Ethylene glycol, better known as anti-freeze, is the neon green liquid that flows from your engine and then through your radiator to cool it. The liquid is able to cool by passing through tubes inside of the radiator. As the liquid passes through these tubes, the heat from the liquid is displaced by the tubes and small “fins” connecting the tubes of the radiator.
The liquid flows through these fins and tubes and the surrounding air is warmed by the displacement of heat. The liquid’s heat is lost by allowing the radiator’s assembly to “radiate” the heat caused by the liquid into the air. A fan pushes that hot air away from the radiator. Air heats up quickly, so replacing the warm air around the radiator with cool air is extremely important. When the coolant finally exits the tube and fin assembly of the radiator, it has been sufficiently cooled and passes through the engine again.
Regular radiator maintenance involves ensuring that each of the components of your radiator is working to keep your engine displacing heat correctly.