In today’s episode Neil and Dave share why cooling system care is so important for your car or truck. Cooling system services and can reduce the chance of having costly repair bills. Engine and transmissions repairs are the two most expensive repairs your vehicle will ever need. The cooling system cools both these components. This cooling system episode gives you the information to understand important facts about cooling systems and their care.
Neil starts by describing the three types of coolants and then presents why it is important to service them before a problem arises.
Coolant types vary depending on the type of vehicle you are driving. Green coolant is the standard coolant vehicles have used for over 75 years. European and Asian vehicles have used coolants that are blue and red over the years. Before adding coolant to your vehicle we suggest reading your owner’s manual so you know which type to use. You can also call Palmer’s Automotive at (208) 735-8810 for help about which type of coolant your vehicle uses.
If you have a problem on the road and need to add coolant, but you are not sure of the type, you can use universal coolants that are made for your vehicle. Mixing the wrong coolants can cause reactions in your cooling system that can turn it into a thick, mud type of consistency.
Coolant that has the wrong PH can damage your engine
Car manufactures use extended mileage coolants that have replacement intervals between 60k and 150k miles. If you don’t have your cars cooling system serviced you may be damaging the engine with coolant that is too acidic or too alkaline.
When Palmer’s does a cooling system service we check the coolant for freeze points and PH balance. The freeze points are usually fine but the PH balance is frequently off.
When the PH level is off the coolant is degrading metal and gasket materials inside the engine. When a customer questions why we recommend changing coolant if the freeze point is ok, we remind the auto owner that vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing coolant before it starts degrading the cooling system.
If the PH of the coolant gets below 7.5 certain metals can be damaged by acid. If the PH gets above 9.5 aluminum engine parts can be damaged. When PH is out of the mid-range it can cause premature hose, radiator, water-pump, engine and gasket failures. It can damage engine head gaskets if left un-checked for to long enough.
Another check Neil said he does is check for voltage in the coolant system. The electricity increases the speed of PH change. It also causes electrolysis, which is eating away the metal from inside the engine.
Electrolysis was more of a problem on older vehicles when they started having more electrical and electronic components installed. Today’s vehicles have corrected most of those problems but it is still a good idea to check for it while evaluating a cooling system.
During cooling system services thermostats, belts and hoses are inspected. At 100k miles Palmer’s recommends replacing hoses and belts. The exception to this would be if the manufacturer recommends replacement sooner. The old “touch and squeeze” test for hoses doesn’t work like it did in the past. The new materials hoses are made of remain soft but they can fail without notice.
The radiator is inspected and cooling fan operation is checked during a cooling system service. Electric fan operation is checked and the radiator fins are inspected for debris. It is common in our area to have dirt and plant material stuck in radiators and air conditioning condensers. This road debris and bugs are getting sucked into the grill with the air that keeps the engine cool.
Don’t use stop-leak products in your cooling system
It’s common when auto owners to have a small cooing system leak to go to the parts house and buy a stop-leak product to fix it. It may stop or reduce that leak but it is creating other damage in the cooling system.
Old radiators had internal coolant tubes that were .125” to .250” openings for coolant to flow through. Today’s radiators have holes as small as .050”. Putting stop leak in these systems plugs them up so rather than having to replace a small gasket or hose, you have to replace the radiator to fix the problem you created.
Cooling system flushing removes residue from old coolant
During cooling system services the radiator and engine are flushed to remove anti-freeze sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of the radiator and engine.
It’s important to remember that coolants are car specific. If you cross contaminate by adding the wrong type of coolant to your cooling system it can react and become like mud in the system. GM’s DexCool long life anti-freeze that is mixed with green antifreeze turns to mud and is almost impossible to get out of the engine and radiator.
Here’s another reminder. If you’re not sure what type of coolant your vehicle needs, but you have to put some in because it’s low, use a universal coolant that applies to your type of vehicle. It usually says on the container the type of vehicles it will work in.
Neil presented some helpful information about radiator caps and thermostats. Radiator caps for years have had a pressure rating of around 15 pounds. Newer vehicle have increased their pressure. Remember to never remove a radiator cap when the engine is hot.
The purpose of the pressure is to keep the coolant from boiling. Boiling coolant can’t transfer heat as well so it allows the engine to run hotter. If the pressure goes to high it can cause leaks. If the pressure is too low the system can run too hot. We always test the cap to ensure it holds the correct pressure.
Thermostats help the engine heat up quicker and stay at operating temperatures no matter what the outside temperature. If a thermostat fails it can be stuck open, which means it won’t bring the engine up to proper operating temperature. This can cause complaints of heaters not getting hot enough in the winter or windows not staying clear with the defroster on.
A thermostat that is sticking closed will be noticed immediately because the temperature gauge will go into the red area indicating overheating, or the red temperature warning light on the dash will come on. In either situation the thermostat must be replaced.
Vehicles made in 2005 or later can turn on the check engine light if the coolant temperature is not correct because it can affect the vehicles emissions. An engine too cold will increase tail pipe emissions.
Conclusion about cooling system maintenance
We hope this presentation about cooling systems will help you be more comfortable with approving cooling system services when they are recommended. Coolant can’t last forever and when it deteriorates it forms acids that can damage your vehicle. The damage can create the need for expensive auto repairs.
At Palmer’s Automotive Repair we are always trying to save you money on auto repairs. We see the damage that lack of maintenance causes in your cars and we are actively trying to help you avoid extra expenses.
If any Palmer’s Auto Care podcast listeners or website visitors have any questions about cooling system services please feel free to call us at Palmer’s Automotive Repair (208) 735-8810.
Key takeaways from this cooling system episode:
- There are three types of coolants that are specific to a vehicle type
- Never mix coolants unless you used an approved universal for that system
- Coolant PH levels below 7.5 or above 9.5 cause damage to cooling systems
- Stop leak products should not be used to repair coolant leaks