When people think of a radiator, then they usually think of a radiator in their home. This is very different from a car’s radiator! Whereas a home radiator is designed to keep a room warm, a radiator in a car does the opposite; it cools the engine down.
The engine in your vehicle will heat up to a ridiculous temperature. And by ridiculous we mean somewhere in the region of two and a half thousand degrees Celsius. At these kind of temperatures the metal in the engine can literally weld itself together. If this happens, total engine failure just around the next corner, and a costly repair bill isn’t far behind.
All that heat comes from the friction between all the moving parts. We can to minimize this friction with engine oil which is pumped through, working as a lubricant, but it’s not enough to stop your car from melting. There’s still plenty of heat there to weld the engine together, and this is where the radiator comes in. A mixture of anti-freeze and water is pumped through the engine, absorbing all the excess heat produced by the moving parts.
Now it’s the turn of the radiator. This super-heated engine coolant goes through the engine, comes out the other side, and then into the radiator. The radiator is designed to have the largest surface area possible in order to let the heat dissipate. Some radiators have fans that bring cooler air from outside into the car and help the radiator with the process. The car’s grille is also designed for this purpose. With the outside air and the radiator lowering the coolant temperature, the mixture is now cool enough to go back into the engine and start the process again.
If your coolant is running low, or your radiator isn’t working properly because of a crack, then this could be a serious problem. The engine will continue to heat up, getting hotter and hotter until it blows a piston or literally melts. This is why you should always check your radiator and oil levels on a regular basis- a quick check every couple of months can save you a lot of grief down the line.
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. Always allow the engine too cool down before trying to bring it to a mechanics.