Most people don’t give a lot of thought to their vehicle’s cooling system until it stops working and leaves you high and dry on the side of the road. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at this complex system and why it’s so important.
Fact is, cooling systems fail more frequently than any other mechanical part on your vehicle, and this is all due to neglect! You may ask how you can prevent this. Well, the good news is that with the proper care for your cooling system it can remain healthy for the life of your vehicle.
Here at RC Auto Specialists, we’re big fans of preventive maintenance services like replacing your coolant as per the vehicle manufacturer guidelines. But is that all that needs to be done? No, in fact the various parts that makes up the cooling system need proper care as well. The major parts that make up the cooling system are the radiator, thermostat, water pump, cooling fans, freeze plug, pressure cap, overflow tank and all the various pipes and hoses.
The good thing is that we don’t have to be professionals at this stuff; we can leave that to our expert technicians at RC Auto Specialists. However, having a basic knowledge will help us remember to take care of our cooling systems and what to look for.
Your engine produces up to 4,500 degrees of heat. If the engine had to absorb all that heat, the pistons will literally fuse together with the inside of the cylinders – and then the engine would be useless, just a hunk of metal. Replacing an engine would cost thousands of dollars.
What the water pump does is push the coolant throughout the engine which absorbs heat from it. A belt dives the pump and over time this belt will wear and need to be replaced. So too does the water pump itself wear and eventually need to be replaced. By providing basic maintenance and spending a little money on these parts, you can avoid the headache and huge cost of replacing the engine when it seizes.
The next part we’ll look at it a freeze plug. This little part has a big job of projecting the engine from coolant that can freeze and expand. In very cold areas, the coolant in the engine can actually freeze when the vehicle is left sitting. And when it freezes, the coolant expands, which could crack the engine block. The freeze plugs fits into the engine block just tight enough to withstand the pressure of a hot engine, but can pop out if the coolant freezes.
So an engine has to work in all kinds of extreme temperatures. The thermostat is what enables the cooling system to change to external temperatures as well as different operating conditions. The thermostat regulates how much coolant is allowed to circulate through the engine. When the engine is cold, it limits coolant flow until the engine warms up, and then it opens up to allow more coolant to flow in order to keep the temperature within a certain range. The thermostat also needs to be replaced periodically and is fairly straightforward to diagnose and inexpensive to replace.
The coolant absorbs heat from the engine and is passed through the radiator. Air flows past the cooling fans and cools the coolant. When you drive, air is forced past the radiator, but this alone doesn’t produce enough air flow. So the radiator has cooling fans that forces the outside air over the radiator. These fans are often powered by a belt or by electric motors.
With most cars nowadays, you don’t have to remove the radiator cap, because you add coolant through the overflow tank. The radiator cap is also called a pressure cap, and it maintains the pressure in the cooling system. High pressure raises the coolant’s boiling point, so it can cool more effectively even in very demanding conditions; hence you need to replace the radiator cap periodically.
The overflow tank is required because the coolant expands when it heats up and the overflow holds the extra coolant. The tank maintains the correct amount of coolant and keeps air out of the system. Do not ever open the radiator cap or over flow tank when the engine is hot.
The final parts to the cooling system are the hoses and pipes that connect all of these pieces together. They have to be very durable to handle the pressure and high temperatures, but they do wear and can lose their connection to the radiator, water pump, etc. Part of the cooling system maintenance, RC Auto Specialists performs is to inspect your hoses and replace them, if needed. This should be done at least once a year.
RC Auto Specialists can help you check your cooling system and make any necessary repairs, and ensure your cooling system is performing at its peak to keep you on the road. Give us a call at 918-872-8115 to schedule an appointment.