Active Grille Shutter Problems: A Look at Active Aerodynamics in Vehicles

by parker
YouTube video


In the past, the only way to control engine coolant temperature was through the use of a thermostat containing a brass and wax pellet. However, with advancements in automotive technology, vehicles now manage coolant temperature and the temperature of the combustion chamber through electronically controlled thermostats, electric water pumps, and active grille shutters. Active grille shutters, also known as radiator shutter assemblies or movable grille shutters, are part of a category called active aerodynamics. Major automakers like Ford, BMW, and others have been incorporating active grille shutters in their vehicles for the past five years or so, optimizing aerodynamics and coolant temperatures.

How Active Grille Shutters Work

The main purpose of active grille shutters is to control the airflow through the grill, radiator, and engine compartment of a vehicle. By using electronically controlled slats, these shutters can open and close depending on the need for airflow to cool the engine. If no airflow is required, the shutters remain closed, significantly reducing aerodynamic drag and improving fuel efficiency. This technology also helps reduce the time required to get the coolant and oil up to temperature, which is beneficial during a cold start. As a result, active grille shutters can reduce emissions and improve the time it takes for a vehicle to reach closed loop operation.

Failure Points and Common Problems

While active grille shutters provide several benefits, they are not without their share of potential failure points. Due to their location in front of the radiator, these shutters are susceptible to damage from front end collisions. Additionally, obstructions or improper calibration can cause problems with their functionality. Most active grille shutter systems have position sensors that track the movement of the shutters. If there are any obstructions, damage, or issues with the motors, the system will fully open the shutters and trigger a code that turns on the check engine light.

To prevent potential overheating situations, some manufacturers have designed their systems to fully open the shutters when the car is turned off. This way, if a shutter fails during startup, it won’t cause immediate problems. However, it’s important to address these issues promptly to prevent any long-term damage and ensure optimal vehicle performance.

The Future of Active Aerodynamics

The market for automotive active aerodynamics is projected to reach an impressive $1.1 billion by 2023, indicating the increasing popularity and importance of this technology. As vehicles continue to prioritize fuel efficiency, reducing aerodynamic drag becomes crucial. Active grille shutters play a vital role in achieving this goal, making them a technology worth keeping an eye on.


Active grille shutters have revolutionized the way vehicles manage coolant temperature and improve aerodynamics. By controlling the airflow through the grill, radiator, and engine compartment, these shutters contribute to reduced aerodynamic drag and improved fuel efficiency. However, it’s important to be aware of potential failure points such as damage from collisions, obstructions, and calibration issues. Prompt attention to these problems can prevent long-term damage and ensure optimal vehicle performance. As the market for automotive active aerodynamics continues to grow, active grille shutters will play an increasingly significant role in shaping the future of vehicle design and efficiency.

Keywords: active grille shutters, active aerodynamics, coolant temperature, electronically controlled thermostats, fuel efficiency, aerodynamic drag, vehicle performance, failure points, calibration issues.

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