Auto Cooling System Maintenance and Repair
Did you ever think about the fact that your car has two cooling systems? It’s a fact: one system cools you and the other system cools the engine. These are two separate, unrelated systems. If the first one — your air conditioning — isn’t working, you’re uncomfortable, so what?, you open the window! However, if your engine cooling system isn’t working properly, it can cause severe damage to your car.
Your car’s engine burns fuel to generate power. That’s one obvious source of heat. In fact, about 70% of the energy from burning motor fuel is given off as heat. In addition, consider all those moving parts, and all the friction they generate. Replacing your engine’s oil and filter regularly and maintaining your transmission fluid will help reduce friction and control heat., but, without a well-operating cooling system, you may damage your engine.
The engine is designed to run better at a higher temperature than at a lower one, so your car’s cooling system lets the engine heat up quickly to an optimum temperature, and then keeps it there. If the cooling system isn’t working properly, the engine will get too hot, and that can cause serious problems.
Basic Automobile Engine Cooling System Functions
Most cars (with the exception of a few with air-cooled engines found in older-model Volkswagens) have a system of hoses and a water pump that circulate coolant fluid around and through the components of your engine. A water pump, driven by a belt attached to the engine, circulates the coolant. This process collects heat and passes it through the radiator to cool it down to the temperature set by the thermostat. The radiator is just inside the grill in the front of the car, and the speed of the car and a fan forces fresh air through the many small cells — called the core — of the radiator, cooling the fluid. The entire process is designed to allow the engine to operate at the proper temperature.
Maintaining Your Auto Engine Cooling System
The good news is: it’s easy and not too expensive to maintain your cooling system. Second only to regular oil changes, it is a small investment that yields the greatest benefits in helping your car last a long time and perform trouble free. There is, however, one simple rule: Check the condition of your coolant periodically. By the time your car is a year old, you should be doing this every time you have the oil changed. Make certain that your auto service shop is using a small instrument called a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the coolant.
Over time, the coolant breaks down from the constant stress, and needs to be replaced. It’s a normal process and is part of any good routine maintenance process. Obviously, between coolant flushes, it’s important to keep the fluid topped off..
Recommended Auto Engine Cooling System Schedule
Car manufacturers used to recommend flushing the system every two years. Today, some car manufacturers have extended life coolants that should last up to 5 years. You shouldn’t rely on that number, though. Forget about the “life” of a coolant. You need to put it to the test. You don’t know exactly how long it will last. Varying driving conditions make each car different. Either have the coolant tested by the mechanic who services your car or buy your own hydrometer and test your coolant yourself once a year.
In addition to carrying heat, the coolant picks up debris as it circulates. If too much debris accumulates in old fluid, components get plugged up and the system works harder. This is the real reason the cooling system flush adds value. If a radiator is damaged or if you have to replace key parts like the water pump, thermostat or thermostat housing, you’ll pay a high price. Proper car maintenance will almost always enable you to avoid a damaged water pump or other component. Any part can fail, but the likelihood is greatly reduced with good maintenance.
Coolant also contains rust inhibitors that help keep the associated parts – the radiator, thermostat and water pump – in good working order. This matters because we can’t rebuild radiators any more. Why not? Because they’re now mostly plastic and have to be entirely replaced. Rebuilding a radiator used to cost about $100, but, today, solving problems with cooling systems can cost $1,000 or more in some cars.
Do yourself and your car a favor, and add the essential step of regular cooling system maintenance to your routine. In the long run, it could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your car.
Wishing you safe, happy motoring.
Owner, Hillside Auto Repair