The Cooling System is NOT the A/C System.
Many people do not know the difference between the Air Conditioning System and the Vehicle's Cooling System. That's okay because you're going to learn right now. :)
The air conditioning is part of the HVAC system, the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning System, like at your home. The Cooling System refers to the vehicle's system to ensure the engine maintains proper temperature and does not overheat. One is for your comfort, while the other is essential for vehicle operation.
Let us learn about some essential cooling system components.
The thermostat opens and closes to allow the passage and flow of coolant. When you first start up your vehicle, the thermostat is closed so the car can reach the optimal operating temperature quicker. Once the engine reaches operating temperature, the thermostat then opens up.
The coolant hoses act like the veins for the cooling system transporting coolant or antifreeze to different components to cool it down. You have the heater hoses that go from the engine block to the firewall to your heater core (generally located behind the dashboard). You have the radiator hoses that move coolant from the engine block to the radiator.
The water pump acts like your vehicle's heart, pumping the coolant throughout the system. If the water pump stops working, there is no coolant flow, and the car would overheat.
The cooling fans at the front of your car are there to help cool down the coolant flowing through the radiator. You may notice the vehicle's temperature go down as you drive. It cools down because air is actively passing through the radiation while in motion.
One of the best things you can do for your vehicle is to have the coolant flushed regularly. A major cooling system parts brand performed a study and found that 40% of radiator failure is due to coolant contamination, and 95% of water pump failure is due to coolant contamination.
Pro tip: Before the start of each season, have your coolant chemically tested.