Each revolution of an internal combustion engine is basically a miniature controlled explosion. One of the unfortunate by-products of this process is heat and if this heat is not controlled, your engine will self-destruct in minutes.
Controlling these high temperatures is the job of the cooling system, in water-cooled applications the system basically uses liquid coolant being circulated through the engine, then out to the radiator to be cooled by the air stream that comes through the front grille of the vehicle when it is moving forward.
The cooling system consists of a heat exchanger (radiator), fan and pump. The more coolant and airflow you pump through the heat exchanger, the more cooling (heat rejection) you will get. Both flow rates do have a saturation point, at which point more flow will not result in more cooling.
The cooling system’s fundamental purpose is to keep the engine within its optimal operating temperature limits. The cooling system will find a balance point between the heat input from the engine to the coolant and the heat rejection of the radiator to the cooling air. If the system is designed correctly and is functioning properly, then this balance point is within the operating temperature limits of the engine.
The amount of heat that can be rejected by the radiator is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the inlet air and coolant temperatures. This means that if the radiator cannot meet the demand from the engine, the coolant temperature will rise until there is an energy balance in the system. If this temperature point is higher than the allowable temperature, the system is overheating.
But there are numerous challenges, the cooling system of a modern vehicle must maintain the engine at a constant temperature regardless of how high or low the ambient temperature is.
The packaging of these components also needs to be considered when designing the vehicle, aerodynamicists want small apertures and safety engineers need to take things like pedestrian safety into account. What this means is that these systems are designed optimally and although in stock form the cooling of most modern cars should be sufficient it is a fine balancing act.
The problem comes in when any of these components are changed or the vehicle is modified, whether that is via a software upgrade or when the popular Lexus V8 engine is fitted to a tired Defender. Another challenging situation is when vehicles are used in extreme conditions like very slow off-road driving or rock crawling where free flowing air is minimal. The fitment of accessories like a bullbar or winch can also have an effect on how passing air cools the vehicle.
In these cases the cooling system needs to be upgraded and strangely enough there are very few companies that specialise in providing good quality cooling solutions. This might be due to the fact that the benefits of efficient cooling are often overlooked by the man on the street that is just interested in more performance.
One such company is Universal Cooling Solutions, who can design a complete cooling solution for your vehicles level of performance and application. Their clever engineers have developed a process where they take all the parameters into account and then design the perfect solution for your vehicle. They have done so successfully for the GTC racing cars and many of the vehicles that compete in the Cross Country racing series.
All the components including the oil cooler, radiator, intercooler and electric fan need to work together and are designed as a package to help solve overheating issues before they occur.
Another factor to consider is that many of the OEM radiators and intercoolers use plastic tanks, which are not ideal for motorsport or extreme off-road driving conditions.
A big part of the Universal Cooling solutions business is centred around importing the best quality European components including cores and then manufacturing the cooler, with aluminium tanks and fitment hardware to suit the required application thus equipping the vehicle with a more efficient and robust setup.
An upgraded fan, which often forms part of the new cooling solution, can have a big effect, especially on vehicles that are used in low speed applications like off-road driving. The technology on fans is advancing at a rapid rate, there are now fans available with brushless electric motors and smart controllers that can work in conjunction with a vehicles engine management system. These controllers can then be programmed to operate at varying speeds when preset parameters are met.
The vehicles water pump can also be upgraded to an electrical unit that does not rely on drive from the engine to operate. This is great as the flow of water is then not dependant on engine speed, another advantage for low speed applications like rock crawling.
Heat is the enemy and although it can sometimes be managed by the state of tune, the cooling package should not be neglected as it can have a big effect on the performance and longevity of your vehicle.
For more information Contact Universal Coolers on 012 666 8725
Text: Reuben van Niekerk