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RepairPal Blog:

Mechanic's Corner

Are You Fluent in Coolant?

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Things are changing fast in the automotive world as vehicles and the parts and fluids that keep them running properly are constantly being updated to make them more efficient. I thought I would take a moment to share the latest in coolant as I am frequently asked about it.

A few years ago, coolant had to be exchanged about every two years to keep your vehicle running well. If you have an older car, that is still a good rule of thumb because even though coolants have improved, your cooling system is still old. If you have a newer vehicle, then you can be more relaxed as to how often the coolant needs to be exchanged. The new coolant formulas don’t break down as quickly as the prior versions did.

When the cooling system itself starts to age, it does begin to drop little particles of rubber, plastic, and aluminum into the coolant. These particles start circulating in the engine and wreak havoc over time. Coolant’s job is to keep our vehicles from overheating and enable the radiator and cooling system to keep the engine at the correct temperature. It extends the life of your vehicle and reduces the number of repairs.

If you go to an automotive parts store and look at the array of coolants available, it can be overwhelming. You can’t go by color as some think. You have to be very careful to choose the right coolant required for your vehicle. Will your system fail if you mix different coolants? No, but it will degrade to the shorter-life coolant.

It is always best to use the correct coolant. One-size-fits all coolants are a thing of the past. Water quality is important as well. Coolant is a blend of 50% water and 50% coolant. Distilled water must be used because tap and filtered water contains minerals that hurt the effectiveness of coolant; plus, the iron and chlorine found in water act as a corrosives. They cause deposits to form within the cooling system, which interferes with the flow of heat. Should the deposits break loose, they can clog the radiator as well as the heater core tubes.

Don’t use your coolant’s overflow tank to judge if your system is working properly. It can be misleading. The radiator cap also plays an important role. It is designed to hold a specific pressure and if it fails, the coolant will boil at a lower temperature, which leads to severe corrosion due to hot spots.

The extended-life coolants do work if you use them properly, but don't mix them with other types of coolants. You should also keep the radiator full with the same coolant and distilled water mix. Never re-use old coolant. When it does come time to exchange the fluid don’t put it off. It’s a small price to pay to keep your vehicle young and healthy.

Happy Motoring!

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