Top Things to Know About Your Car’s Cooling System

It’s not until you realize how wide the range of operating temperatures can be for cars and trucks, that you understand just how important cooling is for reliability.

Excessive heat destroys engines, and you’d be surprised how uncomfortably close your coolant temperatures can come to the danger zone during the summer. Even components that thrive in extreme temperatures like turbochargers rely on cooling to function properly.

The real problem, however, is that excessive heat buildup never affects just one component or system. An annoying loss of performance due to a circulation problem in one component can lead to the catastrophic, temperature-related failure of another. That’s why it’s important to understand how these various cooling systems function, and to be able to recognize when key components are in need of replacement.

Prevent Overheating With New Cooling Components 

Make no mistake: the surest way to extend the reliability, performance, and ultimately the lifespan of your car is by keeping the heat in check. That means performing regular preventive maintenance on your cooling system, and not hesitating to replace damaged, inoperative, or worn-out parts with new, high-quality car cooling system components as soon as you identify the need for them.

engine cooling system

Maintaining stable operating temperatures is the most crucial element in automotive cooling. And although there’s a long list of factors and components that can contribute to overheating, the main causes typically including:

·   A clogged or damaged radiator and cooling hoses;

·   A defective or worn out water pump; or,

·   A stuck thermostat.

In modern cars, cooling systems feature all the gauges and warning lights necessary to prevent overheating, especially when coolant levels are dropping perilously low. It’s the one factor that when acted upon quickly, can minimize the damage that overheating can cause.

There are going to be times though when you’ll discover that the reliability of a critical cooling component has become too questionable not to justify replacing it. Heat, corrosion, and ordinary wear and tear will all have an effect on car cooling systems eventually, and when they do, it’s helpful to know which components would be most advantageously replaced.

New Radiators Bring Better Cooling Capacity

Radiators are every car’s first line of defence against overheating. These heat exchangers are plumbed with dense cores of fin-covered tubes that provide airflow for the engine’s coolant. Some radiators even contain separate plumbing systems for engine oil and automatic transmission fluids.

car radiator

These durable, high-pressure components perform an endless cycle of heat transfer in all seasons and under all conditions, but dented core fins, impact damage, and even the use of mineral-rich water instead of proper engine coolant can contribute to radiator failure that’ll leave you with:

·   White smoke or steam, or hissing sounds coming from under the bonnet;

·   A strange or sweet odour coming from under the bonnet or inside the passenger compartment; or,

·   An instant loss of cooling fluid, possibly commingled with other fluids.

There’s no getting around a clogged or failing radiator, especially if it’s also plumbed for engine oil or automatic transmission cooling. While some radiator repairs are possible, your best approach is to completely flush your engine free of all the residual coolant, and invest in a brand-new, aluminium-core radiator that has superior conductivity and greater heat transfer capacity.

Now’s also the time to replace all of your coolant hoses, clamps, and pressure release caps too.

Install a Corrosion Resistant Water Pump That’ll Last

Water pumps utilize the engine’s rotation with a V-drive, or serpentine belted pulley to circulate coolant between the engine and the radiator. Depending on the type of auto cooling system your car has, these belts can also drive accessories like the alternator, power steering pump, or air conditioner compressor. The radiator’s cooling fan can also be mounted directly to the water pump.

car water pump

Water pumps are largely maintenance-free components that don’t allow for any preventive maintenance unless they’re removed. There’s no mystery, however, about the combination of reasons that can lead to pump failure, including:

·   Overheating due to bearing wear or low-pressure cavitation;

·   Overstressed or broken impeller shaft due to overly-tightened drive belts;

·   Corrosion, or mineral deposit build-up from poor quality coolant;

·   Worn or leaking seals at pulley shaft; and,

·   Gasket failure due to old age.

And although the core of most water pump problems won’t be visible from the outside of the unit, you don’t have to remove one to recognize when it’s starting to have problems. The trouble signs are going to include:

·   A persistent coolant leak from the pump body;

·   An unmistakable whining or grinding sound coming from the unit; and,

·   Obvious pulley misalignment and evidence of drive belt slippage.

Ultimately, while a main gasket and some water pump seals can be replaced, the justification for replacing the entire pump with a new unit is incredibly simple. Water pumps aren’t designed to last forever; and re-sealing a stressed OE unit is no substitute for installing a new, corrosion-resistant one that features a hardened shaft that’s designed for improved lubrication.

And when you’re replacing your water pump, you also want to replace your old drive belts with new, long-life, EPDM rubber belts.  

Regulate Your Temperatures With a New Thermostat 

When it comes to keeping operating temperatures stable, no car cooling component works harder than a car’s thermostat. These simple, engine-mounted units respond to changes in coolant temperature by not allowing it to circulate away from the engine unless it’s at the correct operating temperature, and only allowing it to flow into the radiator when the engine needs cooling.

car thermostat

Ideally, thermostats are never fully closed or open, enabling the engine to operate at a temperature that produces the best balance of performance and economy. The problem, however, is that when a thermostat malfunctions, it fixes itself permanently in an open or closed position. If it’s always open, free-flowing coolant never lets the engine reach its optimum operating temperature, resulting in increased parts wear; and if it’s always closed, coolant never leaves the engine, causing the temperature to rise to the point of complete engine failure.

There’s no middle ground with thermostats. They either work or they don’t work; and when they stop working, a brand new unit that’s an OE replacement for your car is the only way to go.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, your car’s cooling system is responsible for more than just reliability: it’s also about engine efficiency. An engine that stays within its optimal temperature range also performs better and uses noticeably less fuel. It’s an all-around benefit.