Living in Australia, some drivers might argue that a car’s cooling system is one of its most important functions. Your car’s cooling system removes excess heat from the engine, and regular servicing is vital to maintain reliable performance and to avoid costly engine repairs.
How does the cooling system work?
A little less than a third of the energy generated by your car through burning fuel is converted to mechanical energy to run your car; the rest converts to heat. Some of that heat is blown straight out of the exhaust, but the rest heats the engine itself. Your car’s cooling system works by moving coolant (water plus antifreeze) through the engine, where it picks up heat, and then passing that heated coolant through the radiator, where the heat is transferred to the surrounding air. The cooling system must have enough cooling capacity to cool a car under extreme conditions such as when towing a caravan or operating in scorching heat, as well as maintaining the correct engine operating temperature in extreme cold, such as on a visit to the snowfields.
Cooling system components
A car’s basic cooling system is made up of the radiator, radiator hoses, housings and connections, water pump, heater core, thermostat and a cooling fan. Each has a different function:
- Radiator: Coolant that’s passed through the engine is then pumped through the radiator tubes, cooled off and continually recirculated through the system.
- Radiator hoses and housings: Rubber hoses transfer the coolant fluid from one location to another and need to be checked regularly and replaced before they become brittle and cracked.
- Water pump: This water pump circulates the coolant through the system. The pump is usually driven by either a drive belt or sometimes by the engine’s camshaft-timing belt. The water pump requires regular inspection for signs of corrosion, bearing operation and seal leaks.
- Thermostat: The thermostat controls the coolant circulation rate to ensure your engine maintains a constant operating temperature. If the thermostat fails to operate correctly, it could cause increased engine wear, poor fuel economy or even an overheated engine – resulting in costly repairs.
- Electric cooling fan: Electric fans are used for either primary or added cooling. The fan draws air through the radiator when you aren't moving fast enough to maintain the optimum engine operating temperature. You’ll often hear the fan when parked in traffic or when the air-conditioning is switched on, as the cooling system requires constant air movement to operate efficiently.
The warning signs
Some of the signs that there are problems with your cooling system include:
- Car overheats (see engine temperature gauge).
- Puddle of (greenish or brownish) cooling fluid under the car.
Cooling system repairs
Our trained technicians will carefully examine and test each part of your cooling system and highlight any areas that require work or replacement components. All work is backed by our industry-leading Australia-wide guarantee.