Radiator Service & Repairs
The radiator in your vehicle has the critical job of keeping your engine from overheating. Why is this important? Because an overheated engine can quickly become a damaged and unusable one. Not only does this put you at risk while on the road. Engines and their related parts can also be some of the most expensive things to repair in your vehicle.
In this post, we’ll look at a few key things you need to know about the upkeep of your radiator:
- How does a vehicle’s radiator work?
- Coolants, antifreeze, and the dos and don’ts of radiator fluid
- What are some common issues that might indicate my radiator is due for a repair or replacement?
- How can I keep my radiator in good working condition?
How does a vehicle’s radiator work?
We’ve established that the radiator’s job is to keep the engine from becoming overheated. But the radiator doesn’t actually cool the engine itself. What it cools off is a fluid that flows between the engine and the radiator. That fluid, referred to as coolant, absorbs your engine’s excess heat as it passes through its various passageways. It then moves through the radiator, which uses fresh air from outside the vehicle to bring down the temperature of the coolant. The fluid then travels back into the engine to absorb any newly created excess heat. And the cycle repeats itself.
Apart from the radiator and coolant fluid, there are three other basic parts involved in this process. First, there’s the water pump that pushes the coolant through the various hollows and tubes. Second, there’s a fan that kicks in when there isn’t sufficient fresh air travelling into the vehicle to cool the fluid (e.g. while idling). And lastly, there’s a thermostat, which closes to keep the coolant inside the engine for just the right amount of time, before opening up and allowing the fluid to travel to the radiator.
Coolants, antifreeze, and the dos and don’ts of radiator fluid
Coolants are sometimes referred to as antifreeze, but antifreeze is just one ingredient. The other key ingredient is water. And the exact ratio of water to antifreeze can vary from coolant to coolant to suit the needs of different vehicles. Here are some of the dos and don’ts we recommend with this specially blended liquid:
DO work with a licensed and experienced technician to ensure your vehicle (a) is using the right type of coolant; (b) contains the right amount of coolant; and (c) is being flushed at the right intervals to replace older fluids that are no longer functioning optimally.
DON’T purchase off-the-shelf coolant without carefully reading your owner’s manual. Using the wrong coolant (with the wrong ratio of antifreeze to water) can damage your vehicle’s cooling system in both the short- and long-term.
DON’T use water as a replacement for coolant. The reason coolant contains both water and antifreeze is because antifreeze keeps the fluid from reaching a boiling point too quickly. It also contains chemicals that prevent metal parts within the cooling system from rusting and corroding.
DON’T add non-diluted antifreeze to your vehicle. Some off-the-shelf products contain only antifreeze (i.e. with no water added) and shouldn’t be poured into your vehicle without first being diluted with the right amount of water. And though it seems counter-intuitive, antifreeze on its own reaches a freezing point much more quickly than when it’s mixed with water.
What are some common issues that might indicate my radiator is due for a repair or replacement?
The best way to keep up with radiator repairs is through regular maintenance performed by a licensed technician. But if your vehicle displays any of the following warning signs, we recommend bringing it in for an immediate inspection.
- The “check engine” light gets activated on the dashboard. Or the engine’s temperature gauge (also on the dashboard) edges closer toward the “Hot” side. Either of these are clear indications that your engine is getting too hot.
- You notice large amounts of white smoke coming out from under the hood or out the exhaust pipe. This is the result of coolant being burned as it leaks internally.
- You notice a colourful fluid dripping from the front of your vehicle. Or the fluid may be deposited under it and will appear red, green, or yellow. This is the result of an external coolant leak.
- The heater inside the passenger cabin is no longer pushing out warm air. Or at least not enough to keep you warm on a cold day. (Why would this signal a problem with your cooling system? Because the hot air passing through the radiator is the same hot air that gets diverted to heat up the passenger cabin on cold days.)
How can I keep my radiator in good working condition?
Radiators are meant to last several years – and they’ll deliver on that promise if they’re properly serviced and cared for. Using the right coolant for your vehicle is essential. Replacing that fluid at manufacturer-recommended intervals is equally important. This is something our knowledgeable Sullivan Automotive technicians can easily help you with.
Like any other system in your vehicle, radiators and their connected parts can also develop problems over time. This can include clogs, cracks, corrosion, and leaks. This is why we routinely check fluid levels and inspect everything from the water pump to the thermostat and all the tubes and hoses in between. If repairs are needed, we’ll answer any questions you have and give you the advice you need to make an informed decision.
If you’re in need of dependable radiator services in Kitchener, ON, the Sullivan Automotive team is here to help.