ANTIFREEZE/COOLANT—IS IT IMPORTANT AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

The primary purpose of the vehicle’s cooling system is to keep the vehicle from over-heating. So to say the least, the cooling system is critical to ensuring your vehicle runs well, and for a long time. It performs this all-important task by circulating coolant, or what’s often called antifreeze (same fluid), around the engine, in a sealed jacket that surrounds the motor, by use of a water pump.

This process allows heat from the engine to be transferred from the engine block, into the coolant which is then pumped through the radiator in order to cool it down before it is recirculated back through the engine block in a continuous cycle of keeping .

Often people confuse the car’s ‘cooling system’ with their air conditioning ’cooling’ system. These are two separate vehicle systems. The engine cooling system, operating on a type of coolant or antifreeze (which are essentially the same thing) is what we’re talking about here. The other ‘cooling’ system is your air conditioning system that cools the vehicle’s interior. You can find more info under our conditioning section. Just so we keep these things straight.

Antifreeze/coolant (one in the same thing), when mixed at a 50/50 ratio with water, provides excellent anti-freeze, anti-boil, and anti-corrosive properties. In extremely cold environments, the ratio for standard ethylene glycol can go as high as 70% antifreeze, 30% water. With DEX-COOL®, the maximum ratio of antifreeze to water is 60/40. Although DEX-COOL® type antifreeze can be mixed with standard ethylene glycol antifreeze, DEX-COOL® loses its 5 yr./150,000 life. Many manufacturers have their own ‘specific type or brand’ of antifreeze/coolant. See you owner’s manual for your vehicle’s specifics.

SAFETY FIRST!

If you decide to check or service your cooling system (radiator) yourself, use extreme caution: Opening a hot radiator or coolant reservoir/overflow tank can cause severe burns. Have a professional technician handle the check out for you and never have it done when the car is hot!

BTW—it’s best not to mix antifreeze types unless absolutely necessary (emergency situation). Most, if not all, coolants must be diluted with water at the proper ratios and should not be used full-strength. Full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water. Generally, standard ethylene glycol type antifreeze should be changed every 2 to 3 years, depending on mileage, conditions and or every 30,000 to 50, 000 miles.

Check with your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s specifics. If unsure if the coolant is good, have a reputable service center check it for you.

Even though the coolant freeze protection may test OK with a hydrometer (freeze protection only drops with extreme dilution, not with age), the additives break down over time.

When changing or servicing the coolant/antifreeze, it’s also a great time to check your cooling system, water pump, hoses and connectionsLeaking, brittle, spongy, cracked, or rotted hoses should be replaced before new antifreeze is installed. Hose clamp connections should also be checked to ensure that they’re secure and free from leaks.

SAFETY NOTE: Be sure that both the engine and cooling system are cool before you begin any heating/cooling system maintenance or repairs. Because of lower hood profiles and cramped engine quarters, it’s also possible that your car may be equipped with an air bleed for the cooling system. Unless the cooling system is bled properly, air may stay trapped in the system and cause erratic temperatures, or in extreme cases, engine or cooling system damage.

If you’re unsure about any aspect of cooling system service, don’t take a chance. Have your car looked at by a professional service technician.

MORE FUN FACTS

The most common formulation of antifreeze is green in color and uses ethylene glycol as a base with anti-corrosion additives mixed in. The ethylene glycol part of the formula provides crucial anti-freezing characteristics and the additives deliver the anti-rust and anti-corrosion capabilities. Beginning with 1995 models, most GM vehicles started coming from the factory filled with an extended-life antifreeze, trademarked as DEX-COOL®. Distinctively different in appearance, DEX-COOL®, and its aftermarket equivalents, is an orange/amber color. It still uses ethylene glycol as a base, but contains a different additive package than standard green-colored antifreeze.

This coolant is designed to protect cooling systems for up to and beyond 1000,000 miles or five years. Other antifreeze formulations include silicate-free for Japanese cars and phosphate-free for European cars, among other types.

When properly mixed, antifreeze and water provide excellent anti-freeze, anti-boil and anticorrosive properties preventing your car from overheating.

Car and Truck Coolant Maintenance Tips / Suggestions

Be sure that both the engine and cooling system are cool before you begin any heating/cooling system maintenance or repairs. Because of lower hood profiles and cramped engine quarters, it’s also possible that your car may be equipped with an air bleed for the cooling system. Unless the cooling system is bled properly, air may stay trapped in the system and cause erratic temperatures, or in extreme cases, engine or cooling system damage.

If you’re unsure about any aspect of cooling system service, don’t take a chance. Have your car looked at by a professional service technician.

HEATING – COOLANT – ANTIFREEZE – WATER PUMPS – FANS – HOSES – BELTS – THERMOSTATS