Cooling System Care
by Pat Goss
As soon as a car is completed, it starts to decay, and one place where that definitely happens is in the cooling system. Now you can help slow the decay process with proper maintenance. The first thing you want to do in your cooling system is to replace the radiator cap every two years. As a radiator cap goes bad, it allows air into the radiator. The air in turn causes corrosion.
All right, you have to change the coolant, and you have to do that on a regular basis, and regular may be two years or five years, depending on the type of coolant that’s in the vehicle. Now read your owner’s manual to get all the specifications, and you may want to look to see if one of the universal coolants will meet those specifications. If they don’t, well, you better stick with what the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle.
Now you also have to make sure that it has the proper mixture of coolant and water. In order to do that, most people use a hydrometer. Now there are two types of hydrometers. We have one here with a black bulb on the top and one with a green. The green one is for propylene glycol. Now it’s not a real popular antifreeze, but you could possibly have it. The black one is for ethylene glycol. That is the one that most antifreezes are based on. Also the way we do it professionally is with pH test strips. They measure not only the pH, or the acidity of the coolant, they also measure the condition of the coolant, and you can buy them in four-pack kits and do it yourself.
All right, you need to flush the cooling system. That should be done at two-year intervals for most cars. You can buy a kit where you do it yourself, but there may be a little bit of difference. The difference is going to be in the chemicals that you get. You see, the chemicals to flush an automobile, what they do is they lower the pH, and the lower the pH, the more acidic the coolant is, and the more acidic it is, well, the more it eats into and softens the scale that has built up inside the radiator and the engine. So the professional products, they typically lower the pH more than the do-it-yourself products. So periodically you may want to have it professionally done.
And don’t forget the water that you mix with the coolant, make sure that it’s distilled water not spring water, not tap water, but distilled water, so it won’t have any contaminants that will increase the amount of deposits that form in the cooling system.
If you have a question or comment, write to me. The address is MotorWeek, Owings Mills, MD, 21117.