by Pat Goss
Cooling systems on automobiles are often drastically neglected by most drivers. And I guess that’s understandable because you can’t see what’s going on in there and so on, so you need to check the cooling system on a regular basis.
Now, one way to do that is to use coolant test strips. Now, coolant test strips are going to tell you the PH of the coolant, and whether it has become acidic. Coolants tend to become acidic as they age. And, let’s face it, anything that is acidic, well it can damage metal parts and even some forms of plastic. Now, also, if you live where it gets cold, make sure that you don’t forget a hydrometer, because the hydrometer is going to tell you the freeze protection of the coolant. That is the coolant and the water mixed, that’s in your cooling system.
And over here we have something that a lot of technicians never heard of, and that is to use a digital volt-ohm meter to measure conductivity of the coolant in the cooling system. You set it on low voltage scale, DC voltage scale, you put the negative clip on the negative battery cable, the positive lead for that meter goes into the coolant. Rev the engine to 2000 – 2500 rpm, hold it steady and watch for a reading on that meter. If that reading goes above .5, then you have conductive coolant and it could be eating away at the metal and plastic parts of your cooling system.
Alright, now, what about the coolants themselves? Well, there’s all kinds of them out there as we can see here. We have different colors, we have different formulations, why do we have all of these? Well, that’s because there are different metals, there are different plastics, different gasket materials used in the various engines and cooling systems. So, you have to match the coolant with the requirements for your particular engine. And remember one thing: Not only to you buy the regular, er, the proper coolant for your cooling system, but you want to mix it with distilled water. Now, you don’t pour water or coolant directly into the cooling system. You always mix it 50/50 first, then you add it. That way, you keep the system balanced.
Now, if you do this, you can avoid a lot of problems such as what we see over here: This is coolant that has gone bad, and believe me, it gets rusty, it gets nasty and it does a lot of damage. So, keep an eye on the coolant, check it regularly-- it should be done at least once or twice a year, and if you do that, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line, right here at MotorWeek.