What Are the Car Radiator Parts?

The car radiator functions as a heat exchanger and is located behind the grille next to your engine. The radiator transfers heat from the hot coolant flowing through it to the air blown via the radiator fan. In other words, the radiator cools the coolant and transmission fluid. Modern cars have radiators made of aluminum. Car radiator parts play a major role in cooling the engine by ensuring efficient heat transfer from the circulating coolant.

The coolant and transmission fluid flow across the radiator and air passes the radiator fins removing the heat from the fluids. Understanding how radiation works are the first step towards fixing any problems that may arise. The car coolant is never a standalone feature as it runs through the car engine and back through the radiator for heat transfer. The coolant continuously flows through the radiator to disperse heat. A cracked radiator can leak the coolant bringing the coolant level down which causes the engine to overheat.

Parts of the car radiator

Coolant liquid

Coolant liquid

The coolant liquid conducts heat away from your car engine, radiator, and transmission. Coolants come in liquid form or gaseous form. Most modern cars use Autozone coolant. Water-cooled engines use water coolants mixed with antifreeze to withstand extreme temperatures. The coolant liquid goes beyond the normal radiator functions as it acts as a lubricant and fights rusting. This coolant circulates to prevent the car engine from overheating.

Radiator Core

radiator core

The core is the central part of a radiator and has coiled tubes and small metal fins. The core mainly transfers heat from the flowing hot coolant into the air through the vent. The core classifies radiators depending on the number of cores and materials. There are one-core radiators, two-core and three-core radiators.

Pressure cap

radiator pressure cap

The coolant inside the radiator is always under pressure. The pressure keeps the coolant hotter without it boiling, making the cooling more efficient. The pressure cap seals off your car radiator to create pressure inside, which ultimately increases the boiling point of the coolant liquid. The pressure cap bleeds off the hot coolant, preventing it from damaging other cooling parts, which can happen if the pressure cap is broken or not working.

Outlet/Inlet Tubes

radiator inlet and outlet

This is the point of entry and exit of the coolant liquid on the radiator. The inlet and outlet tubes are found in the radiator. The tubes are made of plastic or metal. The hot coolant flowing from the engine enters the radiator through the inlet tube and from the outer part of the engine. All the tubes are connected by the radiator hose.

How Does a Car Radiator Work?

Modern vehicles have radiators made using “brazing thin aluminum fins” to the flattened aluminum tubes. The coolant passes through the many aluminum tubes that are mounted in parallel arrangement from the inlet to the outlet through these tubes. The fins conduct heat from the tubes and transfer the heat to air passing through the radiator.

Sometimes the tubes have a tabulator to increase the turbulence of the coolant flowing through them. The cooling efficiency is determined by the amount of fluid touching the tubes resulting in direct cooling. Consequently, the amount of heat transfer to the tubes is dependent on the difference in fluid and tube temperature touching it. In short, the more the coolant touches the tube, the faster it gets cooling.

Radiators have an upper tank and a lower tank. Inside the tanks, there is a transmission cooler which is like another radiator. The oil from the transmission enters the cooler and exchanges heat with the coolant inside the radiator.

Types of Car Radiators

Car radiators are classified according to the number of cores they have. Radiator cores used in automobile engines are:

Tubular core

This radiator core has an upper and lower tank connected by a series of tubes passing water within that radiator. The tubes have fins located around them for efficient heat transfer. The core absorbs heat from the coolant via the fans and releases the heat to the external environment. However, because water is passing through all tubes, if one tube has a problem, the cooling system is affected.

Cellular core

Here, the coolant is flowing through the spaces between the tubes. The cellular core has several individual air cells, all of which are surrounded by the coolant. Pair passes through these tubes even as the coolant flows in these spaces between the tubes. If one tube is clogged, only a small portion of the total cooling surface is affected.

How to Maintain Your Car Radiator

For your engine to run efficiently, without difficulty, the radiator should be well maintained. Radiator repair is necessary for all issues you detect to enhance the overall performance.

Check your coolant regularly

Regular checks enable you to detect a drop in coolant level, know if there are rusts or dirt in the water scale which can cause problems. Change your coolant liquid after every two years. Wash out the rust and dirt from the water scale using a radiator cleaner.

Inspect the fan belt

Check the tension of the fan belt by hand to see if it can push down 13-20mm. Signs of damage include slips and melts off the rubber part. Problems with the fan belt can lead to overheating, and the only remedy is to replace the fan belt.

Inspect the radiator hose

Cracks, distortions, and slacks in the radiator hose cause water/coolant leakage. Inspect your hose regularly to ensure it’s working normally and prevent unnecessary incidents.

What to Do When the Car Engine Overheats

Immediately pull over in a safe place and carefully open the bonnet. Turn off the engine until the water temperature starts to drop. Never open your radiator cap because the high steam will come out and cause severe burns. In case the coolant amount is low, fill it up to the designated level after the engine temperature has gone down.

Always carry a water dispenser in the car for overheating emergencies. If your coolant level is adequate, then the overheating may be because of a damaged water pump. You need to repair it to ensure efficient circulation of the coolant liquid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you repair a radiator?

To repair your radiator you need an expert mechanic who will dismantle it to seal the leak. Repair methods include soldering to close the hole if it’s not too wide or big. However, if it contains internal rust or cracks, replace it instead of trying to make repairs. Search radiator warehouse near me to get quality replacements.

Can you drive with a broken radiator?

No, you shouldn’t. Driving the car with a broken radiator is dangerous because your coolant cannot be cooled effectively and in turn, the coolant cannot cool the engine leading to overheating problems. The crack can also prevent the coolant from reaching the engine, causing overheating. Contact radiator Autozone professionals to diagnose and fix the problem.

What is the lifespan of a car radiator?

Car radiators last a minimum of three years. Good maintenance increases the lifespan up to 10 years and your radiator can serve you for a lifetime.

What makes the car radiator go bad?

Causes of radiator leak are many. The leading cause is corrosion in the car radiator. Hoses, radiators, and hose connections collect rust and sediments over time, which punch holes in the radiator. A rusty radiator develops sludge over time which affects the cooling efficiency. A low coolant level because of leaking affects the efficiency of engine cooling causing overheating.

How do I know when to replace my radiator?

Knowing when to replace your radiator is vital. Look for the following signs;

  • Radiator sludge or discoloration
  • Frequent low coolant or leaking problems
  • The temperature gauge is constantly running hot

Final Thoughts

Understanding the car radiator parts helps you know when you have a problem. A leaking radiator causes the engine to overheat. Most radiator problems originate from corrosion, dirt, and low coolant level. Understand the roles the radiator parts play and ensure that the coolant is cooled efficiently. Your trusted mechanic should inspect the radiator and check the coolant level in every maintenance service. If you have any questions regarding the cooling system, please call us.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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