It is so easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day activity that sometimes you forget to do one important thing and that is checking the maintenance of your vehicle. This plays a huge part for many people having to rush around getting to work, school, shopping, for example, and it is necessary to keep your vehicle in tiptop condition.
Checking the engine coolant on your vehicle may be one of those jobs that sometimes it is easy to forget, but this is very important for your vehicle to run smoothly from day to day. Changing your engine coolant regularly can be very important even if you take for granted things are running smoothly.
Corrosion to vehicles can be a silent killer and if this happens because of forgetting simple vehicle checks to the cooling system then you may have a costly repair bill to pay, with the added inconvenience of no vehicle while repairs are done.
The cooling system itself is a complex assembly of materials and components of, cast iron, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, steel, rubber, plastic, brass the engine coolant has to have compatibility with all of these. Also the coolant has to stop corrosion, efficiently transfer heat as well as lubricating water pump seals.
This may sound an easy task until you realize that two different metals, for example, different alloy wheels, come into contact with an acidic liquid like used anti freeze, this becomes a crude battery that has been built. It is the electricity that is produced by the cooling system that accelerates corrosion of the materials. This is why it is important to change coolant when necessary to prevent the excessive build up of any acidic in the system helping to prevent corrosion.
There are three different types of antifreeze that are most commonly used for light duty vehicles. If using the first one ethylene glycol, which has a sweetish taste, then care must be taken as it can be deadly to children and small animals proper precautions must be taken when draining or storing antifreeze.
The second, propylene antifreeze, is slightly less toxic having a slight bitterness to the taste to make it not as attractive to pets, but again, caution should be taken when storing. The two antifreezes, propylene and glycol both contain phosphates, borates, and/or silicates, all of these being corrosion inhibitors keeping the coolant solution alkaline, the color of these antifreezes is the typical green.
The third type of antifreeze also contains ethylene glycol as a base but also has organic acids that help to provide protection for the engine from corrosion. This antifreeze was used by General Motors in 1996 under the Dex-cool name; it has a five-year lifetime of 160,000km against the two years lifetime of other antifreezes. The color of the lifetime antifreeze is orange, but don’t be mislead by the red or orange coolants in the non-GM vehicles. It is far better to check in the owner’s manual whether it needs to be changed in a five or two year interval.
Never mix long life with regular antifreeze, this will shorten the life of antifreeze to two years. It is better if having to add antifreeze, to mix it with water following the ratio on the container. Normally the ratio recommended is 50/50 although some cheap antifreeze may use the ratio 60/40 mixture.
If the coolant levels are low, this can indicate a leak. If visibly, there are no signs of corrosion or stains on the outside of the components or engine, then the leak could be internal into the engine oil. This needs to be checked by a mechanic as soon as you can since it can cause damage to the engine bearings quickly.
It is far easier to change the antifreeze on your vehicle by taking it to your nearby garage or repair shop. This causes you less mess and is environmentally friendlier taking your vehicle there, as most garages and repair shops use antifreeze recycling machines. These machines will flush the cooling system, clean the old coolant and lastly fill the vehicle with rejuvenated coolant.
What happens with the cooling system flush is that all the old coolant will be removed to a recycling machine; water is then forced all through the system and drained. The old coolant that was removed is filtered, testing for its strength (freezing point) and the pH balance.
If needed, new antifreeze will be added to raise the coolant's strength. To balance the pH level, an additive is added so it no longer causes corrosion. Last, a package of chemicals is added that has extra corrosion protecting materials and added water pump lubricant. The recycled coolant can now be put back into the cooling system.