Cooling System: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

5 March 2015
 Categories: , Blog


When your car runs, it generates heat. The car has to get rid of the heat somehow, and that is where your cooling system comes in. There are two main components to this system, the oil system and the actual coolant system. They work together to reduce and dissipate the heat in your car. Some vehicles use air-cooling, but the majority of cars use liquid cooling.

Oil and Your Car

The first part of the cooling system is your oil. While the oil does not directly cool your engine, the friction between the piston and cylinder generates heat. The oil directly lubricates this, thus reducing potential heat. This is why changing your oil and filter is very important to the health of your vehicle. If the oil gets dirty, it will leave a residue on the walls of the engine cylinders, which reduces the oil's effectiveness. As time goes on, the heat and mechanical action of lubricating the engine causes the oils viscosity to break down as well, necessitating oil changes periodically.

Keeping it Cool

The primary component to the cooling system is the radiator and coolant. Your engine works best when it is at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so the cooling system is designed around that optimum temperature. A water pump is the heart of the liquid cooling system. It pumps the coolant around the car cylinders and then to the thermostat.

The thermostat detects how warm the coolant is and if it is not hot enough, such as when your car first starts, it is diverted to flow back around the cylinders. Once the car is up to operating temperature, it goes to the heater core and then to the radiator. The radiator has many fins that branch from the coolant pipe. Each fin conducts heat into the path of the air being blown through the radiator, thus cooling the liquid. Once it is cooled, it goes back to the pump.

Heating Things Up

One other thing that the coolant system does is important during those cold winter months. It provides the heat that blows warm air into your car cabin. When you turn the heat on, coolant is diverted from the main path through a heater block that is closer to the cabin. The heater block looks and functions just like a miniature radiator. As you turn the blower fan up, more air is forced through the heater block, sending heat in through the vents.

The coolant system in your car is just as vital as the systems that do the actual combustion and driving. Without it, your car would overheat and seize, possibly even catching fire. Checking your oil and coolant levels should be a weekly job for any car owner. For more information, contact Modern Auto Air