Auto Repair: Understanding Your Car’s Cooling System

Close view of an engine coolant tankof a serviced car

Your car’s engine produces heat to run. And it generates lots of it. So much so, in fact, that overheating is one of the main culprits in engine breakdowns every year. This is why understanding your car’s cooling system plays a central role in minimizing repair and maintenance costs, as well as preventing stressful car emergencies.

But what exactly does your car’s cooling system do? In essence, its main purpose is to remove heat from your engine. It does this through complex components and mechanisms designed to keep your car’s parts within a safe temperature range.

Although understanding it may seem complex at first, learning about your car’s cooling system is easier when you break it down according to the individual parts and agents that all work towards keeping your car running smoothly even in scorching weather.


A coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze, resulting in a highly-enduring liquid that does not evaporate even at high boiling temperatures and does not freeze at subzero temperatures.

When it comes to your car’s cooling system, the coolant serves as the main agent that regulates your car’s temperature. It does this by absorbing heat across the entire engine block, then being cooled down by the radiator before it repeats the heat-absorbing process over again.

Given how important the coolant is, your car cannot afford it leaking from your engine. As soon as you notice a blue-green, lime-green, orange, or pink puddle after parking, or if your car faces difficulties in keeping its interior or exterior at normal temperatures, it is best to immediately have it checked by a mechanic.

This is why the coolant is checked every oil change. Aside from this, you will get long-lasting results if you go to a car service center that specializes in your car’s specific model or make. For instance, Europe-made vehicles are best handled by European auto repair shops to ensure the replacement parts fit your car’s specific needs.

Water Pump

As mentioned above, the coolant travels through the entire engine block. This transport is done by the water pump, which circulates this heat-absorbing liquid throughout your car. Aside from the water pump, there are also hoses that work with the pump to disperse the coolant.

Any failure in the water pump and hoses will hinder keeping your car interior cool. To check if your water pump is working well, you can remove the pressure cap from your engine and visually inspect if the coolant is being successfully circulated through the engine block.

Radiator & Radiator Cap

In essence, the radiator and the radiator cap are responsible for removing heat from the coolant before it circulates through the engine block again. The radiator has metal fins that the coolant goes through to dissipate heat, while the radiator cap, also called a pressure cap, lets the coolant simmer down more efficiently by keeping its boiling point high.

Given the setup of the radiator, it is prone to buildup and eventual clogging. You can check if your radiator is free from clogs or blockages by opening the pressure cap and visually inspecting if there is any debris or buildup inside and outside of the radiator. Any residue on the interior will require you to immediately have your radiator replaced.


The thermostat is what gauges how much coolant should be released into the engine. Depending on your car’s temperature, the thermostat has a valve that releases or restricts the inflow of coolant.

As the main gatekeeper of coolant, a dysfunctional thermostat is one of the main culprits in overheating engines. To check if your thermostat is working fine, you can warm up your engine, and once it overheats, inspect the radiator hose. If the hose is cold, then it means your thermostat is not working properly.

Now that you understand the parts…

Aside from the cooling parts and agents we mentioned above, be mindful that these are just some of the many components of your car’s cooling system. The foundations you learned about the functions of each part can educate you on how to take care of these essential parts, helping you avoid practices that can shorten their shelf life.

Just like any car component, each make and model requires distinct approaches to target its specific needs. Make sure to consult qualified experts that know how to properly fix and maintain your car’s cooling system, as hiring amateurs will not necessarily save you bucks in the long run.

At the end of the day, your car’s cooling system is just one of the many things you should take care of, especially before selling your vehicle. But properly take care of your car’s cooling system and you will find your car serving your needs and meeting your standard for comfort for years to come.


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