What is a radiator ?


May 21st, 2019

What is a radiator ?


A radiator is a container filled with water, serving as a cooling mechanism to a heat generating engine. Basically, a radiator is a form of heat exchanging mechanism that is majorly used for cooling the interior heat combustion of an engine, and transferring thermal energy from one energy phase to another to ensure that the heat gets cool. Radiators are usually created to function as an aspect of the cooling system in electronics, buildings, and automobiles. Aside automobiles some other machines that uses radiator for the cooling of their engine are: motorcycle, railway locomotives, stationary generating plant etc.

Generally, there are two types of cooling systems used in automobiles. We have the air cooled and the liquid cooled systems. The air cooled engines can be found in older vehicles like some Volkswagen and Mercedes. In recent times, automobile manufactures have debunked the air cooling systems because it has not been as effective as the liquid cooling system over time. The air cooled system is now only common in modern [H1] motorcycle.

Components Of A Cooling System

The radiator is just one aspect of a cooling system, though it is one of the most important parts. The following are other facets of the cooling system:

  1. Hoses
  2. Freeze plugs
  3. The radiator
  4. Water pump
  5. Radiator cooling fan
  6. Thermostat
  7. Heater core
  8. Bypass system
  9. Intake manifold gasket and head gasket

Each of this parts have their own role to play in ensuring that the cooling system is complete, and its function is carried out effectively. They carry out their respective duties collectively, a default in one can render the rest of the components useless.

How does it works?

As earlier discussed, the radiator is a device made for the purpose of regulating the temperature of an engine or machine. Definitely, the engine naturally generates heat from mechanical friction as well as the fuel burning process, in order to make your car or machine work well. This generated heat has to be redirected away for the environment of the engine to avoid disastrous damage to the engine. This is the reason why engines are created to have an in-built, self-induced cooling mechanism.

This cooling system usually includes an exhaust portal through which the heat can be diverted. A part of the cooling mechanism is the oil that lubricates the engine to reduce the extent to which friction will have an effect on the engine. The radiator is another part of the cooling mechanism that kicks in, when the engine temperature gets to a certain point that overheating is starting to set in.

When the temperature of the engine gets to a certain extent that it becomes too much to maintain proper running of the engine, the thermostat in cooling system detects it. Instantly, this activates the release of water and coolant from the radiator to created warmth for the engine. This liquid composition move through pumps from the radiator and gently encompass the heat generated by the fuel burning process and engine friction. After that the liquid composition goes through the surface area, it is then sent back into the radiator via the radiator hose.

Aside from the radiator, the cooling system also contains a fan that rotates constantly, near the radiator and opposite the engine that further enhances the work of the radiator in the cooling process. External air is also transported through vents, thereby augmenting the cooling process.

Major Functions Of A Radiator 

The Radiator is a major part of the car's cooling system, and its basic function is to ensure that your car runs at an optimal temperature that prevent the engine from getting damaged. Once the engine gets over heated, the internal components of the engine, like the piston and the cylinder starts melting, and that is a signal that your engine is on the way to getting damaged. The fuel combustion process is such that it needs the engine to get hot, but not too hot.

The more the engine runs, the quicker the fuel gets converted into vapor in the combustion mechanism, and the more effective the combustion process is, the more efficient the engine will work and the less armful the emission from the exhaust becomes to the atmosphere and other living organisms. When an engine's radiation is perfect, it implies that the lubrication of the engine is functioning at full capacity, which means that the parts of the engine will be able to turn freely and smoothly, thereby making the engine last longer. 

Having a radiator that functions perfectly has a whole lot of benefits attached to it. Aside from the fact that it is capable of preventing the engine from getting over heated, it also aids easy engine lubrication, healthy exhaust emission, and also enhances the work of the whole cooling system installed in the vehicle or machine. 

Symptoms Of A Failing Radiator 

The Radiator is one of the most important component in the cooling system. Hence, it is essential for it to be in a perfect working condition to avoid aggravated conditions. Watch out for the following symptoms before concluding whether your radiator is fault or is about developing fault:

