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  Car Radiator Repairs

Located In Ryde Near Gladesville

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Car Radiator  & Car Cooling Info

car engine
Picture of radiator showing side tank with cooler

A radiator is a type of heat exchanger. It is designed to transfer heat from the hot coolant that flows through it to the air blown through it by the fan.

Most modern cars use aluminum radiators. These radiators are made by brazing thin aluminum fins to flattened aluminum tubes. The coolant flows from the inlet to the outlet through many tubes mounted in a parallel arrangement. The fins conduct the heat from the tubes and transfer it to the air flowing through the radiator.

The tubes sometimes have a type of fin inserted into them called aturbulator, which increases the turbulence of the fluid flowing through the tubes. If the fluid flowed very smoothly through the tubes, only the fluid actually touching the tubes would be cooled directly. The amount of heat transferred to the tubes from the fluid running through them depends on the difference in temperature between the tube and the fluid touching it. So if the fluid that is in contact with the tube cools down quickly, less heat will be transferred. By creating turbulence inside the tube, all of the fluid mixes together, keeping the temperature of the fluid touching the tubes up so that more heat can be extracted, and all of the fluid inside the tube is used effectively.

Radiators usually have a tank on each side, and inside the tank is a transmission cooler. In the picture above, you can see the inlet and outlet where the oil from the transmission enters the cooler. The transmission cooler is like a radiator within a radiator, except instead of exchanging heat with the air, the oil exchanges heat with the coolant in the radiator.

 

Pressure Cap

The radiator cap actually increases the boiling point of your coolant by about 45 F (25 C). How does this simple cap do this? The same way a pressure cooker increases the boiling temperature of water. The cap is actually a pressure release valve, and on cars it is usually set to 15 psi. The boiling point of water increases when the water is placed under pressure.

When the fluid in the cooling system heats up, it expands, causing the pressure to build up. The cap is the only place where this pressure can escape, so the setting of the spring on the cap determines the maximum pressure in the cooling system. When the pressure reaches 15 psi, the pressure pushes the valve open, allowing coolant to escape from the cooling system. This coolant flows through the overflow tube into the bottom of the overflow tank. This arrangement keeps air out of the system. When the radiator cools back down, a vacuum is created in the cooling system that pulls open another spring loaded valve, sucking water back in from the bottom of the overflow tank to replace the water that was expelled.

 

Thermostat

Cooling-system-thermostat
The open and closed positions of a thermostat

The thermostat's main job is to allow the engine to heat up quickly, and then to keep the engine at a constant temperature. It does this by regulating the amount of water that goes through the radiator. At low temperatures, the outlet to the radiator is completely blocked -- all of the coolant is recirculated back through the engine.

Once the temperature of the coolant rises to between 180 and 195 F (82 - 91 C), the thermostat starts to open, allowing fluid to flow through the radiator. By the time the coolant reaches 200 to 218 F (93 - 103 C), the thermostat is open all the way.

If you ever have the chance to test one, a thermostat is an amazing thing to watch because what it does seems impossible. You can put one in a pot of boiling water on the stove. As it heats up, its valve opens about an inch, apparently by magic! If you'd like to try this yourself, go to a car parts store and buy one for a couple of bucks.

The secret of the thermostat lies in the small cylinder located on the engine-side of the device. This cylinder is filled with a wax that begins to melt at around 180 F (different thermostats open at different temperatures, but 180 F is a common one). A rod connected to the valve presses into this wax. When the wax melts, it expands significantly, pushing the rod out of the cylinder and opening the valve. If you have read How Thermometers Work and done the experiment with the bottle and the straw, you have seen this process in action -- the wax just expands a good bit more because it is changing from a solid to a liquid in addition to expanding from the heat.

This same technique is used in automatic openers for greenhouse vents and skylights. In these devices, the wax melts at a lower temperature.

 

Fan

Cooling system fan
Cooling fan

L­ike the thermostat, the cooling fan has to be controlled so that it allows the engine to maintain a constant temperature.

Front-wheel drive cars have electric fans because the engine is usually mounted transversely, meaning the output of the engine points toward the side of the car. The fans are controlled either with a thermostatic switch or by the engine computer, and they turn on when the temperature of the coolant goes above a set point. They turn back off when the temperature drops below that point.

Rear-wheel drive cars with longitudinal engines usually have engine driven cooling fans. These fans have a thermostatically controlled viscous clutch. This clutch is positioned at the hub of the fan, in the airflow coming through the radiator. This special viscous clutch is much like the viscous coupling sometimes found in all wheel drive cars.

 

Heating System

You may have heard the advice that if you car is overheating, open all the windows and run the heater with the fan going at full blast. This is because the heating system is actually a secondary cooling system that mirrors the main cooling system on your car.


Heater plumbing

The heater core, which is located in the dashboard of your car, is really a small radiator. The heater fan blows air through the heater core and into the passenger compartment of your car.


A heater core looks like a small radiator.

The heater core draws its hot coolant from the cylinder head and returns it to the pump, so the heater works regardless of whether the thermostat is open or closed