Automotive Systems

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Liquid-Cooled System: Introduction


Nearly all multicylinder engines used in automotive, construction, and material-handling equipment use a liquid-cooled system. Any liquid used in this type of system is called a coolant.

A simple liquid-cooled system consists of a radiator, coolant pump, piping, fan, thermostat, and a system of water jackets and passages in the cylinder head and block through which the coolant circulates (fig. 6-4). Some vehicles are equipped with a coolant distribution tube inside the cooling passages that directs additional coolant to the points where temperatures are highest. Cooling of the engine parts is accomplished by keeping the coolant circulating and in contact with the metal surfaces to be cooled. The operation of a liquid-cooled system is as follows:

  • The pump draws the coolant from the bottom of the radiator, forcing the coolant through the water jackets and passages, and ejects it into the upper radiator tank.
  • The coolant then passes through a set of tubes to the bottom of the radiator from which the cooling cycle begins.
  • The radiator is situated in front of a fan that is driven either by the water pump or an electric motor. The fan ensures an airflow through the radiator at times when there is no vehicle motion.
  • The downward flow of coolant through the radiator creates what is known as a thermosiphon action. This simply means that as the coolant is heated in the jackets of the engine, it expands. As it expands, it becomes less dense and therefore lighter. This causes it to flow out of the top outlet of the engine and into the top tank of the radiator.
  • As the coolant is cooled in the radiator, it again becomes more dense and heavier. This causes the coolant to settle to the bottom tank of the radiator.
  • The heating in the engine and the cooling in the radiator therefore create a natural circulation that aids the water pump.

The amount of engine heat that must be removed by the cooling system is much greater than is generally realized. To handle this heat load, it may be necessary for the cooling system in some engine to circulate 4,000 to 10,000 gallons of coolant per hour. The water passages, the size of the pump and radiator, and other details are so designed as to maintain the working parts of the engine at the most efficient temperature within the limitation imposed by the coolant.

Figure 6-4.—Liquid-cooled engine.
Published by SweetHaven Publishing Services
Based upon a text provided by the U.S. Navy

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