Cooling System Repair & Maintenance

Are you loosing coolant or antifreeze?  Is your engine running hot?  Does the coolant smell like a dead mouse? Is the coolant dirty, weak, or old? Then your vehicle needs cooling system service.

 

Your cooling system requres periodic maintenance.  Periodically, the old coolant must drained, the system mast be flushed out and fresh coolant must be added.

 

All engines are air cooled

Contrary to standard belief, all engines are cooled by the air.  The liquid coolant absorbs the heat from the hot engine. The liquid is pushed through the radiator by the water pump.  (The water pump is properly called a coolant circulation pump.  Water has not been used as a coolant since the very early days of the automobile.)  Air blows through the radiator, driven by the forward motion of the vehilce through the air, drawn through by an engine-mounted mechanical fan or by a radiator-mounted electric fan.  All electric fans and some engine mounted fans are controlled by the computer.  As air blows throught the radiator, the hot coolant within is cooled off.

 

Radiator

The best known part of a cooling system is the radiator.  If transfers the heat from the coolant to the outside air. The moment the vehicle is driven out of the dealership, the radiator is under attack from the elements,  Moisture, salt, acid rain, dirt and road debris contribute to the external corrosion that eventually cause the radiator to leak.  If not serviced, the engine coolant turns to acid and slowly dissolves the radiator from the inside. Keeping the radiator clean outside and clean, fresh coolant inside go a long way to extend the life of the radiator.

 

Pressure cap / Radiator Cap

At one time, all vehicle had a radiator cap.  Sometimes styling and streamlining have made it necessary to locate the pressure cap off of the radiator. If it is not located on the radiator, it is incorrect to call the pressure cap a radiator cap.  However, the function of the cap is the same.  As the coolant heat up, it expands.  The pressure cap maintains about 15 pounds of pressure which increases the boiling point of the coolant, preventing the coolant from boiling away and thus helping to prevent a overheat from coolant loss.  But because the coolant is under pressure, any small leak must be repaired because of the  pressure pushing the coolant out.

 

Reserve tank

The coolant reserve tank traps the coolant the flows out of the radiator through the pressure cap and the cooling system warms up and the fluid expands.  Because the cooling system is designed to run 100% full.  As the cooling system cools down, a valve in the pressure cap allows the coolant to be drawn back into the cooling system.  On some vehicle where the pressure cap cannot be put on the radiator, the reserve tank serves that purpose.

 

Transmission cooler

Built into the end of the radiator, the transmission oil cooler cools the transmission fluid.  If the cooler leaks, transmission fluid will engine the cooling system or coolant will enter the transmission.  Either does not make a pretty picture.  At best, the radiator needs to be replaced and the transmission flushed out or the cooling system flushed out.   If transmission fluid gets into the cooling system, the transmission fluid will slowly dissolve the rubber in the coolant hoses causing them to swell and fail.    If the coolant get in the transmission, the transmission will fail costing perhaps a couple of thousand dollars of damage.

 

Water pump

Properly called a coolant circulation pump, the water pump pushes the coolant through the cooling system.  The water pump is driven by a shaft that protrudes out of the front of the water pump.  Some vehicles have a secondary water pump which is electrically driven.  An internal seal keeps the coolant from leaking past the shaft.  However, sooner or later the shaft bearings will fail or the shaft seal will leak.  Dirty coolant makes the seal wear out sooner.  Some water pumps are drive by the Timing Belt making their replacement somewhat costly.  Keeping the coolant clean helps to extend the life of the water pump.

 

Thermostat

The thermostat regulates the temperature of the coolant by controlling the amount of coolant that passes through the radiator.  Engines work best when they are at correct operating temperature.  A thermostat that is stuck open or opens too soon will make the engine run too cool.  This causes rapid engine wear, causes the engine to consume too much fuel and makes the heater less effective.  A thermostat that does not open, opens late or does not open fully can make the engine overheat.  Todays engines are made lighter and thinner than they used to be making them much more susceptible to damage from overheating.  Once good overheat can cause many hundreds of dollars of damage.

 

Radiator, heater and bypass hoses

The hoses allow the coolant to flow through the various parts of the cooling system.  Made of fabric reinforced rubber, the inside of the hoses can be come so deteriorated that the rubber will actually start to flake off.  This can clog the radiator and the heater core.  Once the hoses get in this condition, the only recourse is to replace all of the coolant hoses.  On some vehicle, hoses run under the intake manifold making it necessary to partially disassemble the engine.  Keeping the coolant clean helps to extend the life of the hoses.

 

Heater core

The heater core is a small radiator that heats the air entering the passenger compartment to provide heat.  Because of their size, heater cores can plug up easily from dirty coolant.  A leaking heater core will cause the inside of the windshield to steam up.  Another sure sign that the heater core is leaking is the smell.  The coolant smells icky sweet. smell to it.  Coolant is toxic and the vapors should not be inhaled.

 

When you need service

There are five things that must be monitored to determine if your cooling system requires service:

  1. COOLANT LEVEL:  The cooling system must have enough liquid in it.  If the level is low, the cooling system must have a leak.  If too much coolant leaks out, the engine could overheat causing severe engine damage.  This could result in destroying the engine.  We can perform a Cooling System Cooling System Leak Test to determine the source of the leak.
  2. COOLANT CONDITION:  You should be able to see thru the coolant.  If the coolant is cloudy or has visable particles floating in it, the coolant needs to be changed.
  3. FREEZE PROTECTION:  Coolant must be mixed with water for it to function correctly.  The freeze protection indicates the percentage of antifreeze in the coolant.  35 degrees below zero equals a 50% mix which is ideal for most climates.  Antifreeze also raises the boiling point of the coolant, something that is very important is hot climates.
  4. pH:  This measures how caustic or acidic the coolant is.  Because it works in a hostile environment, coolant turns to acid as it gets old.  Acid disolves metal.  Idealy, coolant should be changed before it becomes acidic (turns into acid).  If the coolant has turned acidic, it must be changed at once.
  5. COOLANT AGE:  Coolant has other chemicals in it that simply wear out.  Follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations.  As of this writing, no coolant lasts more than 5 years.

 

When the cooling system is serviced, our factory trained technicians look for things that can cause failure:

  • Signs of obvious coolant leaks
  • Electric cooling fans (if equipted) for proper operation
  • Condition of the drive belt(s)
  • Condition of radiator, radiator hoses, heater and bypass hoses
  • Condition of the pressure cap
  • Proper functioning of coolant thermostat
  • Heater operation.

 

Does your vehicle need cooling system service? Then bring your vehicle to Clearview Tire & Auto Service for a correct diagnosis and professional guaranteed repairs which includes our Certified Auto Repair Nationwide Warranty.  We're in Hopkinsville, not far from Ft. Campbell and we've been here since 1952. Most repairs include one year FREE towing and roadside assistance, good 24/7 coast-to-coast.


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