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Everything you need to know about your car radiator

A car radiator is among the most important parts of your vehicle, as it functions to keep the engine cool and your car running perfectly.

However, the devices are often the reason why many vehicles suffer from breakdowns. To help ensure you don’t encounter such an issue, car radiators specialist Advanced Radiators has put together this list of everything you need to know about car radiators:

  1. As well as keeping the engine cool, a car radiator also functions to keep other important lubricants and fluids at an adequate temperature — power steering fluid and transmission fluid, for example.
  2. There are two primary car radiators to be aware of…
    • Cross flow radiators, which are designed to use tanks (found on the sides of the radiator core) to enable the coolant to cycle back and forth across the core. As a result, heat can be dissipated across a spacious area.
    • Down flow radiators, which have a conventional vertical-flow design complete with an expansion inlet tank found at the top of the core to enable coolant to circulate effectively through the radiator. They are particularly popular on heavy vehicles.
  3. Coolant is the solution that is pumped around an engine to a radiator — this coolant is made up of a combination of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) and water.
  4. Antifreeze works to keep any water found in the radiator from freezing when subjected to cold temperatures.
  5. Antifreeze can also prevent any water found in the radiator from boiling when a car is being driven around in warmer climates.
  6. Keep an eye on the coolant level of your car radiator, as a low level can cause the entire vehicle to overheat. Water is all that’s required to top up the coolant to its recommended level.
  7. A thermostat is built into a car’s cooling system, with its function to prevent coolant from circulating to a car radiator prematurely — engines are more efficient when they are hot.
  8. A cooling system’s radiator (as well as its hoses) should be inspected carefully as follows:
    • Cars which are filled with a traditional type of antifreeze, which is usually coloured blue though other variants are available, should have their coolant changed on a bi-annual basis.
    • Cars which are filled with Organic Acid Technology (OAT) antifreeze, which is usually coloured red though other variants are available, should have their coolant changed at least once every five years.
  9. Damaged or corroded car radiator fins should be replaced, as keeping them in place will detrimentally affect the radiator’s ability to dissipate heat. The overall effectiveness of the car’s engine cooling system will also be reduced.
  10. The cap of a car radiator should never be opened when the engine is hot, as you could run the risk of being scalded.
  11. Car radiators can become clogged as a result of dead insects, dirt or loose debris such as stones.
  12. A clogged radiator can often be easily seen by just lifting the car’s bonnet, though it’s important to be aware of it as the issue will cause blocked airflows and the radiator to overheat.
  13. If you can’t see anything plainly visible when it comes to a clogged radiator, this could be a sign that it’s an internal clog. To see if this is the case, there are two options available to you:
    • Scan the surface of the radiator using an infrared thermostat and look out for any cold spots.
    • Open the radiator cap once the engine has cooled and check the radiator’s fluid for any brown discolouration or suspended contaminates like floating dirt.
  14. Traditional copper and brass core car radiators have slowly been replaced with those with aluminium cores and plastic tanks. There are a number of reasons why, including:
    • Aluminium cores are more cost-efficient than copper and brass cores.
    • Aluminium cores weigh significantly less than copper and brass cores.
    • Aluminium is known to have an impressive rate of heat transfer when compared to many other common metals.
  15. Be aware of malfunctioning radiator caps. This is because…
    • A radiator cap which has not been screwed on correctly could result in coolant leaking.
    • A radiator cap which is not sitting correctly could cause the radiator’s water pressure to be compromised — this is due to the cap working to maintain correct water pressure.

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