blocked and needs flushing.
If you catch the issue early, it won?t cost you much to have the system flushed and refilled by a licensed mechanic.
Water Pump Failure
Your water pump has a very important job. On those scorching summer days it helps maintain a steady flow of coolant and keep the engine cool. When the pump fails, it can restrict the flow of coolant and cause the engine to overheat.
Use a flashlight to inspect your water pump. Look for signs of surface damage such as rust and corrosion, cavitation (vapour cavities that look like tiny bubbles), build-up of sludge deposits, and bleed marks (as the result of leaking coolant).
In the case of bleed marks, the water pump may not have been installed correctly and might just need to be re-installed. However, if the other signs of damage are severe you?ll need to replace the pump.
Think of your thermostat as the gatekeeper of your radiator. When the engine reaches a certain temperature, the thermostat decides when and how much coolant is allowed to enter the radiator. Pretty simple, huh?
Of course, the opening and closing of the thermostat must be perfect to keep the temperature steady. The most obvious symptoms of thermostat failure is when the temperature gauge is very high or changing erratically, or there?s a coolant leak near the thermostat housing.
Fortunately, it doesn?t cost much to replace the thermostat, and early detection will save you a fortune in the near-future.
Article provided by Natrad