Understanding Your Car’s Cooling System

It’s hot in Death Valley. The average high temperature in July is 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Nearly everyone will agree that the middle of a desert is no place to experience a problem with your car’s cooling system, but neither is a busy downtown intersection. Whether you’re broiling in rush-hour stop-and-go or racking up the interstate highway miles, a cooling system failure will stop you in your tracks, yet most people don’t give any day-to-day thought to the vital components that keep their car’s engine running at the optimal temperature.

Don’t end up  stranded on your way to vacation paradise or that important meeting; get your car’s cooling system checked out before you head out. Not only is a failure inconvenient, it could be both dangerous and expensive.

Your car’s engine maintains its operating temperature thanks to a team of components you’ve probably heard of. The radiator, of course, sits at the front of the engine bay and conducts heat from the engine coolant into the air. The water pump is what circulates that coolant through the plumbing, and there are flexible rubber hoses that connect it all up. There are smaller rubber hoses lurking deeper in the engine bay that connect to your car’s heater, as well. To ensure enough airflow through the radiator at low speeds or when stopped, there’s a fan. Fans can be either electric or driven by the engine. Either way, they’re imperative to avoiding boil-overs when you have the air conditioner cranked up and the sun’s beating down.

One of the smallest pieces of the cooling system is one of the most important. It’s called the thermostat, and it is usually located near the engine. The thermostat regulates the flow of coolant throughout the entire system to maintain a consistent operating temperature. It can fail, and when it does, it will no longer provide any control over cooling. While this usually causes weak heater output, it’s not something to postpone fixing until the fall.

Any of these components can spring a leak or wear out from age. Hoses are constantly exposed to the elements and have boiling-hot fluid coursing through them. Amazingly, they last a long time, long enough for most people to forget they’re even there – until they leak or burst. Even a simple blown radiator hose can lead to expensive problems. Overheating your engine can lead to serious, often very costly mechanical problems, and big towing bills, as well.


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