What are the components of a radiator?
There are two main components to a radiator: the core and the headers. On automotive radiators, headers can be made of three different materials: brass, aluminum, and plastic. As for cores, they are usually made of copper or aluminum.

The core of the radiator is composed of tubes and fins. At each end of the core are the headers (often called “tanksâ€) which include an inlet/outlet for engine coolant, and sometimes include a transmission oil coolers and/or an engine oil cooler which is inserted inside one of the headers.

How does a radiator work?

To cool down the engine, hot coolant flows from the engine into header via the inlet and then cools down as it circulates through the tubes to the opposite header and cold coolant exits back into the engine via the outlet and the cycle is repeated. As it circulates through the tubes, the coolant transfers its heat to the tubes which, in turn, transfer the heat to the fins that are lodged between each row of tubes in a zig zag pattern. The fins then radiate the heat transferred by the tubes to the surrounding air, hence the term radiator. Engine oil coolers and transmission oil coolers function the same way. They sit inside the header where coolant circulates and the heat carried into the coil of the cooler by the hot oil is transferred to the coolant outside the coil and is dissipated as it circulates through the core of the radiator.

What Causes an Engine to Overheat?

• A major cause of an overheating radiator is an inadequate level of coolant, which can be caused by a lack of proper maintenance or a radiator leak. Other possible causes include a defective radiator hose, an improperly functioning thermostat , or a radiator cap that is not tightened correctly. A loose water pump impeller may also be the culprit.

When is an Engine Too Hot?
• Generally, modern engines will be considered "cool" to temperatures up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, which is when antifreeze normally begins to boil. As long as no other problems are present, the safety limit could extend to 265 degrees. Because of the materials used in construction of modern-day engines, there is less margin for error when it comes to overheating.

What Else Does Overheating Do to an Engine?
• When a radiator overheats, the engine will lose power and eventually shut down. If the vehicle is driven too long while overheating, damage to the engine can occur, such as blowing the head gasket or damaging rings and pistons. Damaging hot spots that result in erratic engine combustion may also be present.

What is the Proper Antifreeze Mix in Cold Weather?
• There is no need to fill your radiator with straight antifreeze at any time, even in the winter. Virtually all antifreezes are designed for a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze. The only exception would be in extreme conditions, when temperatures reach below 34 degrees Fahrenheit. In these conditions, the amount of antifreeze can be increased to up to 69 percent.

What are Common Signs of Poor Radiator Maintenance?
• A common problem is not replacing the belts and hoses as recommended by the manufacturer. Not flushing older radiators can result in their clogging and eventually overheating. An improperly installed thermostat will also result in the radiator overheating, as will leaks due to improperly installed hoses.

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