A radiator in your house is designed to keep a room warm, so many people might think it does the same thing in a car. In fact, it does the opposite; it actually cools the engine down.
How a radiator works
Engines create a LOT of heat. The internal temperature of your car’s combustion engine can reach up to two and a half THOUSAND degrees Celsius. At this kind of temperature the metal in the engine can weld itself together. If this happens, total engine failure is unavoidable, and a costly repair bill is making an appearance in your near future.
The heat comes from friction between the moving metal parts. We try to minimise this friction with Motor oil which is pumped through the engine as a lubricant, but it’s not 100% effective. There’s still plenty of heat there to melt the engine, and this is where your radiator comes into effect. A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pushed through the engine, absorbing up all the excess heat produced by the pistons pumping away.
Cooling it down
This super-heated engine coolant goes through your engine, comes out the other side, and then into the radiator. The radiator is designed to have the most surface area possible in order to let the heat dissipate. Some radiators have fans that force cooler air from outside the car into the radiator help with the process. The car’s grille is also designed for this purpose. With the outside air and the radiator bringing the coolant temperature down, it’s now cool enough to go back into the engine.
If you’re coolant is running low, or your radiator isn’t functioning properly, this could be a serious issue. Your engine will continue to heat up, getting hotter and hotter until it blows a piston or literally melts, welding itself together. This is why you should always check your radiator and oil levels- a quick once over today can save you a lot of grief tomorrow. Radiators don’t have to particularly cool to work, but if they leak or crack, then it can only be a matter of minutes before the engine reaches critical levels. And of course, always allow the engine too cool down before trying to bring it to a mechanics.