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What Does a Car Radiator Do? (Car Radiator Explained)

Updated: Jan 14

The car radiator is a crucial component of the vehicle's cooling system. It is responsible for dissipating heat from the engine, thereby preventing it from overheating.

The purpose of a car radiator is to remove heat from the hot coolant circulating within the coolant system by transferring it to the ambient air. This is done by pumping the coolant through tubes and fins (the radiator), which dissipate the heat to the outside air.

In this article, we will delve into the details of what a car radiator does and understand how they work.


Table of Contents:

a car radiator

What Is a Radiator?

A radiator is a heat exchanger designed to transfer heat from the hot coolant that flows through it to the air blown through it by the fan or by the vehicle's movement. The combustion process produces the hot coolant in the engine block.

If this heat is not dissipated, it can cause the engine to overheat and malfunction.

The radiator is made up of tubes through which the coolant flows and fins that dissipate heat to the surrounding air.

Different Types of Car Radiators

There are several different types of car radiators based on the material used, construction, and design. Some of the common types are as follows.

  • Copper-brass: This is the traditional type of radiator that has been in use for several decades. It is made up of tubes and fins made of copper and brass and is known for its durability and efficiency.

  • Plastic end tank: In this type of radiator, the end tanks each end of the radiator are made of plastic instead of metal. Plastic end tanks make the radiator lightweight and cheaper, but they are not as durable as the copper-brass radiator.

  • Aluminium: Radiators made of aluminium are lightweight and have good heat transfer properties. However, they may not be as durable as copper-brass radiators.

  • Cross-flow: In this type of radiator, the coolant flows horizontally along the radiator.

  • Down-flow: In this type of radiator, the coolant flows down the radiator instead of horizontally.

  • Single, Double, and Triple Flow: These radiators have one, two, or three rows of tubes, respectively. The number of rows determines the radiator's surface area and, hence, its cooling capacity.

Car Radiator Parts & Components

The car radiator consists of the following parts and components.

  • Header tank: This is the top part of the radiator where the coolant flows in and out.

  • Core: This is the part of the radiator where the coolant flows through the tubes and fins.

  • Radiator cap: This is a pressure-relief valve that is used to maintain the proper pressure in the cooling system. It also stops coolant from escaping and can function to bleed the radiator or fill it up.

  • Hoses: These are flexible tubes that are used to connect the radiator to the engine, the coolant reservoir, and various other systems of the vehicle.

  • Fan: The radiator is equipped with a fan that blows air through the radiator core to dissipate the heat.

  • Water pump: This mechanical or electronic pump is used to circulate the coolant through the radiator and the engine.

What Does a Car Radiator Do?

The primary function of the car radiator is to dissipate the heat from the hot coolant to the surrounding air. It does this by allowing the coolant to flow through the tubes and fins, where the heat is transferred to the ambient air.

This helps to prevent the engine from overheating, which can lead to severe damage.

How Does the Radiator in a Car Work?

The working of a car radiator can be understood by following the coolant flow through the system.

The coolant, a mixture of water and antifreeze, is pumped by the water pump from the engine block to the radiator.

As it flows through the tubes and fins of the car radiator, the heat is transferred to the surrounding air, and the cooled coolant is returned to the engine block.

The fan, which is mounted on the front of the radiator, helps to blow air through the fins and enhance the heat transfer if the vehicle is stationary. The air is usually drawn from the front of the car, and the vehicle's movement helps to increase the airflow.

The radiator cap is a pressure-relief valve that helps to maintain the proper pressure in the cooling system. It allows excess pressure to be released, preventing the coolant from boiling and the system from overheating. It also serves to prevent coolant from escaping the radiator.


In conclusion, the car radiator is vital to the vehicle's cooling system. It helps dissipate the engine's heat and prevent it from overheating. Different types of radiators are available, each with unique advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding how a car radiator works and what it does is essential for maintaining the vehicle and keeping it running smoothly.


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