Rick & Ray’s explains how you know if your cooling system is failing.
Your vehicle’s cooling system is a critical component. When it doesn’t work, this can lead to engine damage. Engines run extremely hot, that’s a fact. As they burn up fuel to make your car go, they need a cooling system to keep them in check. Most vehicles use a traditional fluid-cooled system requiring a combination of water and radiator coolant, AKA antifreeze, within the radiator.
This circulates through the engine via the water pump – all to prevent the engine from overheating. If the engine overheats, it can lead to some serious damage. There are many things that can lead to an engine overheating, such as when a coolant passage in the engine block or head leaks or clogs, says JD Power. But usually it’s due to a fault in the cooling system itself, such as with a hose leak, thermostat malfunction or low coolant level.
Your cooling system plays an important role in the proper operation of your vehicle. Most of the energy present in gasoline (about 70%) is converted into heat, and the cooling system’s job is to take care of that heat, says How Stuff Works. The cooling system on a vehicle speeding down the highway dissipates enough heat to power two houses. Its main job is to keep the engine from overheating, and it does this through the transference of heat to the air.
There are many moving parts in your cooling system, including lots of plumbing. From pumps, and engine blocks to cylinder heads and thermostats, many things can go wrong in your cooling system. Rather than diagnose what’s going on under the hood, you should always have any issues checked out by an experienced mechanic who knows cooling systems inside and out. They can easily spot warning signs that signal impending failure, and repair or replace them as needed.
While there’s a lot at stake here, it’s important to perform regular maintenance and checkups on your cooling system so you can spring into action when things go wrong.
Bottom line is, your car’s cooling system has to work efficiently at all times or you could be left facing expensive engine repair or replacement. Here are some common signs that your cooling system is on the fritz.
1. Frequent Overheating
Whether you have a BMW, Volvo or some other make or model, if your vehicle tends to overheat a lot lately, something’s definitely up with your cooling system. It could be due to a water pump failure, a worn head gasket, or coolant leak. A professional mechanic will have to inspect the situation and make the determination.
Likewise, if you repeatedly get high readings on your temperature gauge, whether you notice it skyrocket suddenly one day or it’s slowly and steadily creeping up, stop driving and call a mechanic. This could also signal a cooling system issue.
2. Steam Under the Hood
When your car overheats, you will notice steam coming out from under your hood. Don’t keep driving when this happens. Pull over immediately in a safe area, wait a bit and let the engine cool down before taking off again. If this keeps happening, bring your car to a trusted mechanic to get the cooling system checked. If you wait, you could be risking major engine damage to the tune of thousands of dollars.
3. Low Coolant Levels
Check the coolant level in your radiator regularly, but do it only when the engine is cool not hot. This could be a dangerous situation if you checked it right after you drove the vehicle. That’s because heat and pressure build up within the radiator, so if you were to remove the cap when still hot, you could get hurt.
4. Coolant Leak
You can easily detect a radiator coolant leak by its bright yellow or green color. You may spot a puddle of the coolant on your driveway or garage underneath where you parked your car. Take your car in for troubleshooting. Letting this go will not only cause further staining, but it can lead to serious damage within the cooling system and engine.
5. Burnt or Dirty Coolant
When checking your coolant levels, if it is dark or dirty looking rather than a bright yellow or green color, there’s a problem. Additionally, if it is translucent or has a burnt or very sweet smell, you have to replace the fluid. Not only that, but you have to ensure the old fluid hasn’t caused damage within the engine or cooling system. A mechanic will have to make that determination.
6. Poor Gas Mileage
If you’re seeing a big decrease in fuel economy with no other possible causes, this could signal issues with the fuel system, engine, exhaust system or cooling system. The only way to know for sure is to take it to your trusted mechanic. He or she can detect the source of the problem and fix it so you can experience optimal gas mileage and save money.
These are all the most common signs of cooling system issues, but there could be other causes. That’s why it’s so important to take your car in for service at the first sign of trouble. Pay attention to dashboard warning lights that come on regarding your cooling system or any other system in your vehicle. They are there for a reason. Take your vehicle to an experience auto shop so you can be assured of focused, skilled attention to detail for your European, Asian or domestic vehicle.
Contact Rick and Ray’s Auto Plaza
If you suspect you have a cooling system issue in your vehicle, contact us at 817-335-2073 for an appointment and a free estimate. You may not know what’s wrong, but take it to us: we can find out and fix it before you have to shell out a lot of money on an engine repair or replacement.