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Q: How Does a Radiator Work to Cool Off an Engine?

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How does a radiator work to cool off an engine?

A: Whether you drive a Jeep or a Toyota Camry,...

Whether you drive a Jeep or a Toyota Camry, every combustion engine powered vehicle has one thing in common – they all generate heat. Although engines are manufactured out of steel and high-grade aluminum, if they develop too much heat, they will cause damage to engine components and restrict the engine's ability to work efficiently. This is where the radiator and the cooling system come into play: to keep the engine's core at a predetermined temperature for optimal performance.

Inside each water-cooled engine are a series of jackets and passageways that are designed to flow throughout coolant and water throughout the engine. This coolant is designed to absorb heat as it circulates through the engine. Coolant is able to flow through a motor thanks to a water pump that sucks water from a metal container of coolant and water known as the radiator. After the coolant has completed the cycle, it returns to the radiator to 'cool'.

How does a radiator work?

The radiator is much more than just a coolant collection device. It is designed with multiple tubes where the coolant is kept and circulates in a serpentine motion. As the vehicle moves forward, air from the outside is forced into the radiator coils, which removes a tremendous amount of heat from the coolant and water that was previously heated by the engine. If the temperature gets too hot, a fan attached to the back of the radiator forces air from the back of the radiator to accomplish a similar task.

Coolant is released through the motor when it reaches a predetermined temperature. This temperature is measured by a metal thermostat that is inside the radiator. When the water/coolant temperature is above that preset temperature, the thermostat is open and allows the coolant to flow under pressure supplied by the water pump throughout the engine and back to the radiator. When the coolant temperature has lowered below that temperature, the thermostat shuts and restricts the flow of coolant through the motor. This allows the motor to generate heat and produce power.

The radiator is typically located at the front of any vehicle, because it needs air coming from the outside of the vehicle to enter the coils and cool the water/coolant. It works together with the water pump, thermostat, and a series of coolant hoses to ensure your engine does not overheat. If any of these components that support the radiator and comprise the entire coolant system, the vehicle may overheat, leading to expensive repairs in many cases.

The best way to avoid radiator problems is to make sure to stay on top of radiator maintenance, such as adding radiator fluid as needed and having your coolant flushed every year.

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