Join Date: Sep 2009
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Expansion (Overflow) Tank
Several cooling systems make use of a clear plastic container, which is connected to the overflow tube from the radiator. This container provides extra storage space for the coolant when it expands and is called the expansion, or overflow tank. It is also known as the coolant reservoir, or overflow canister.
As the engine heats up, the coolant inside it expands. Without the expansion tank, the coolant would flow out of the overflow tube and be lost from the cooling system onto the street. Instead, the coolant flows into the expansion tank.
Since a vacuum is created in the cooling system when the engine cools, the vacuum causes some of the coolant in the expansion tube to be sucked back into the system. Because a cooling system with an expansion tank is virtually a closed system, the coolant can flow between the system and the expansion tank as it expands and contracts. This way, no coolant is lost if the system is functioning properly.
Another function of the expansion tank is to remove air bubbles from the cooling system. Coolant without air-bubbles is much more efficient than coolant with air bubbles, because it absorbs heat much faster.
The advantage of the expansion tank is that while the level of coolant contained in it rises and falls, the radiator is always full.
Older cars can easily be fitted with expansion tanks, simply by mounting the tank near the radiator, connecting it to the overflow tube, and replacing the radiator cap.