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How Car Stuff Works

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What Your Car Radiator Does

Your car radiator keeps your engine cool.

When a car's engine is switched on and running, it generates a great amount of heat, most of which is expelled through the exhaust system.

The rest of it sits stagnant in the engine area, and although engines need heat to operate at an optimum level, too much heat will destroy the inner mechanics of your engine.

Once those pistons and cylinders start melting together, it'll mean the end of your engine – indefinitely.

The radiator is the main part of the car's cooling system, and its primary function is to ensure exactly the right temperature for the car's engine to operate at maximum potential.

In other words, the engine needs to be just hot enough, but not too hot. The quicker fuel is converted to a vapor in the combustion chamber, the more efficient the whole combustion process and the fewer harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere.

An engine running at the right temperature also means that the oil lubricating the engine is of the perfect consistency to keep the parts turning over smoothly, ensuring a longer lifespan.


Usually fashioned from aluminum, a car radiator is comprised of an arrangement of tubes which pass through the engine. The tubes carry a liquid coolant throughout the engine bay to provide relief to the car parts that heat up.

The engine's overall temperature is monitored by a thermostat which opens up once the normal operating temperature is surpassed.

A water pump, along with a series of belts and hoses, helps the coolant circulate the engine while fan belt keeps the fan spinning. A radiator's job is to facilitate the transfer of heat from the cooling liquid to the air blown in from the radiator fan, or exchanger.

Older cars are cooled by means of an air cooling system that directs hot air away from the engine's cylinder and cool air towards the engine bay via a strong fan.

One of most common radiator-related problems is the overheating that occurs when the thermostat malfunctions. This will seriously compromise your vehicle's performance and emission levels, so if you're stuck with an overheated engine plus clouds emanating from the exhaust pipe, the thermostat probably needs attention. Overheating can also be caused by leaking coolant.

It's best to check the whole cooling system, including all the hoses, the radiator itself, as well as the radiator cap and all the plugs. Besides overheating, the radiator can also become blocked or clogged with dirt particles and severely restrict its ability to dispel heat in the engine bay.

The cooling process itself might also be hampered by a clogged exhaust system or constant aggressive driving. Pushing your car unnecessarily hard will begin to take its toll on the whole car and render the engine prone to overheating and lackluster performance.


No matter the year or the make of your car, it's still a giant hunk of machinery that needs to be maintained. All cars generate heat, and all cars have cooling systems that work hard to keep the inner mechanics cool. Of course the radiator doesn't work alone, but it's best kept in good working order if you like driving a car that starts first time every time.







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How Car Stuff Works
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