From all the different little things and components of a vehicle, your car radiator would be among the most important. Its main purpose is to keep the engine cool and ensure your car is running as smooth and perfectly as possible. Although such a crucial part of the vehicle operating system, it is often the very same component and reason why many vehicles suffer breakdowns. In an effort to help you be aware and ensure that you don’t encounter any difficulties, here is a list of everything you need to know about your car and its radiator.

  1. There are two types of radiators that you should know of
    • Down flow radiator: This type of radiator is particularly common on heavy motor vehicles. It has a vertical flow design and an inlet situated at the top of the core which effectively circulates coolant through the radiator.
    • Cross flow radiator: it uses the tanks found on either side of the radiator core to allow the coolant to move back and forth across the core. Heat is dissipated across a larger area.
  2. Along with cooling the engine, the radiator is responsible and functions to keep vital fluids (eg. power steering fluid, transmission fluid) and lubricants at a moderate temperature.
  3. The solution pumped around the engine is known as coolant. Coolant is a mixture made up of water and antifreeze.
  4. Antifreeze prevents water found in the radiator from freezing when exposed to cold temperatures. It also prevents any water from boiling when a car is driven in warmer conditions. The antifreeze regulates the water temperature and can be used in different ratios to suit the climate you live in.
  5. The level of coolant in your vehicle must always be maintained and regulated. This can be done by using water to bring the coolant to its recommended level. Lower levels can lead to overheating of the car.
  6. A thermostat is found within the cooling system of the car. Its purpose is to prevent premature circulation of coolant to the radiator. It is important to remember that engines work more efficiently when they are hot.
  7. The cooling system and radiator should be inspected frequently. Vehicles which utilize a traditional antifreeze should have their coolant changed twice a year. Car which use organic acid technology antifreeze should have their coolant checked and changed about once every five or six years.
  8. If radiator fins are either damaged or corroded, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Not removing these damaged elements will affect the radiator detrimentally and alter its ability to dissipate heat efficiently. The effectiveness of the engine cooling system will be significantly reduced.
  9. One can be severely burned if the engine is handled while hot. The car radiator cap should never be handled straight after the vehicle was in use.
  10. Insects, dirt and debris can cause a radiator to become clogged. One must occasionally check for any debris and clean it out.
  11. One can easily check for blockages by simply lifting the cars bonnet. A blocked/ clogged radiator can lead to blocked airflows and cause the radiator to overheat.
  12. If you cannot see any visible blockages or clogs when it comes to the radiator, there is a good possibility that there is an internal blockage. To make certain that an internal blockage is indeed the case. There are two ways of checking this;
    • An infrared thermostat can be used to scan the surface of the radiator and look for cold spots.
    • On a cool engine, remove the radiator cap and check the radiator fluid for discoloration or floating contaminants such as dirt.
  13. Traditionally brass and copper were used for the core of the car radiator. This has changed over time and has slowly been replaced with plastic tanks and aluminium cores. The change was necessary and needed for the following reasons:
    • In comparison to brass and copper, aluminium has a much lower weight and is significantly lighter and easier to handle.
    • Aluminium has a much better heat transfer rate against other metals.
    • And lastly, aluminium is much more cost efficient when compared to brass and copper.
  14. It is the responsibility of every car owner to be observant and vigilant when it comes to the care of their motor vehicle. Identifying a malfunctioning radiator cap could potentially save you thousands of rands in the future. A problematic cap could result in leaking coolant if it isn’t screwed on correctly. A cap which isn’t tightly screwed or sitting flush can cause the pressure of the water to become compromised. The cap works to correct and moderate water pressure.

As an owner of a vehicle, it is easy to get a bit overwhelmed at times. We here at Silverton will gladly carry out a full inspection for you so you don’t have to. Bring your vehicle down to us today and we can get you back on the road and having a more enjoyable driving experience!

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