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7 Parts of a Car’s Cooling System and Their Common Problems

A vehicle’s cooling system consists of several components that must work properly. If just one of these components malfunctions, the vehicle will overheat.

When you realize that you need cooling system repair, turn the engine off and bring your vehicle to Little Wolf Automotive in Waupaca, WI.

Let’s look at the parts of a vehicle’s cooling system and their usual problems (if any).

1. Radiator

The radiator holds most of the coolant in the cooling system. After the coolant soaks up the engine’s heat, it’s cooled by the radiator. 

Parts of a car’s cooling system | Little Wolf Automotive in Waupaca, WI. Image of a disassembled machine front, car radiator and fan.

The cooling fans and air traveling through the radiator cool the coolant as you drive. If the fan malfunctions or it is super hot outside, the coolant won’t do its intended function. Radiators can become clogged or develop leaks.

2. Thermostat

The thermostat is a manual component, usually in the housing, that connects the top radiator hose to the engine. It opens when the coolant warms up, allowing more coolant to flow through the engine. If the vehicle is cold, the thermostat stays closed to restrict water flow until the engine’s temperature rises to the proper temperature—usually 195 degrees.

3. Water Pump

The water pump is on the front of the engine, outside or inside the timing cover. 

If it is outside the timing cover, the serpentine belt turns the water pump, which pumps the coolant through the engine and radiator. If the water pump is inside the timing belt cover, the timing belt turns the water pump. 

Water pumps can leak, or the bearings can malfunction. If the water pump does not turn, it cannot pump coolant through the system to cool the engine.

4. Cooling Fans

A rear-wheel drive vehicle may have a large manual fan on the front of the engine. The serpentine belt turns the fan. If the fan clutch malfunctions, the fan will turn too slowly or not at all, and it will not adequately cool the coolant as it flows through the radiator.

Front-wheel drive vehicles and some rear-wheel drive vehicles have two electric fans in front of the radiator. 

One is the air conditioning fan that runs when the compressor activates. The other is the cooling fan, controlled by the coolant temperature sensor and the thermostat. The fan may not come on if the thermostat or coolant temperature sensor malfunctions.

5. Radiator and Heater Hoses

The top and bottom radiator hoses carry water from the radiator to the engine. The heater hoses are connected to the cooling system and carry warm coolant to the heater core to provide heat to the cabin. If any hoses leak, the coolant level will get too low, and the engine will overheat.

6. Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt (or V-belts on older vehicles) can stretch or break. They will not turn the water pump, and the cooled coolant cannot circulate through the engine.

7. Coolant Temperature Sender and Sensor

The coolant temperature sensor tells the computer the engine’s running temperature and controls the fans. The sender sends the temperature to the gauge on your dashboard. 

If the coolant leaks out, the sender does not have coolant to check. The vehicle will appear to be cool even though it is overheating.

Contact Little Wolf Automotive for Cooling System Repair in Waupaca, WI

If your vehicle needs cooling system repair, do not attempt to drive it to the shop. Call a tow truck so you do not risk overheating the vehicle. You could blow a head gasket or damage the engine’s interior if it overheats. 

Call us at (715) 258-0200 for an appointment or to inform us if the tow truck is on the way with your vehicle. Our full-service auto shop is at 323 S Western Ave, Waupaca, WI 54981.