Make sure that the radiator core is in good shape. The core of the radiator can literally rot away in area where the roads are salted. That means bad overheating. And when your engine isn't cooled properly, it can easily blow a head gasket, or crack or warp a cylinder head.
The core is the little tubes through which the coolant flows so that it can get cooled by the air flowing past it.
It takes some experience to recognize a radiator that's rotten, so we recommend that you ask Complete Auto Repair Service (CARS) to check it out.
Another common radiator problem is a plugged radiator core. If this happens, you'll notice that your engine is running hot when you're driving at sustained high speeds.
A plugged radiator core can be the kiss of death for an engine. If you haven't had your cooling system flushed for a long time, it's likely that many of the little cooling tubes within the radiator are clogged with rust. Remember--that's how the radiator cools the engine coolant...by passing the coolant through those channels and blowing cool air across them. So, if your radiator is plugged, it will still work, but not as well.
If your car ran even a little hot last summer, let us at Complete Auto Repair Service (CARS) find the cause of it right now before it's too late. If there's any question about the core, we can do a “flow test” to see if the right amount of fluid is passing through the tubes.
Visually check the hoses and belts related to the cooling system. Squeeze the hoses and look for small cracks in the rubber. Make sure the hoses are tight (grab the hose near the hose clamp and make sure it doesn't rotate), and check to see that the belts have the proper amount of tension. To check the tension, push down on the belt. It should deflect about 1/2 inch. On some cars--mostly older ones--a belt turns the fan. On other cars, the cooling fan is electric.
Water pumps break--and when they do, they usually allow all the coolant to leak out. Have the water pump replaced when you replace the timing belt.
You should be using antifreeze in your radiator, even in the summer.
Antifreeze contains corrosion inhibitors, and it actually has a higher boiling point than water. If you haven't had your thermostat replaced in several years, we recommend to our customers that they get a new one when you are having your cooling system flushed. A stuck thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. Replacing the thermostat is cheap.
Most modern cars have an electric cooling fan--and some have more than one. The fan is controlled by a thermostatic switch. The fan comes on when the temperature of the coolant rises to a predetermined temperature. You can check the operation of the fan yourself. If you drive around town for 20 minutes, the fan should kick in. So, open the hood, with the engine running and listen for the cooling fan. If the fan isn't running, it's not working. Have it fixed--at times, the fan has gone south, and other times the problem is the coolant temperature sensor.
The heater core is part of the cooling system, because the coolant runs through it. If the heater core leaks, the coolant drains out. At Complete Auto Repair Service (CARS) will put a pressure tester on the cooling system to find all the leaks--including this one.