Bring your car to AAMCO for a complete Vehicle Courtesy Check diagnostic. This will help identify any issues that need to be looked into and possibly repaired, such as your radiator and cooling system. See our current specials and coupons.

Proper maintenance of your car’s radiator is essential to the life of the engine. The radiator is responsible for the overall health of the engine, helping to regulate its temperature and prevent catastrophic heat damage. It keeps the engine from overheating and the engine block from cracking. The radiator, in some circles, takes a more important place in the pantheon of engine parts than the timing belt when it comes to day to day operation of your car.

How the Radiator Works

The engine is basically a generator and container of thousands of explosions as it runs. But the radiator does all the “cool” work. The cooling system in your car works by pumping a liquid coolant (AKA anti-freeze) from the bottom of the radiator, up through passages in the engine, and back down through the top of the radiator. With the help of a fan, the wind through its cooling fins, and its own large surface area, the radiator loses the heat and sends the coolant back around to go get more.

  1. When you start the engine, the water pump starts pumping coolant through passages in the engine.
  2. The coolant flows through the passages and absorbs heat from the engine.
  3. The heated fluid flows back to the radiator.
    • The radiator is connected to the engine by hoses.
    • It has a top and bottom tank connected by a large bank of small tubes.
    • The tubes pass through stacks of thin metal fins.
    • The radiator loses heat rapidly as air passes over it.
  4. The radiator “radiates” the heat out, away from the engine.
  5. As the car moves forward, air flows through the radiator, absorbing and blowing away the heat radiating from the radiator, which cools the coolant.
  6. When the car is stopped, either the engine fan or dedicated electric fans continue to blow air through the radiator.
  7. The cooled coolant flows back down to the bottom tank of the radiator and is pumped back through the system to do it all over again.

Radiator Flush

Image - woman looking at engine overheated and smoking, hood up.

There are ways to ensure your radiator does not fail. One of them is to follow the service maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturer to get the coolant replaced at regular intervals. Some recommend that you change the coolant every 25,000 – 40,000 miles. Replace the coolant to ensure it’s free of contaminants, such as rust, that can stop it from flowing smoothly through the radiator and engine. Over time and with high engine temperatures, it’s inevitable that the tanks in the radiator will crack. When you replace the radiator, replace the thermostat, too, as well as any necessary radiator hoses. The system should be thoroughly flushed to remove any residual contamination.

A radiator flush involves pumping cleaner into the system to eliminate sediment and rust. The system is then flushed while new antifreeze and an anti-corrosion conditioner are added. After this, it is filled with new coolant.

Be aware that simply draining the radiator and refilling it is not the same as a flush. A radiator drain and refill only removes about 50% of the anti-freeze in the system and leaves much of the contaminants that have built up. It also means that the new anti-freeze will mix with the old, which basically negates the effectiveness of the new anti-freeze. A full flush guarantees that all of the old anti-freeze is removed from the system and old contaminants and crud are completely removed.

If your car’s engine cooling system is not working properly, visit an AAMCO Minnesota location near you. When larger issues arise and you need cooling system repair, make sure to Schedule an Appointment now for a system diagnostic test before it is too late. Come to your local AAMCO Minnesota shop for a complete Courtesy Vehicle Check. We’ll help you keep your car running reliably so you won’t have to worry about whether your car will start in the next cold snap, or if you’ll weather the next blizzard. If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota can help.

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