How Car Cooling Systems Work

By: Karim Nice

Heating System

Heater plumbing

­­You may have heard the advice that if you car is overheating, open all the windows and run the heater with the fan going at full blast. This is because the heating system is actually a secondary cooling system that mirrors the main cooling system on your car.

The heater core, which is located in the dashboard of your car, is really a small radiator. The heater fan blows air through the heater core and into the passenger compartment of your car.


A heater core looks like a small radiator.

The heater core draws its hot coolant from the cylinder head and returns it to the pump -- so the heater works regardless of whether the thermostat is open or closed.

For more information on car cooling systems and related topics, check out the links below.

Cooling System FAQ

What is the primary job of a cooling system in a vehicle?
The primary job of a vehicle's cooling system is to keep the engine from overheating by transferring heat to the air.
What are the two types of cooling systems?
The two types of cooling systems found in cars are liquid cooling systems and air-cooling systems.
What is the function of the radiator in a car's cooling system?
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.
What are the parts of a cooling system?
The parts of a vehicle's cooling system include the water pump, radiator, thermostat, heater core, heating and cooling fans, overflow tank, and the hoses connecting it all.
What is the function of the water pump in a car's cooling system?
­The water pump is a simple centrifugal pump driven by a belt connected to the crankshaft of the engine. The pump circulates fluid whenever the engine is running.

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