  1. Dash board warning light: if your dashboard indicators are working fine, the first symptom that you encounter when your radiator is failing is that the warning lights will come up. This warning light is to inform you that for whatever reason the engine temperature it getting unbearable for the engine parts, which signals that the cooling system is not functioning effectively.
  2. Engine overheat: if your vehicle is constantly giving a signal of engine overheat after a short journey of not more than 25km, this is a sign that the radiator is starting to fail or is even totally damaged. Such issue should be addressed immediately in order to avoid further damages to the engine. When this happens, the cost of repair will be far more than what could have billed to fix the radiator initially. Therefore, it is best to repair the Radiator on time to prevent further damages. 
  3. Coolant leakage to the floor: the Coolant is the fluid that flows through the radiator, and is responsible for relaxing the high temperature generated by the engine process. When this coolant is leaking from the Radiator, instead of cooling the engine the coolant tends to leak underneath the engine. This may happen while you are driving or when the vehicle is parked. To articulate whether the radiator already as a loop hole, you mechanical professional has to run a random pressure test. If the claim proves positive, you will have to replace your radiator before incurring more damage to your engine.
  4. Coolant contamination: when getting a coolant, ensure to get one that is from a trusted and tested source with valid details. The coolant you use for your vehicle should be normally green, yellow or red. When the radiator starts getting bad, the coolant may become contaminated to the end that it becomes rusty or greasy. This eventually turns into mud in the radiator and prevents the fluid from working properly, because there will no longer be free flow of the fluid in and out of the radiator effectively. This is usually formed in the radiator of vehicles that contains a transmission cooler. When the professional who fixes your car comes across this, it is essential that you fix the radiator or even change it to avoid further damages.
  5. Rapid fuel usage: when the temperature of your engine is on the high side, fuel combustion process tends to increase due to heat generated. As fuel burns rapidly, emission from the exhaust also increases alongside. 

You might also experience an automatic engine cut-off if you are using a modern car. This is a feature that is developed to prevent engine total break-down. It is designed to switch off the engine whenever the temperature gets too much, and disable the engine from starting until the high temperature reduces. Replacing a radiator is not so much of an issue, where the problem comes in when the electric fan and condenser are fused to the radiator. However, that should not be so much of a problem for a professional.

Major Parts That Goes Bad After The Radiator Goes Bad

The cooling system is a composition of many parts. So when one part fails to work properly, it tends to generate a ripple effect on the other parts of the cooling system. The major parts that cease to work after the radiator develops a fault are the:

  1. Water pump: When the radiator stops to cool the liquid composition temperature before it goes into the impeller, the plastic parts of the water pump could get melted. In the long run it ends up damaging the part of the centrifugal pump that rotates to move fluid, and then distort the rate at which the coolant is being transported. Sludge breakage created from contaminated coolant could also cause damage to water pump that passed fluid into the hoses.
  2. Thermostat: this is the part that is responsible for controlling the temperature and indicating when specific parts of the cooling system kicks in. Different engines operate at different rate of temperature, depending on their size and the components they carry. In the bid to control temperature, the thermostat is laid beneath the radiator hose and from there it regulates the temperature of water flowing through the cooling system. When the temperature gets to the optimal point, the thermostat triggers specific parts of the system to become activated.

When the radiator fails, the fluid becomes too hot, which usually causes the thermostat to get damaged. Immediately the thermostat stops working the valve in the thermostat remains closed, which makes your engine start to overheat.

  1. Heater core: this is a part that looks so much like the radiator, but smaller in nature. It also contains a network of gauge tubing that works effectively in the production of hot air for the heat system. If sludge or rubbish breakage from the radiator gets in to the heater core, it creates blockage in the small gauge tubing of the heater core. Also, when the radiator fails and the engine overheats, the tube connections in the heater core are bound to break. So ensure that you pay careful attention to the signs on your dashboard or indicator box.

Maintenance culture for avoiding cooling system breakdown.

Usually cooling system failures are associated with bad maintenance culture and carelessness. It also leads to total engine breakdown, which could have being prevented if proper precaution had been put in place. This precautions include:

  1. Immediately replacing any part of the cooling system that is malfunctioning, leaking or failing;
  2. Regularly check the coolant level.
  3. Consistently do proper examining of the radiator to see if there is no leak.
  4. Replace conventional coolants at every two years or 48000km, or extended life coolants at every five years or 240,000km.
  5. Regularly do a proper check on the belts and hoses, to know whether they are worn-out and need replacement.
  6. Inspect the concentration and condition of the coolant.

There are some tests that should be conducted on a regular bases to ensure proper working of the cooling system, some of them are:

  1. Thermostat test, to ensure proper opening and closing of the valve.
  2. Pressure test, to check for external leakages.
  3. Radiator pressure cap test, to maintain an optimal pressure within the cooling system.
  4. Internal leak test, to identify if gasket is blown.
  5. Engine fan test.

Generally, the major cause of overheating and engine shutdown due to cooling system failure is coolant leakage. In recent times, the vehicles that are being made do not have large reserve cooling capacity. Therefore, careful attention has to be channeled towards checking and inspecting everything possible on a regular basis.