Get to Know Your Cooling System

Get to Know Your Cooling System

When a car or truck is relatively new, there isn’t a lot you need to do with your engine’s cooling system. However, as the miles pile on, things start to age and issues can occur.  Let’s take a look at how the cooling system in your vehicle works and things that you can do to make it last the life of the vehicle.

How cooling systems work

The job of a vehicle’s cooling system is to remove the excess heat generated by the engine. In an ideal world, there would be very little heat released from an internal combustion engine -it would all be converted to engine power. But we don’t live in an ideal world and a cooling system is needed.

The way  they work is relatively simple. A jacket of water (anti-freeze) surrounds the engine cylinders and it is pumped into the radiator where the heat is dissipated into the air stream.  This heated water is also used to warm up the cabin of your vehicle, when needed.

Cooling system maintenance

Something that all drivers should know is how to check the “coolant level.” It should be regularly checked at the coolant reservoir under the hood and there are indicator lines that will show you what level it should be at.  If you are unfamiliar with this process, consult your owner’s manual. By the way, if your car is older when you check coolant level, do a visual inspection of belts for cracking, and the radiator hoses for any coolant leaks.

Signs of trouble

Drivers should always be aware of signs of trouble, particularly with older vehicles. Obvious signs of a problem are when the vehicle temperature gauge on the dash rises near the red zone.  If the temperature gauge does rise into the red zone, there definitely is a problem and you should pull over to the side of the road and see what it is.  Most of the time, it is because a hose has burst and you have lost coolant. In a pinch, you may be able to add water and drive slowly home.

The other obvious sign of trouble is when you find a puddle of green coolant under your car after it has been parked for a while. Something is obviously leaking and it needs to be fixed.

Radiator flushing

After a certain period of time, coolant systems should be flushed. Generally performed by a professional mechanic, a coolant system flush will clean out all the sediment that has accumulated over the years. Consult your owner’s manual for specific recommendations about how often to flush your coolant system. The service department at Century 3 Chevrolet of West Mifflin, PA, factory-authorized Chevy dealer notes that regular flushes are often neglected and are important to keep up with because they keep a cooling system in tip-top shape.


The coolant systems in today’s trucks are very reliable and only need periodic maintenance.  If you attend to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and perform a visual inspection periodically, your car’s coolant system should easily last for the life of your truck.

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