As we get into the summer season, temperatures soar, and so do the miles we put on our cars. One of the great American traditions is the family road trip. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that when you’re driving up the North Cascades highway, or you’re on your way to Yellowstone to see Old Faithful, your vehicle does not overheat. If your vehicle has cooling system issues you will see a geyser, just not the one that you had planned on. The good news is this can all be avoided.
First, make sure that the radiator is in good shape. Rust and corrosion can cause the radiator to rot away from the inside out. Even though the radiator may not be leaking now, it will be leaking soon, which leads to overheating of the engine. When your engine isn’t cooled properly, it can easily blow a head gasket. When your engine isn’t cooled properly a cylinder head can crack or warp. Engine cooling system failure is one of the leading causes of major engine damage.
You might ask, what is a radiator? It is shaped like a small door with an opening on the top and bottom for hoses to connect to, and has another opening to add or replace its fluid. The radiator has little tubes through which the coolant flows, so that it can get cooled by the air flowing past it. This is how the engine is cooled.
It takes some experience to recognize potential upcoming cooling system problems. Fortunately, our Master Technicians at Central Automotive have years of experience with cooling systems, and can detect most cooling system failures. Our technicians here at Central Automotive will visually inspect the cooling system, and touch it to see how hard it is, to get it to crumble. They will also perform a pressure test and a chemical test on the cooling system. Unfortunately, sometimes this testing can be destructive. If the cooling system is going bad it will start to leak. But it’s much better that it happens in the shop than on the highway, right?
Another common radiator problem is a radiator that is plugged, blocking coolant from flowing through it. If this happens, you’ll notice that your engine is running hot when you’re driving up a mountain pass, or when you are in stop and go traffic, or when you turn on your AC.
A plugged radiator can be the kiss of death for your car or trucks engine. How do radiators get plugged? Rust corrosion from the engine, and deposits from water over time, will plug the small tubes just like water will plug a shower head over time. If you haven’t had your cooling system serviced every few years it’s likely that many of the little cooling tubes within the radiator core are clogged with rust. Those cooling tubes are crucial to the success of the radiator. That is how the radiator cools the engine, by passing the coolant through those channels and blowing cool air across them. So, if your radiator is plugged, it will still work, but not as well.
You’re most likely to notice the problem when the car is under the greatest demand, such as going up Snoqualmie pass with the kids in the back seat, luggage in the trunk, and maybe like the Griswold’s, your mother in law strapped to the roof of your car. If your engine ran even a little hot on the last 80 or 90-degree day, have one of our Master Technicians find the cause of it right now before it’s too late.