How Can You Tell Which Part Of Your Car's Cooling System Is Failing?

Posted on: 31 January 2022


You probably don't like sitting out under the sun on a hot day, and you know that exposing yourself to too much heat can be dangerous. While your car's engine operates at much higher temperatures than the human body, it still has its limits. And, just like the human body, there's a specific temperature range where it can operate comfortably and reliably.

The cooling system is the part of your vehicle that ensures the engine stays within this Goldilocks temperature zone. Each component in the system works together to quickly get your engine up to temperature without allowing it to exceed its safety limits. Below you'll find some information on three crucial parts of this system and how you can tell which one might be failing in your car.

1. The Radiator

Your car's coolant needs to do more than just pick up heat from the engine. If the coolant can't release that heat back into the environment, its ability to keep things cool and under control will rapidly diminish. The radiator is the part of the cooling system that makes this possible, and it can cause severe problems if it fails.

Radiators typically fail due to either clogs or leaks. Leaks will cause your coolant level to drop, although a small leak may be unnoticed for some time. On the other hand, a clog will typically cause your car to overheat, often with no other symptoms. Since overheating can cause substantial and expensive engine damage, you should stop driving your vehicle immediately and try to get to the bottom of the problem.

2. The Thermostat

Your car's thermostat will open and close depending on whether your engine is too hot or too cold. Depending on the age and make of your vehicle, you may have a relatively sophisticated electronically controlled thermostat or a simple mechanical wax thermostat. In either case, its role in regulating your car's temperature and coolant flow is the same.

Thermostats typically fail in the open position, which means the most common symptom is your car failing to get up to temperature. Most modern cars will also trigger a check engine light with a failed thermostat. Cold engines are less dangerous than hot engines, but you can still cause damage by keeping your engine from reaching its ideal operating temperature.

3. The Cooling Fan

Your cooling fan helps to disperse heat from the coolant more quickly as it travels through the radiator. This fan typically only operates under high heating load, such as on hot days, when the engine is running at high RPMs, or while idling. As a result, a failing fan may only cause your car to overheat under these circumstances, and you may not notice a problem on cooler days or at highway speeds.

If you do notice your temperature creeping up at idle, that's a good indication that this essential part is on its way out. Although the limited impact of a failing cooling fan might seem manageable, you should still repair this problem as soon as possible. Ignoring the issue may lead to sudden and severe overheating, which can quickly damage your engine.

Contact a company that sells car parts to learn more.