The Importance of the Radiator for your Car’s Engine

The radiator is a fundamentally important part of your overall engine support system. Its key role is to carry excess heat away from the combustion and moving parts component of your engine block.


How the Radiator Combats Engine Heat

The function of radiator engine cooling is critical for the ongoing health of your engine. To understand why, it’s necessary to remember that when combustion takes place and metal parts move against each other, friction and heat is the inevitable result. That’s the process that is going on inside your engine, and heat in engines is a serious problem for engineers. Heat causes difficulties because parts can expand as they get hot and that in turn can increase friction and reduce operating efficiency. The final result can be engine wear and fuel consumption occurring more frequently than normal. Automotive engineers needed to devise a better method of cooling engines, and the radiator was an important component of the solution.

The Radiator’s Role in Cooling

In most cars, radiator & engine cooling is achieved by a liquid coolant. Through a process known as heat exchange, the coolant collects heat from the engine and carries it away. In doing so, the coolant becomes hot and needs to be cooled prior to being cycled back into the engine, so it may collect and transport away yet more surplus heat. The method used to stabilize the coolant’s temperature involves heat exchange yet again, this time with ambient air entering the car. The hot coolant enters into the radiator. This is essentially a series of pipes and fins through which the coolant is passed and against which cool air from outside plays. The heat is removed as the cool air passes across the radiator, and when the coolant’s temperature has been lowered to operational standards, it goes back into the engine for the next heat collection cycle. Fins are used to increase the surface area to maximise the amount of air playing across the maximum volume of dispersed coolant fluid. A fan will switch on automatically when airflow intake is insufficient to cool the fluid (e.g. when the car is at rest).

Avoiding Common Radiator Issues

Most modern radiators are manufactured from aluminium. Although aluminium isn’t quite as efficient as earlier generations made from copper and brass, it has the benefit of being lighter. Copper and brass are still used for high performance and some larger vehicles. All radiators may be prone to corrosion over time and the cooling fluid will often contain anti-corrosion additives as well as antifreeze in colder climates. This means that the fluid in radiators is typically toxic and should not be consumed. It’s also important to change your fluid in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Some manufacturers recommend changing the cooling fluid between winter and warmer times, while others may suggest doing so more regularly. Some may offer a largely sealed zero or low-maintenance system. It is also important to periodically inspect your vehicle for any signs of leakage or ‘boiling over’ – though the latter is becoming increasingly rarer on modern, well-maintained cars.


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