It is the most wonderful time of the year….until it isn’t. Twas the week of Christmas and all over town, people were hustling and bustling, but some cars were breaking down. In this tale you will be visited by three spirits of the cooling system: Hoses, a Radiator, and a Water Pump. There is hope for you. Grab a mug of cocoa, sit back and go with the anti-freeze flow.
Anti-freeze or Coolant is a vital fluid. It has several properties to it that allow it to do its job. It has a freezing point, or a specific temperature it can drop to before the fluid freezes, and a boiling point—the highest temperature the fluid can reach before it begins to boil. -34 degrees F to 265 degrees F is considered optimal regardless of your coolant type (did you know there are several types of coolant?). If you have ever looked at your temperature gauge in your instrument cluster or Driver Information Center, you can see the engine temperature usually stays at about 200 degrees. Step one of our coolant tests checks the freeze and boiling point of your coolant and indicates ranges of -34 to 400 degrees. Coolant also needs to maintain a pH balance—if you remember from science class there is acidic, basic, and neutral. Another amazing property of your car’s anti-freeze is “Acid Corrosion Protection.” Or, in more basic terms, it has a built-in rust inhibitor. Step two of our test identifies the reserve alkalinity and step three is the overall pH balance. Ultimately, you would like to see a strong reserve and a neutral pH balance. Why does any this even matter? As I show you just three pieces of your cooling system (by the way there are SOOOO many more) you can see how they are affected and what could happen when the coolant is out of whack.
Radiator hoses and heater hoses transport the anti-freeze in its circuit, which simply stated includes the water pump, thermostat, engine, radiator, overflow tank (or reservoir) and heater core. What you may not know is that your radiator hoses wear from the inside out. Follow me here. Hot, 200+ degree anti-freeze flowing through rubber hoses—over time the hot fluid is going to wear away the integrity of the hose. If you have ever had a technician tell you your hoses feel soft, now you know why. You also know that you should replace them as a preventive measure. They are weak and could fail at any point. Hoses are relatively inexpensive versus the cost of a tow, or compounded damage from losing coolant and overheating the engine.
The radiator works as a heat exchanger. Cool air flows over by the fan as the hot fluid passes through. Heat is extracted the fluid temperature is changed. While this is an over-simplified explanation, the tiny tubes and fins that run through the radiator are pretty small and the system is pressurized which is why your radiator cap is designed to hold a specific amount of pressure. What I see most frequently are radiators that crack at the plastic tank and metal seam are joined. Other common failures are oxidation and calcification—or rust and crust. I have included an image of a radiator that not only failed at the seam, but you can see the calcification. The coolant lost the attributes that made it effective and it the crust you see around the radiator was gumming up the works—think clogged arteries…
WATER PUMP. That just sounds important. That is because it is. It pushes or pumps the coolant. It is belt driven, metal, and mechanical. It has rotating parts that need to spin freely. Some things to keep in mind—your belt needs to be kept in good shape because if the belt breaks, the water pump will not turn. Your coolant needs to stay clean. Corrosion and deposits will deteriorate and rust the moving pieces (remember your coolant has rust inhibitors) and any calcifications could affect its efficient movement. Should you change it before it breaks? On most vehicles that are equipped with timing belts, it is a good idea to replace the water pump at the same time. They are usually very close together and are cost effective in terms of labor down the road. Also, the same idea applies here as with the hoses—should it fail you could experience compounded damage from overheating the engine. If you are not sure what time and mileage interval is best for your water pump, I will be happy to help or you can ask your trusted technician!
As I mentioned earlier, there are still so many other cooling system components that I have not even begun to cover with you. This is what I have seen in the past few weeks since our weather has started to become consistently colder and we have not even gotten into February yet. There are so many different types of coolant—green, orange, red, gold, blue…At a minimum, a standard 50/50 mix of ethylene-glycol (anti-freeze) should be replaced every 2 years (for the rust inhibitor) or 30,000 miles. Other coolants should be changed every 5 years or 50,000 miles. The best plan is to replace the fluid before it reaches the end of its useful life. The next best plan is to perform a complete system flush. I highly recommend the BG Cooling System Service which not only cleans, protects and maintains the entire system, but offers* you up to $4,000 in cooling system repair coverage.
Scrooge got it—he changed his ways. I hope my tale helped you in some way…maybe you will consider stopping in and changing your coolant or at least having it checked to make sure it is in great shape for the rest of the winter. Have a safe and wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!