All You Need to Know About Car Engine Radiator

The radiator in a car carries out a very important function as it ensures that the temperature of your car is stable, even in extreme weather conditions. Like every machine, your automobile needs the best condition, to function optimally. As much as the interior of your car, you have to cater to the engine of your car to ensure that it runs properly, at all times.

Very much like the air conditioning in your home, the radiator on the car controls the temperature in the car preventing it from overheating. Overheating is one of the most common problems that car owners face causing regular breakdowns, but with a new car radiator, you can avoid this problem. We have highlighted below, everything that you need to know about car engine radiator.

What is a Radiator In a Car?

To understand fully about car radiator and how it works, it is important to break down the parts of a radiator.

what is a car radiator

Core: This is the major part of the radiator, which allows it to carry out its cooling function. The core of a radiator is typically made up of a big metal block, which has little metal fins. These fins are passages through which the coolant passes heat. There are different classes of radiators depending on the number of cores, which they possess.

We, therefore, have one-core radiators, two-core radiators, as well as three-core radiators.

Outlet and Inlet Tanks: These tanks aid the cooling process, as it aids the transportation of coolants from the heated parts of the car engine, down to the radiator. Other parts include the radiator cup pressure and transmission cooler, both working with other parts of the radiator to regulate the engine temperature – collectively referred to as auto cooling.

It is a known fact that the engine of a car generates a lot of heat while working. This heat is not out of place, as it is due to the miniature explosives that power the engine. Your car cannot run properly without heating up, which is why there is a need to regulate the heat.

This is where the engine coolant comes in. It is an effective fluid, which draws the heat from the engine, taking it to another part of the car, which is the radiator. The radiator fan then blows air on the liquid, making it cool before passing the heat outside the car. It is very important, as it ensures that the hot air goes out of the engine.

Failure to get the air out can cause serious trouble, and even cause engine damage. In both parts of the cooling system is important for the coolant to work effectively, as the fluid has to pass through the metal fins for the hot air to be expelled. While all radiators perform the same function, they come in different types and sizes depending on the vehicle.

Important Things About a Car Engine Radiator

car radiator temperature
Heat: Avoid opening the radiator cap whenever the engine is running or still hot. You can be seriously injured by the steam or hot coolant that emit from the radiator. Always wait for the engine to cool off before opening the cap, to do anything. Besides, wear protective gear at all times to reduce the risk of injury.
how to clean car radiator core
Dirt: For your radiator to work perfectly, it has to be free from dirt. Dirt and loose debris harm a radiator as it can clog the metal fins and fan. This will affect the cooling process, as it blocks the flow of the coolant, thereby resulting in overheating. It is important to check the radiator regularly, to ensure it is free from dirt. Clogging can be both internal and external, so you must ensure to be on the lookout.
radiator leak car
Leaks: Tiny holes in the aluminum radiator can lead to serious problems in the engine. Check the body of the radiator for leaks if your car is overheating unexpectedly.

How Many Types of Car Radiators?

  • Copper-brass radiators
  • Plastic radiators
  • Aluminum radiators

Copper-brass radiators were the standard for a long while. With the body made of brass, the core was made of copper. The problem with this type of radiator was the size, and susceptibility to rust. Even though the size was reduced over time, it still proved very expensive, and an alternative – plastic radiator was found.

car radiator manufacturers

Plastic radiators were the in-thing for a while, as they solved the cost and size problem which came with copper-brass radiators. It was made of plastic end-tanks and an alloy core. While being highly effective, plastic radiators had the problem of durability. Its use requires complete replacement whenever a part was broken.

Aluminum radiators were invented as a solution to this problem. Having the effectiveness of plastic radiators, aluminum radiators also provides durability, which the latter does not have. Another advantage, which an aluminum radiator has, is its ability to absorb heat fast.

Based on structure, there are two major types of radiators. These are:

  • Cellular Radiator
  • Tubular Radiator

Cellular radiators are also known as honeycomb radiators. This is because of their unique structure, which influences the pattern of air movement through the tubes. This structure allows water to flow in the spaces between the tubes. The core of a cellular radiator is made up of individual cells, covered all around by water.

In the case that the passage between the tubes is blocked, water stops flowing freely thereby clogging a small part of the cooling system. A tubular radiator on the other hand has its upper and lower tanks connected by tubes. Water passes through the tubes, while air pass around it on the outside.

Due to its structure and the flow of water, a clog to a single tube affects the entire system. Cellular radiators and tubular radiators are essentially different in their structure and the means of passage for air and water. While air passes through the tubes and flows in the passage in a cellular radiator, the reverse is the case for tubular radiators. Choosing one depends on your car type and preference.

