How does a car’s cooling system work?

I’ve been helping my uncle fix up an old Mercedes on the weekends, and by helping, I mean holding the flashlight. He keeps mumbling about the cooling system and how it’s not working correctly. He’s tried to explain what he means, but I’m still a bit confused. How does a car’s cooling system work?

That sounds like quite the project, and it’s okay to be confused! A car’s cooling system is complex.
To understand how crucial the cooling system is consider this: A four-cylinder vehicle going 50 mph produces 4,000 controlled explosions per minute, and the engine would be destroyed within minutes if not cooled.
Below are the primary components and their function:
  • Coolant that is typically a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water and can withstand temperatures below 0°F and above 250°F.
  • Passages throughout the engine block that fill with coolant and keep the engine and surrounding parts at an optimal temperature.
  • A water pump that keeps coolant constantly moving.
  • A thermostat that controls the temperature of the coolant by allowing warmed coolant that cannot cool the engine to flow towards the radiator.
  • A radiator located behind the grill that pumps the coolant through small tubes and uses the airflow created by driving to cool the coolant.
  • A radiator cap that controls pressure by releasing excess pressure and liquid into a reserve tank where it will be recirculated once cool.
  • Hoses that transfer coolant between the engine and radiator, including a hose to the car’s heater where it heats the interior.
In short, the cooling system pumps coolant to any part of the engine that could overheat, and once the coolant gets too warm to cool the engine, the thermostat opens and allows coolant to pass through the radiator where it is cooled.
Hopefully, this helps explain how the cooling system works!
Once the Mercedes is ready to hit the road, consider using the Jerry app to compare car insurance quotes from up to 50+ top companies. Jerry helps you switch plans and will even help you cancel your old policy!
Jack Walsh
Answered on Nov 24, 2021

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