What is the function of the radiator in engine cooling? Fully Explained

When the engine is running at full speed, it gradually starts to warm up. To avoid damaging it, keep its temperature below a certain threshold. Several techniques are available to achieve this end and the radiator often plays a key role.

What is a radiator?

A radiator is generally a device that transfers heat from one environment to another. In a fluid cooling system, the radiator is made up of several tubes arranged to promote air circulation. The tubes are sufficiently spaced apart and arranged parallel in this case. In an engine cooling system, these transport coolant. They are connected to fins in contact with air to allow the liquid to cool.

The alloy used for a radiator is a metal with excellent heat conduction properties. On contact with air, metal is able to preserve the freshness it has received. In addition, given its constitution, air can easily come into contact with the radiator. The cooling process carried out by the latter therefore requires a certain ventilation. It is for this reason that the radiator is placed at the front of the engine. In this way, when the vehicle is in motion, it receives air from the outside.

In order for the radiator to continue to perform its cooling work, a fan is placed in front of it. When the vehicle is stopped, the fan produces the air necessary for the radiator. Note, however, that the radiator does not directly cool the engine. More specifically, it is part of the cooling circuit which is in charge of cooling the engine.

The engine cooling system

The combustion of fuel that occurs inside the engine when it consumes fuel is very high. The heat generated is transmitted to the various surrounding mechanical parts and is accentuated by any friction. These mechanical parts can however be damaged by this temperature, hence the need to cool them.

Several cooling methods have followed one another and have brought their lots of improvements over the years. Currently, the most used system is the one involving the use of coolant. This is brought into contact with the hot element and absorbs its heat. It is then directed to a heat sink or radiator. The radiator cools the water and it goes back to the engine.

In addition, a radiator is designed to allow heat exchange to the air. It is used in various fields to allow temperature regulation. Its principle is the same whether it is used in a computer or in a car.

The cooling system

This circuit is composed of several beams through which the coolant passes. The hoses are the tubes which transport the liquid and connect the various elements of the circuit. They are made of flexible waterproof tube, but resistant to high temperatures. On this subject, it should be known that the temperature of the engine can reach 800 °C and the fluid which circulates in the hose connection can reach an equally high temperature. To be able to circulate, this heat transfer liquid is sucked up by a pump.

The liquid is drawn from the tank and passes through the various parts of the engine where the temperature is high. In some systems, the engine is also contacted with engine oil, separated by a bulkhead, to allow it to cool. The water absorbs the heat from these different parts and then it is redirected to the radiator. Once in the radiator, it passes through the tubular networks of the latter and dissipates the heat there. The cooled water is returned to the engine to restart the cooling process.

When starting, the engine needs to reach a certain temperature level to be able to operate. In order to prevent the coolant from preventing it from reaching this temperature, a system initially blocks access to the engine. It then opens to let the liquid pass as soon as the temperature increases. It is important to note that the coolant is not tap water. It is a water with additives promoting heat transfer and resistant to frost. It is therefore not possible that it becomes frost in winter.


Which could prevent engine cooling

Without the radiator there is no possible cooling. It is therefore essential to keep this device in good condition. As it is placed on the front of the vehicle, it is more likely to be damaged in a frontal collision. When such an event occurs, the tubes carrying hot water are punctured and white smoke or water vapor escapes from the vehicle. If the tubes are damaged for other reasons, the radiator will not be able to do its job either. The fluid level will decrease more and more and the engine will gradually warm up.

Aside from leaks, tube obstructions are also harmful to the radiator. This can happen if the coolant is used up and deposits gradually build up inside the tubes. To overcome this problem, just blow on the radiator. In case you have used tap water as a coolant, then it will freeze in extreme cold. The radiator will be blocked and there will be no cooling.

An air cooling system

This cooling system is simpler, but less efficient than that using a liquid. Almost no car is used to cool the engine. In this system, the radiator is brought into direct contact with the element to be cooled. Being made of metal with good thermal conduction such as copper or aluminum, it can dissipate heat quickly.

In fact, the heat from the element to be cooled is transmitted to the radiator. This is formed by a combination of parallel plates spaced between them to let the air pass. These plates create a larger surface in contact with the air and are thinner to facilitate heat dissipation.

Such a system is said to be passive if it only depends on the ambient air for cooling. If it uses an air source created by a fan, then it is said to be active. In addition, the source created by the fan accelerates cooling.