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How to Clean Car Radiator?

Cleaning the exterior of your radiator is important to extend its lifespan, accumulation of dirt and loose debris can make your radiator lose its functionality sooner than you expect. There are certain materials to avoid when cleaning your radiator.

One of these materials is vinegar. Vinegar is bad for your car radiator, as it contains acetic acid, which leaves the aluminum radiator and its metal component prone to rust. While another material to avoid is bleach, as it contains sodium hypochlorite. This material causes wear, thereby affecting the entire cooling system of your car. 


cleaning car radiator

To clean your radiator thoroughly, you need materials such as a bucket of soapy water, a towel, clothes, a radiator flush kit, and a duster. The first thing to do, when cleaning is to ensure that the radiator is cool. Asides from the obvious safety angle, it also allows for ease as the cleaning materials are more effective on a cool surface.

The next thing to do is to attempt to remove the dust from the radiator. This can be done using a vacuum cleaner. The purpose of this exercise is to remove as much dust as possible before you proceed to clean with soapy water. Once this is done, you can then drain your radiator. Known as the coolant flush, this helps you to get rid of all the fluid inside the radiator. Simply remove the radiator cap, and place a container beneath it, to collect all the radiator fluid.

Add your soapy water into the radiator, allowing it to settle for about fifteen minutes. At this point, you can either clean using a cloth or turn on the car engine. Turning the engine on will enable the lather to circulate thoroughly. After this is done, you can drain the soapy water, in the same manner, which the fluid was drained.

Proceed to rinse the car radiator cleaning with clean water, ensuring to get all the soapy water out. Drain the water and leave the radiator to dry. You can then add your coolant. Doing this by yourself means that you do not have to bother about the radiator flush cost.

Cleaning your car engine radiator is important for many reasons, a few of which are:

It Removes Rust: Cleaning your radiator out helps you to get rid of rust as well as scale deposits. These things build up in the radiator after a while, and if not swiftly removed results in overheating. It can also destroy your radiator and cause permanent damage to the car engine. With a full cleaning exercise, these deposits will be removed.
It Removes Contaminants: Apart from rust and scale deposits, a cleaning exercise also removes contaminants from the radiators. These contaminants are formed from loose particles of the coolants and can hinder the functions of the car’s cooling system.
It Improves Durability: All of these functions come together to improve the durability of your radiator. This is why it is important to carry out cleaning exercises regularly. Ideally, a radiator flush or cleaning should be done every year.

What Are the Causes of Car Radiator Problems?

car radiator problems

Certain things can create problems for your car radiator, causing overheating and damage. Some of these problems are:

  • Electrolysis: This problem usually comes from an engine defect. Caused by a bad engine ground, electrolysis harms the radiator and can lead to permanent damage. In the case that your engine is not set properly, the electrical current will reach the coolant passing the motor. The coolant and radiator work closely together, and the electric current gets to the radiator through this channel. The electrolysis results in wear and tear of the radiator, as it affects the metal.
  • Corrosion: Another major cause of car radiator problems is corrosion. This occurs when the car radiator is not cleaned regularly. When dirt and other particles build up over time, it affects the radiator and leads to serious damage.

These are signs to look out for if you are suspecting that your car engine radiator is failing.

Low Coolant: One of the things to look out for is your coolant being at a low level constantly. That is, even after you have refilled it, it drains in no time. This indicates that there is a problem within the radiator, which needs to be checked swiftly.
Heat build-up: When your car is constantly overheating, even when the coolant is in place, this is an indication that your water pump is failing. It, therefore, needs to be checked out as soon as possible, to avoid permanent or further damage.
Coolant Sludge: When you spot sludge in the coolant within your radiator, something is wrong. Sludge deposits have been known to inevitably lead to overheating when left unchecked, as the car radiator struggles to cool the car engine effectively. This heat accumulation without an easy way of expelling leads to serious overheating and radiator failure.

How Much To Replace a Radiator In a Car?

A car radiator replacement cost depends on a lot of factors. One of which is the nature and extent of the damage. Often than not, you only need to change a part of the radiator, rather than the whole thing. It could be the radiator fan or the metal fins.

For a total replacement, it usually costs between $280 and $1200, with the average cost being $680. Before you decide to carry out a full replacement, you must consult a skilled expert. This individual is better placed to determine if the radiator needs a full replacement.


Often times, it is a little caution that counts. Maintaining a car requires quite a degree of attention to and being careful. Now, you know the basic precautions to take to ensure you have your car radiator in proper functioning condition.

The car radiator is a very important component of your car engine, and without it, your car cannot function properly. In the case of any damages, always consult a professional to provide repair services.

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