If you live in New Mexico, or any warm climate, a common sight is seeing a motorist stranded at the side of the road, the hood of the car open and billows of steam pouring from the engine. In the high desert, it’s often due to a blown radiator, broken fan or ruptured radiator hose.
The radiator is the core of your vehicle’s cooling system. Radiators control the temperature of your car by cooling down all the parts moving in your engine.
Keeping your Car Cool
Radiators don’t actually have any electronic parts on its own, though a sensor monitors the coolant temperature when it exits the radiator. When the engine is cool, antifreeze only circulates within the engine. Once I hits about 195 degrees Fahrenheit, a valve opens and allows the coolant to flow through the radiator.
When your Car Loses it’s Cool
When things go wrong, your car’s temperature can reach a dangerous level within minutes. Driving under these conditions, if you are even able to do so, could cause your vehicle’s engine to seize, leading to repairs far more expensive than repairing or replacing a radiator.
Maintaining your Car’s Cool
Radiator fluid should be swapped every now and again to avoid the situation described at the beginning of this blog post. Smaller cars contain about 5 quarts of antifreeze, or coolant, while larger vehicles contain up to 18 quarts. Most are made with ethylene glycol, and last for about 30,000 miles.
Coolant should be replaced about every year or so. It’s also wise to flush and refill the radiator every 12 to 24 months to ensure the radiator lasts for a long time. Regular radiator maintenance also maximizes its performance, and thus that of your vehicle.
The recommended times vary per vehicle, so read your owner’s maintenance schedule for recommended service times. You won’t have to swap your radiator fluids as often as you have to change your oil, but it should be considered part of your vehicle’s routine maintenance.