Your cooling system is a closed system. You might think that means no contaminants can get inside. However, that is not entirely true. Over time, your coolant degrades. Regularly flushing your radiator and routine coolant system service protect your engine.
Most of us do not think about our cooling systems unless they stop working. It removes heat from the engine. Unless you get a leak or your engine overheats, you probably do not even notice it. An overheated engine can land you on the side of the road. If you continue to drive with it, you can crack your engine block or blow a head gasket. Either of those requires costly repairs. So, it is vital to keep your cooling system working properly.
How Does Your Cooling System Work?
Engines get very hot because of fuel combustion. Your cooling system works by circulating coolant through the engine. The coolant removes the heat, and the radiator cools the superheated coolant. Hoses, a water pump, and the heater core move the coolant through the system. If any of those parts fails, then your engine can overheat.
Your cooling system is a contained system. That means the liquid stays in the system unless you activate the overflow valve. But evaporation happens, even in closed systems. Extreme heat or scorching driving conditions can cause your coolant to evaporate. So, driving in Houston can cause a drop in your coolant levels.
What Is Coolant?
Coolant is the liquid that you pour into your vehicle’s cooling system. You may also hear people call it antifreeze. Technically, coolant and antifreeze are different things. Since coolants have antifreeze properties, people use the terms interchangeably.
People in freezing climates may be unable to use regular coolant, especially in the winter. That does not apply to Houston. Even in our coldest temperatures, standard coolant is fine. But if you are traveling to extreme colds, ask about different coolant needs.
Coolant consists of a mix of chemicals, primarily ethylene glycol. It comes in various colors, usually green, orange, blue, yellow, purple, pink, or red. The colors are essential. Orange coolants are for extended use. It is not interchangeable with other coolants. That is because the orange one has more rust inhibitors.
When you buy coolant, it is either 100% coolant or a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. If it is 100% coolant, you add it with water. However, you do not add water with a 50/50 mix.
Is Coolant Dangerous?
Coolant is toxic to eat. Because it is naturally sweet, it can attract pets. However, drinking coolant can kill them. It is also a risk for children. So, coolant can be very dangerous if ingested.
Can I Use Water Instead of Coolant?
Absolutely. You can use water short-term if your engine overheats. But water does not cool like coolant. It is not a long-term solution. Instead, it is something you do to get to the closest place to buy coolant.
How Do I Fill My Radiator Fluid?
Your engine has a visible fluid reservoir. It is large and should be marked or labeled.
The most important thing to know is not to mess with your radiator if the engine is hot. If you open a hot radiator cap, you can burn yourself with steam or boiling liquid. So, let the engine cool first. You do not need to fill the radiator itself. Instead, you fill it through the reservoir.
The reservoir has markings that indicate its fill level. Usually, there are two lines. You want to fill the cool line. Do not overfill the system. The overflow outlet releases the excess coolant.
Check Your System
You should check your radiator’s fluid levels regularly. If you take your car for oil changes, your service should include checking fluids. If it does not, you want to inspect your hoses around the same time as your oil changes. The hoses should be firm and without visible wear and tear. You want to look at your top and bottom radiator and heater hoses.
You also want to check your radiator cap. It needs to be in good shape. Check the spring and the rubber gasket. If the cap is not in good condition, it cannot contain the pressure in your cooling system. That can lead to overheating.
What Is a Coolant Flush?
Flushing your radiator removes sludge, rust, dirt, and scale from your cooling system. A flush involves emptying all of your radiator’s used coolants and replacing them with fresh coolant. Depending on the condition of your system, you might want to add replacing your radiator hoses at the same time as the coolant flush.
How Often Should I Flush the Radiator?
For most vehicles, you want to flush the coolant every 30,000 miles. Your car may have a different maintenance schedule. You may also have extra-long coolant. Check your manual or consult with your mechanic to find out the proper plan for your vehicle.
Your mechanic can also tell you when you need a coolant flush. They will use your car’s maintenance program or visible signs that you need new coolant. You can check many of these things yourself.
Is your car overheating? Is your temperature gauge running hot? If your vehicle is overheating, it is not able to cool properly. It could be your coolant if you do not find any radiator leaks or leaky hoses.
Your check engine light can also signal you need your radiator flushed. You need to check the codes to see if that is the fix.
How old is your car? You should flush your radiator at least every five years. If it is a used vehicle, check the maintenance records. If you do not have them, have your mechanic check to see if you need to have your system flushed.
Can I Flush Coolant at Home?
Flushing the coolant system is not hard. You can buy a flush and fill kit. After you drain the coolant, you can use a garden house to clean the system.
However, you should not flush coolant at home. Coolant is very toxic to humans and pets. If you flush it at home, you must ensure that no coolant gets on the ground. You also have to dispose of it properly. You cannot put coolant into the sewer system. These complications mean that DIY coolant flushing is no longer practical.
Fortunately, coolant flushes are not very expensive. Once you look at the cost of a flush and fill kit and the new coolant, you realize it is not much more to get a professional service.
Why Flush Your Coolant System?
Flushing your coolant system can help protect your engine. Over time, your coolant collects scale and debris. Flushing it out keeps those deposits away from your engine. It can extend engine life and keep your car running for longer periods.