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Heat Exchanger Repair San Diego: Car Radiators

Heat Exchanger Repair San Diego: Car Radiators

What you may not have known about your car’s radiator is that it is a type of a heat exchanger. The technical term comes from the purpose of the device. It cools down the engine by absorbing heat form it, and then gets cooled by the atmospheric air. The way it does it is by using the engine coolant (mostly water with some added antifreeze).

Principle of operation

The full explanation of the principle of operation is a bit more complicated than that. The engine itself has many small passages in order to cool down the entire engine equally. The parts of the engine which suffer the most heat are more densely packed with the passages. The second element of the system is the radiator. It is made out of two header tanks connected by the core with many passages in it. The core is usually stacked layers of metal sheets. The third element is the coolant itself, a fluid (gas or liquid) which is heated and cooled respectively by running through the engine and the radiator. The cooling system for cars is closed, meaning that the fluid stays in the tubes, and is not mixed with anything. The heat exchange is done solely by proximity.

Most common cooling system failures

The radiator is an integral part of the cooling system, but it’s not the only one. So, if your cooling system fails, it may not be the radiator that has failed you. Here’s a compilation of the most common breakdowns of the cooling system.

Thermostat failure

Thermostat is a valve which controls the quantity of coolant the engine needs to stay cool and functional. If the thermostat fails, the engine overheats really quickly.

Leaky hoses

The chain usually breaks where it is the weakest. The weakest part of the cooling system of a car are radiator hoses. It is not surprising then that this is the most common failure of the cooling systems. Radiator hoses link the engine with the radiator and the coolant runs through them. They are expendable and wear pretty easily, so they need to be changed periodically.

Air in the cooling system

This problem occurs in the liquid-cooled cars (which covers most of the production line cars). Air in the liquid-cooled system reduces the efficiency of the cooling process as liquid coolant is far better at heat exchange than air. This problem is actually easily solvable. The car is bled to remove the air bubbles. If it doesn’t solve the problem, it is most likely the problem is something else.

Radiator leak

This is a bit more problematic, since radiators tend to be more inaccessible than hoses. Bubbling or jets of steam can indicate where the problem is. A professional can repair the heat exchanger, but it is a complicated fix. If this is your problem, contact an experienced heat exchanger repair shop. San Diego area has PCE as the premier repair shop.

Failed water pump

Another very common failure, the pump ensures that the coolant circulates between the engine and the radiator. If the pump fails, the circulation stops and the car overheats rapidly.


This is a fairly broad term, and it includes the debris within the cooling system obstructing the coolant flow, as well as the obstruction of air intake in the radiator, which disrupts the heat exchange. It can also mean a physical damage or bending of the radiator, which reduces the effectiveness of the system.

Filed radiator fan

Most modern designs don’t rely solely on the drag to cool down the engine. They have fans which cool down the radiator and the coolant in it. Diagnosing this problem is fairly easy. The car is ok at higher speeds, but overheats when idling or in dense traffic.

Problems with heat exchangers are broader than just cars. If you need any kind of heat exchanger repair in San Diego, remember that PCE have over four decades of experience working with all things mechanical. Contact us now.


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