Coolant Flush and System Inspection

 

As a part of your vehicle’s maintenance, you should regularly have your vehicle serviced and perform your own checks in between. Maintaining the right levels of oils and coolant are vital activities in ensuring your car performs to its maximum capabilities without leaving you stranded on the roadside. By being proactive and checking your fluid levels every 1-2 months as recommended you can ensure levels are maintained. Before performing your own checks, let your vehicle cool down for at least 20 minutes and verify that it’s sitting on a fairly level surface.

The radiator on your car plays an important role throughout the year. It helps keep the engine cool while you’re driving or even when the car is idling, and it also prevents the engine from freezing up during winter when your car is sitting parked.

Understanding Coolant

The coolant in your car is a liquid that circulates through your engine keeping the cylinders from overheating and performing at their best. Coolant works to absorb the heat from inside your car and take it elsewhere to protect the interior of your car. Over time, however, this coolant can deteriorate: The coolant or combination of water and coolant inside it may become contaminated with impurities and rust, this makes keeping the engine cool and system components running properly difficult. It’s when this happens that you need to consider having your coolant flushed and cooling system inspected.

Risks Of Not Changing Coolant

Coolant can become more acidic over time and lose its rust-inhibiting properties, causing corrosion. Corrosion can damage the radiator, water pump, thermostat, heater core, radiator cap, hoses, and other parts of the cooling system and can cause a car engine to overheat.

Getting rid of the scale deposits and rust inside the radiator, and other components reduces the chance of radiator, thermostat, heater core, and water pump damage, and lessens the possibility of engine overheating.

It’s when this happens that you need to consider having your coolant flushed and cooling system inspected.

Types Of Coolant

#1 – IAT (Inorganic Acid Technology)

Typical Color:  Bright Green

This is the oldest coolant blend and was installed by all domestic car manufacturers through about 1994 with some makes such as Ford continuing through 2002.

Asian and European car builders discontinued using this blend in 1990. It contains phosphates and silicates and works reasonably well with cast iron engine blocks and copper or aluminum radiators.

IAT coolants should be flushed out and renewed every 2 years or 58,000 km. If left in an engine beyond these limits, the inevitable formation of clogging solids could degrade a cooling system’s performance. Heater core blockages were not uncommon with this coolant years back if it was not regularly replaced.

#2 – OAT (Organic Acid Technology)

Typical Color:  Orange, Red, Blue, or Dark Green

This type of coolant contains no phosphates or silicates and is found in most domestic cars built after 1994. Extended coolant life of up to 5 years or 200,000 km is a benefit with these coolants.

#3 – HOAT (Hybrid Organic Acid Technology)

Typical Color:  Yellow, Turquoise, Pink, Blue, or Purple

These coolant blends fall between the IAT and OAT types. HOATs are commonly installed in newer Chrysler products as well as in European and Asian cars.

#4 – Dex-Cool (OAT Type)

Typical Color:  Orange

Dex-Cool was developed in 1995 for GM cars. When owners mistakenly added green coolant to systems that contained the Dex-Cool system, blockages frequently occurred. In other respects, Dex-Cool is an acceptable coolant but must never be mixed with other antifreeze types.

You should never mix coolants. Coolant blends are decidedly different.

You can add a ‘universal’ coolant (yellow in color) in an emergency but like all other coolants, it’s recommended to run a complete 50/50 mix of the recommended coolant or flush the system and run Universal only. To be safe, all you need to do whenever some coolant is required is to purchase the type specified for your specific vehicle.

What if you are somewhere out in the boondocks and your cooling system springs a slow leak? Should this happen, you can always add distilled water to your cooling system. You could even add clean water from a nearby creek if you are desperate. But this is a temporary fix until you get back to civilization.

Why? Because adding that water will degrade freeze and boil-over protection. So you should soon have the system leak checked and the coolant mix either corrected to restore protection or the system flushed and refilled.

Benefits Of Coolant Flushes

Driving habits, the type of antifreeze you use, and extreme outside temperatures will help determine how often your radiator coolant needs to be flushed. During a coolant flush, old antifreeze is pushed out, along with any contaminants that may harm your radiator, water pump, and other engine components. Once the rust is gone, along with the old antifreeze, you don’t want it coming back.

New coolant will be introduced into the system, which will contain additives that help prevent rust from forming on the inside of the radiator again. The water pump is lubricated by the additives in the new coolant and helps keep the water pump running longer and better, too. This simple maintenance step can greatly improve the life of your car and offers many benefits.

A coolant flush often involves more than just flushing out old antifreeze. While your car is in the shop, your technician will pressure test the system to detect leaks and verify all components are performing as intended to prevent damage to your engine.

Frequency of Coolant Flushes

A general recommendation is approximately every 45,000 km or 3-4 years and more frequently if you’re towing or driving in “severe” conditions. Checking your vehicle's owner's manual and manufacturer's recommended interval is best. If in doubt, have your shop technician perform an inspection.

Does Coolant Affect Air Conditioning?

The quick answer is yes, coolant can definitely affect a car’s AC performance. But not as you would initially think – but by having an impact on the car’s temperature, airflow, and humidity.

As a car’s interior is situated close to the engine it can become heated by the coolant that is circulating around the engine. This does mean that the coolant is doing its job as it is preventing your car engine from overheating and expelling the hot air simultaneously.

As the coolant in your engine controls how cool the air is that enters your AC unit, it can directly affect its performance. Not enough coolant and too much hot air will get in instead raising both the humidity and temperature.

In the same way as a home AC unit can help to maintain the moisture level in the air for the comfort of its inhabitants. The same applies to a car’s humidity level – if there is too little humidity the air conditioning will cause the vehicle driver and passengers to have dry skin and mouth. In order for the coolant to release the humidity back into the air, there must be enough moisture in the engine block.

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