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Cooling Systems: Part 1

How this important system works and helps your engine keep its cool.
» Part 1: The Cooling System
» Part 2: The Parts
» Part 3: The Water Pump
» Part 4: The Engine
» Part 5: The Thermostat
» Part 6: The Radiator

About 15 minutes after the very first engine was test run, it was determined that something was needed to take the waste heat away and keep the engine from turning into a puddle of melted steel. Thus the cooling system was born. Actually, I made this up. I really don't know who came up with the first cooling system design or how they came to decide it was needed. Suffice it to say from the early beginnings it was clear that cooling the engine was as important as keeping the engine running.

The only purpose of the engine's cooling system is to remove excess heat from the engine, to keep the engine operating temperature at its most efficient level, and to get the engine up to the correct temperature as soon as possible after starting. A cooling system is also required to prevent the internal engine parts from melting from the heat of the burning fuel. The pistons would expand so much they could not move in the cylinders resulting in a seized engine.

When fuel is burned inside the engine, only about one-third of the total energy created is converted into power. One third of the energy is lost through the exhaust pipe, and another third is turned into heat, leaving only one third in the form of power that can be used. Heat is the real culprit, because burning fuel produces up to a staggering 4,500° F of heat. Fortunately the cooling system removes about a third of the heat that is produced in the combustion chamber. The exhaust system removes the lion's share of the heat, however the internal parts of the engine, such as the cylinder walls, pistons, and cylinder head, absorb large amounts of heat. If these parts of the engine get too hot, no oil in the world will protect it.

On the other side of the coin, if an engine runs at too low a temperature, it is wasteful, the oil gets contaminated, sludge forms, and fuel mileage decreases. It will also raise the emission levels above specified limits.

There are two types of cooling systems; air cooled and liquid cooled. Most automotive engines today are liquid cooled. Air-cooled engines are more typically used in motorcycles, airplanes and lawnmowers.

» Part 1       »
Part 2       » Part 3       » Part 4
Part 5       » Part 6
Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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