What does your car radiator do?
Your car’s radiator is an essential component designed to remove the excessive amounts of heat that is produced by the friction of the engine’s operation and the burning of fuel. If your radiator isn’t working properly it can quickly lead to your car overheating, potentially causing major damage to vital parts of the engine.
A properly functioning radiator operates by monitoring the internal temperatures of your engine and piping out a mixture of radiator coolant and water to regulate heat before it reaches a level dangerous for your vehicle. This mixture absorbs the heat, then carries it away from the engine and back into the radiator where it can dissipate harmlessly. Once this coolant has been cooled by the radiator, it is cycled back into the system.
This is the basics of a standard car coolant system, but it can quickly break down if any of the important steps in this heat-exchange cycle are interrupted. The most common cause for radiator failure is that there is a problem with the coolant piping, leading to a coolant leak.
How do you know if you have a coolant leak?
The first thing to check is your dashboard – your car has sensors designed to tell you when your coolant is low, which will activate a warning light on the dashboard. If you do see this warning and your temperature gauge starts to rise, pull over immediately. Even if the car feels like it is performing fine it’s best not to take any chances. It’s safer to be cautious, because if your engine is allowed to overheat without a properly functioning cooling system it will become a much larger (and more costly) problem to solve than a broken radiator. If your coolant warning light comes on but your temperature gauge is stable, it’s still best to top up your coolant as soon as possible.
The simplest way to determine if you are losing coolant is to check the coolant levels of your radiator’s reservoir tank, then fill the reservoir and monitor the levels while your car is parked. Check the levels again after a short time, and If they have dropped significantly, this is a sure sign you may have a radiator leaking coolant out of the system.
This will often be obvious to see under your car when it’s been parked. Coolant is typically a bright green liquid, making it easier to spot, but this colour will depend on which coolant variant your car manufacturer recommends for your particular vehicle. Yellow, blue and even pink liquids are all potential coolant colours. Coolant has a noticeable smell when exposed to the air that may be present around and inside your vehicle, even if you cannot see any liquid.
If you do spot any unexplained or unexpected liquids under your car that you suspect may be coolant, it’s best to keep yourself and your family from touching it, as coolant is a toxic substance that will irritate your skin on contact.
Do you need to go to a mechanic if your coolant is leaking?
Your radiator is a vitally important part of your engine, and not an easy component to diagnose or fix without the specialised training and equipment that mechanics utilise. Because the heat-exchange system that your radiator is a part of is so large, stretching through the whole engine, it can be exceedingly difficult to both locate and repair a coolant leak. This is why we always recommend that you let a professional mechanic handle your radiator repairs.
If you ever think that your radiator might be in trouble, or you have any questions about a radiator replacement cost, get in touch with our friendly team at HighFields Mechanical on (07) 4646 1780 today or send us a a message using our online booking form.