No, we are not talking about the Air Conditioning System.
It isn’t about keeping your person cool. It’s about keeping your engine cool.
Well, keeping it cool is maybe a simplistic way to say it, as the engine never really gets cool while working. But it should at least be kept from overheating. It toils at insanely high temperatures and needs an external source of cooling to keep it running.
Wait, how come that antifreeze prevents the engine from overheating? Antifreeze, the crucial ingredient of coolant (the other ingredient is water, mixed at exactly 50/50 rate), also protects the engine from freezing when it is cold outside. It lowers the freezing point and raises the boiling point of water. In other words, it optimizes the temperature.
So, today we give you all the basics you need to know about the cooling system.
When to change the coolant?
The owner’s manual has all the vital information – when to change it and which type to choose. Typically, cars will need a new coolant every 50.000 kilometers, but some newer cars can roll nearly 200.000 kilometers without changing it because they use the so-called Long-Life Coolant. But don’t run to an auto shop and buy this one straight away. It was designed for aluminum radiators, and not the copper or brass ones.
You will notice the full and low marks on your coolant reservoir. If the coolant level goes past the low mark, there’s gotta be a leak of some kind. Add some more coolant first to keep the engine running smoothly.
Of course, one of these days you will find yourself in the wilderness, with no spare coolant. The only thing you can do is pour some water into the system. It will cool the engine to a certain point and help you get back to safety. But it won’t do you good in the long run.
So, visit a certified technician as soon as possible to check on the system, because leaks are abnormal behavior. Ideally, you should never get low on coolant.
Your owner’s manual recommends you when to change your coolant in ideal circumstances. However, leaks and breaks happen frequently. That’s why we at CRS Automotive always recommend our clients to check their coolant every 100.000km or 4 years, just to make sure the engine doesn’t get in danger because of such a simple problem.
Signs you need to replace the coolant
- The most obvious sign of the engine overheating is the temperature dashboard light. This either means that the engine is low on coolant, or that the fluid got so contaminated that it can’t function anymore.
- The heating inside the cabin doesn’t work properly. The cooling system is responsible for redirecting the hot temperature from under the hood into the cabin. The coolant absorbs the hotness from the engine, getting really hot itself and pumping into the heater. The fan blows into it, bringing warm air into the cabin. If you aren’t feeling enough heat, maybe you’re running low on coolant. Or the coolant is so contaminated with particles of the rust and dirt that they blocked the system.
- Something smells sweetish, but you don’t want to eat it. It’s your coolant giving away the signs that it needs some refilling. There’s bound to be a leak somewhere in the system. Before identifying the leak, if you’re on the road, refill with some more coolant or water, as we’ve told you already.
- Coolants come in bright and distinctive colors for a reason. You should interpret color change as a sign of malfunction. Luckily, this is an inspection that can easily be done and you can rely pretty much on your naked eye. Open the radiator cap and see what’s beneath it or on its backside. If there is a muddy, yucky substance accumulated on the surface, it’s time to change. Pump out some fluid with a big syringe or turkey baster and check out the color. If it isn’t limpid and clear, you know what needs to be done.
How to choose the best coolant?
They come in different colors. Orange or red or pinkish, green, golden yellow. There are organic and inorganic ones, with or without silicates.
But don’t rely on your own instincts. Check the owner’s manual and see which one suits your car type best.
Types of coolant services
You will stumble upon loads of DIY (Do It Yourself) articles and tutorials on the Internet about replacing the coolant on your own. According to Ahmad Liaqat, head of CRS Automotive, this is not recommendable.
“We strongly advise you against it, as failing to do all the steps properly may lead to the engine overheating and possible damage that could drain a serious amount of money from your credit card,” says Ahmad.
There are three basic types of coolant services.
- The drain and fill option. The technician will unscrew the drain plug, drain the old coolant, flush the entire system (as it needs to get rid of all the contaminants that are all over the place), and pour the new coolant into the reservoir.
- The vacuum service, which sucks out all the coolant and then refills the system.
- Cooling system flush, which forces the old coolant out with pressure, and lets the new coolant in.
Technicians also have a few tricks to better protect the system and make the new coolant last longer. There are treatments that clean the system before the flush, and conditioners that go in after to help protect the system.
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