Cold Weather Coolant Tips
||By Anna Finger
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Radiator coolant is one of the most vital components of your car’s engine; it’s a chemical additive which lowers the freezing and boiling point of a water-based liquid. An antifreeze mixture is used to achieve freezing-point depression for cold environments and also achieves boiling-point elevation ("anti-boil") to allow higher coolant temperature. In layman’s terms, coolant prevents your car from overheating during hot weather and prevents the water in your car's system from freezing up and destroying portions of your car in the winter.
In order to keep your vehicle's cooling system running at peak efficiency, you should consider the following tips for cooling system maintenance.
- Always Check Fluid Levels: Make it a habit to check the coolant level in your car's radiator on regular basis. It's not a bad idea to check the fluid level in your cooling system at least once a month. Also, make sure that the reserve tank or overflow tank fluid levels are where they should be as well. If you need to add fluid, make sure to mix antifreeze coolant with a 50/50 mix of water in warmer areas and a 70% coolant and 30% water mixture in extremely cold areas.
- Regularly Drain and Flush Your Radiator: Over time, dirt and contaminants build up in your car's radiator cooling system. Also, antifreeze can become acidic and lose its effectiveness if not changed periodically. So, you should drain your car radiator and refill it with new coolant and water at least once a year in areas that are very cold during the winter and at least every 18 months to two years in warmer climates. It is also a very good idea to have your radiator system flushed before changing the coolant. Flushing a radiator simply involves pushing a high volume of water or other cleaning liquid through your car's radiator to further remove dirt, contaminants and other metal particles that may build up inside the radiator and restrict antifreeze coolant flow.
- Check Radiator Caps and Hoses: Always check your radiator cap and water outlet cap on your reserve tank and look for cracks or other damage on the bottom of the cap. You should replace damaged caps immediately and make it a habit to replace the radiator cap or water outlet cap on your reserve or overflow tank whenever you drain or flush your radiator system. Also, you should frequently inspect all of the hoses and tubes that lead from your radiator to the water pump, thermostat and radiator overflow or reserve tank. Check the hoses for cracks or cuts that may result in antifreeze leaks. Even if you don't observe any cracks or leaks, you should change out the radiator hoses every three or four years. After a few years, radiator hoses become dry and brittle and are subject to bursting or becoming damaged very easily.
- Periodically Check the Radiator Tank: You should also visually inspect your car's radiator tank and radiator overflow or reserve tank every few months or so. Most of the time cracks in the radiator or overflow tank began as very small pinholes or punctures that can be easily repaired. However, if left unattended, you may have to replace a radiator or overflow tank due to a large hole that is difficult to repair.