The modern cooling system did not change much from the cooling systems in model T back in the '20s. Oh, of course, it has become infinitely more reliable and efficient in doing its job, but the basic cooling system still consists of liquid coolant circulating through the engine, then out into the radiator to be cooled by the air stream coming through the front grill of the vehicle.
The current cooling system must keep the engine at a constant temperature, whether the outside air temperature is 110 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees below zero. If the temperature of the engine is too low, fuel economy will suffer and emissions will rise. If the temperature is allowed to get too hot for too long, the engine will destroy itself.
A radiator is a type of heat exchanger. It is designed to transfer heat from the hot coolant that flows through it to the air blown through it by the fan. Most modern cars are equipped with aluminum radiators. These radiators are produced by brazing thin aluminum fins to flattened aluminum tubes. The coolant flows from the inlet to the outlet through a number of tubes mounted in parallel. The fins carry the heat out of the tubes and transfer it to the air flowing through the radiator.
Sometimes the tubes have a type of fin inserted into them called a turbulator, which increases the turbulence of the fluid flowing through the tubes. If the fluid was flowing very smoothly through the tubes, only the fluid that actually touched the tubes would be cooled directly. The amount of heat transferred to the tubes from the fluid that passes through them depends on the difference in temperature between the tube and the fluid that touches it.
As a result, if the fluid in contact with the tube cools down quickly, less heat will be transferred. By creating turbulence inside the tube, all the fluid mixes together, keeping the temperature of the fluid touching the tubes up so that more heat can be extracted and all the fluid inside the tube is used effectively.
Radiators usually have a tank on either side, and a transmission cooler is inside the tank. In the picture above, you can see the inlet and outlet where the transmission oil enters the cooler. The transmission cooler is like a radiator inside the radiator, except that instead of exchanging heat with the air, the oil changes heat to the coolant inside the radiator.
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