How to Service your Car Radiator Yourself?
Car Radiator Maintenance
The water car radiator was invented by Karl Benz and Wilhelm Maybach for the Mercedes 35hp in 1901. It was the first honeycomb radiator. Since then, the designs may have changed over the time but the working principle of the car radiator is the same. In Australia, car radiators are one of the top three reasons for damage to cars. Hence it gets more important to address the issue in detail here. In this blog we see the reasons for your radiator not functioning optimally and how to do a complete maintenance of it.
How does a Car Radiator Work?
As the word radiator implies, it radiates heat into surroundings. It does so by extracting heat from the engine block. This, in turn, is done by the coolant which acts as the carrier of heat. The engine coolant is always circulating the engine block, the coolant pipes and the car radiator. The engine coolant takes up the heat while it is in the engine block. It then flows from there to the car radiator through radiator pipes. The coolant then arrives at the radiator which is made up of a number of smaller tubes. The coolant gets divided and flows into these multiple tubes and dissipates heat to the surroundings. The tubes ensure that the surface area of the exposed coolant gets increased manifold to the atmosphere for the heat exchange to be faster. To speed up this process, a cooling fan thrusts air onto the radiator fins.
What are the Causes of Radiator Damage?
- External Physical Damage: It is quite a common thing for a foreign object to strike the radiator at high speed and puncture it. This leads to leakage of coolant.
- Corrosion: It is recommended to mix the coolant with water in a 1:1 ratio. If not done so, the high concentration of the coolant fluid can lead to corrosion. This corrosion usually happens where the plastic coolant tank is crimped to the aluminium core. This if goes unchecked leads to the circulation of debris inside the cooling system. This debris can get lodged in the engine block and damage it.
- Excessive Vibrations: Radiator damage due to excessive vibrations is usually found in off-roading vehicles. Excessive shocks to an already aged coolant system can lead to cracking of worn out bracket. This can further cause coolant to leak.
What is Stray Current?
A car is a complex ecosystem of pieces of machinery functioning in tandem with each other to make you reach your destination safely. One such system which is working is the electrical system. This system needs to have proper electrical paths and any stray electrical current can have delirious consequences. If stray current flows through in the cooling system through the coolant, it leads to stray current electrolysis. This means that the contents of the coolant start to separate themselves from each other and start reacting with the radiator itself leading to perforations and corrosions. This kind of defect needs an expert level mechanic and in some cases even changing of radiators if the damage is big.
Why is my Car Coolant Milky?
When any of the above damage occurs, it can lead to the leakage of the coolant and it mixing with any of the lubrication systems. When this happens, the coolant turns milky indicating that it is now more of an emulsion of coolant and a lubricant.
Why are There Black Particles in the Coolant?
The presence of black particles in your coolant confirms that the coolant pipes are eroding and they need to be changed. If not done so, your engine is bound to overheat.
What if I Don’t Replace my Leaky Radiator?
The problems will start to show themselves as symptoms first like milky coolant or unusual changes in engine temperatures. If still not attended to, the car engine temperature can rise significantly because a car engine is basically a chamber where controlled explosions are taking place. If the temperatures are not bough under control, the engine can get damaged beyond repair which will drive your repair costs through the roof. So if ever you need to prioritize car repairs due to budget constraints, don’t let the radiator take the backseat.
How to Maintain a Car Radiator?
- Remove any foreign objects from the radiator fins. It is quite common for leaves, insects or dirt to get clogged onto the radiator fins. This prevents the maximum flow of air through the radiator. This, in turn, cascades into improper engine cooling and hence your car is not able to perform its best. To remove this, first ensure that the vehicle is standing still and the engine is completely cool.
- You will need a brush and a hose. Start with the brushing of the radiator fins. This needs to be done carefully as the radiator fins are easily deformed. If you encounter any deformed fins, straighten them with something blunt like an ice cream stick.
- Once you have brushed the fins and any trapped debris has been removed, use the hose to clean the radiator. If possible, spray the water from the inside to the outside and remove any foreign particles still trapped. Make sure that the water pressure is not too much so as to damage the radiator fins.
- Flush the coolant every 20,000 kilometres or 2 years whichever is less.
- Ensure that all the hoses and clamps aren’t cracked and are secure. If you find that the hoses or the radiator cap look expanded or soft or if you feel them crunching when squeezed, a replacement is necessary.
- Check your coolant level every week. See to it that it is not milky, doesn’t have black residue and that there is no shortage of any in the coolant tank.
- Flush the system if you see any symptom of contaminations.
- Ensure that the water to coolant ratio is correct to avoid corrosions.
- Never ever commit the blunder of removing the thermostat from the cooling system to drive the temperature down. This can have disastrous consequences for your vehicle.
- Only use products which are compliant with your manufacture recommendations or at least meet the Australia Standard AS/NZ 2108.1.1997.Type A or Type B. If a product does not clearly say of meeting these standards, better not use it.
- Make sure that the electrical system is properly wired and earthed. All electrical contacts should be connected properly. This is done so as to avoid stray currents passing through the coolant and making it act as a conductor. Doing this is more important if the radiator has an aluminium core. If spurious currents flow through the coolant, it can lead to the destruction of the aluminium core.