How Do Radiators Work?

As a car owner, it is important to understand car parts & radiators. According to Toolspicks, A radiator is a car device which prevents the car’s engine from overheating. It acts as a heat exchanger. While its function seems simple, radiators are the most misunderstood car components as people often mistake them for home radiators. So, if you want to read more about them, here’s how they work:

How the Radiator Works

  • The engine has a thermostat which detects whenever the engine heats up to unacceptable temperature. The rise in temperature alerts the thermostat and triggers the release of coolant and water, which are in the radiator.
  • The water and coolant combination moves through the engine, picking up the heat coming from the engine. The liquid mixture goes back to the radiator.
  • A radiator has ample surface area to enable the coolant to cool. Moreover, there is a fan near the radiator which helps in further cooling. The radiator requires consistent air flow for better cooling.
  • When the car is in motion, the forward velocity is enough to cool the engine. However, when the vehicle is stationary, the fan near the radiator is enough to enable airflow.
  • The fan can be engine-driven; however, unless the engine is constantly active, it is not necessary if the car is in motion. The energy used in driving the fan may lead to waste of fuel.
  • To overcome this, there are cars which have a clutch fluid which it operates using a temperature sensitive valve which uncouples the fan till the coolant temperature gets to a certain point. Other cars have electric fans who get switched on or off by a temperature sensor.
  • Air from outside enters the car through the vents, thus offering further cooling. The coolant is then sufficiently cooled and sent back into the engine to absorb more heat. Radiators have two tanks, each on one side. These tanks have a transmission cooler inside them.
  • The transmission cooler is similar to a radiator but with a different role. Rather than conducting heat to the air, the oil loses heat to the coolant within the radiator.

Comparison of Radiators

New car designs use aluminum radiators which are crafted by flaring thin aluminum fins into flattened aluminum tubes. The tanks of the radiator are of plastic. There is a coolant which flows through tubes that are fixed in a parallel formation. The fins gather heat away from the pipes and transfer the heat to the air through the car’s radiator.

In older car designs, the radiators were made of copper while the tanks were made of brass. The new aluminum-plastic combination is more efficient.

Why the Car needs a Radiator

When the engine is running, it burns fuel, and, in the process, it creates friction. Due to constant friction, the engine experiences heat buildup, which the car has to manage lest it causes tremendous damage.

The engine has pistons, which can be affected by heat build-up. With excess heat, the cylinders can snap and completely breakdown the engine. Thus, the engine has inbuilt cooling systems – the radiator and also the exhaust system, which enable heat to escape. Oil also acts as a cooling system by lubricating the engine parts.

Now that you’re aware of how car radiators work, you now know the basics. This is fundamental so that you’ll know how to generally deal with radiators and check on them in case they break.

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