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Cooling System Components

Radiator Cap
The radiator cap is used to control cooling system pressure and coolant recovery. The cap is spring-loaded to the manufacturer specification that varies between 5 and 15 Psi. This pressure is used to increase the boiling point of the coolant and prevent vapor build up around the engine. As vapor is the last step in the change of state for a liquid, vapor cannot absorb anymore heat. Depending where the vapor will be located in the engine (usually on the upper portion, near the cylinder heads where the combustion occurs), this will cause the temperature around those components to rise beyond thermal breakdown. A defective radiator cap can easily damage radiator tanks if system pressure exceeds manufacturer specification.

The thermostat is mounted on the upper part of the engine usually near the cylinder heads. The thermostat incorporates a heat-sensing pellet that will cause the opening of a passage to the radiator. The sensing pellet is filled with wax impregnated of copper that will expand when heated and contract when cooled. When the sensing pellet warms up, it will act on the piston and open the valve that will let the coolant flow to the radiator. When the temperature is below the opening threshold, the thermostat is closed and coolant only circulates in the engine to absorb more heat. Coolant is also directed to the heater core. When the thermostat is opened, hot-soaked coolant will flow through the thermostat to the upper radiator hose and into the radiator. At the same time, cooled liquid that was in the radiator returns to the engine by the lower radiator hose ready to start the cycle over again.

Cooling Fans

The cooling fans are used to force the air through the radiator to accelerate heat exchange and cool the liquid. Cooling fans can be driven directly by the engine or driven by an electric motor. Cooling fans must be inspected on a regular basis and especially during radiator or condenser replacement.

Deflector baffles and Shrouds

Baffles and fan shrouds are designed to insure maximum airflow through the radiator and increasing cooling. Baffles are usually mounted in the front and below the radiator so a ram air effect is created. Missing baffles will cause a portion of the air to by-pass the radiator and reduce cooling. All missing baffles must be replaced. On vehicles with low profile front ends, a lower radiator air deflector will carry the air upwards insures airflow to the radiator. If the air deflector is missing, overheat condition will occur at speeds over 30 mph (50kmh).

Water Pump

The water is used to circulate coolant in the system. The coolant is circulated around the cylinder’s water jackets and heater core. When the coolant has reached a certain temperature, the water pump will push the coolant into the radiator where it will be cooled and returned to the engine. The water pump depends on the antifreeze ability to lubricate the seals and extend pump life. Corrosion in the system, will breakdown the water pump metallic impellers and reduce coolant circulation in the system.


Coolant must be replaced at recommended intervals. A 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze will insure maximum system protection against freezing and overheating conditions. When a cooling system is serviced, a thorough cleaning of the system is imperative. Any traces of old coolant in the system can reduce corrosion inhibitor ability to protect the new replacement components. Test coolant pH level and electrolysis during regular vehicle maintenance.



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