You may know that the engine has coolant, which is one of the fluids under the hood that needs to be regularly checked. But, do you know what the coolant does, or that it’s part of a cooling system within your vehicle? There are different kinds of cooling systems in vehicles today, including liquid cooled systems and air cooled systems.
What is coolant?
Water is a highly effective material when it comes to holding heat, but it’s freezing and boiling temperatures aren’t compatible with an automobile engine. So, coolant fluid was invented to improve on water’s usability.
Coolant liquid is usually a mixture of antifreeze and water. It is pushed through a series of pipes within the engine to bring the temperature down by absorbing the heat, and traveling to the radiator, where it is cooled.
How does a liquid cooled system work?
The engine and the cylinder head, which contains part of the combustion chamber, both contain a system of cooling channels, through which the coolant liquid flows. As it flows, it absorbs heat from the engine, moving it along the channels. Near the cylinder head, all channels come together into one outlet. At this point, a pump takes coolant from this system toward the radiator, where it is cooled by a fan, and sent back through the channels to continue cooling the engine.
The hotter the engine, the more coolant needs to be topped up in a water cooled system. It’s important to check your levels, especially if you notice the gauge on your dashboard shows that the engine temperature is nearing or reaching higher temperatures.
Most cars today use a liquid cooled system.
How does an air cooled system work?
Air cooled engines maintain the right temperature by allowing air to flow over the hot surfaces. The engine block and cylinder head in this kind of engine have large aluminum fins that reach outside of their containers that pull the heat from the engine and spread it over a larger surface, allowing it to cool faster as an engine powered fan pushes air hot air over them. This cools the fins and removes heat from the engine block, maintaining a safe and constant temperature.
Air cooled systems are more common in older vehicles.
How do I know if there is a problem with my coolant system?
The first way to identify a problem with your coolant system is to watch the temperature gauge on your dashboard. This lets you know if your engine is warmed up enough in the winter, or if it’s overheating, which may signal a problem with your coolant system.
The check engine light can also signal a coolant system error, so make sure to have it checked out if it turns on.
Check the coolant level in your vehicle regularly, or have it checked professionally. If you notice a coolant leak below your vehicle, you may have an issue!