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Shakes, Rattles, Squeaks & Thunks – Anti-freeze
We all have an innate nature (some would call it laziness) in each of us that tends to put off important things. When it comes to keeping your vehicle healthy, we know there are things that need attention, but for most of us, the prevailing attitude is… “I’ll deal with that later, not now.” Does that sound like you?
The winter cold is upon us, and whether you like it or not, it’s time to check the condition of our vehicle’s antifreeze. The condition of the coolant in our car or truck is usually a low priority item and other than casually glancing at the level on the side of the opaque overflow bottle to see if it is in the cold and hot range, it is usually ignored. We place a much higher priority on the oil level in our vehicles when we fill up with gas, when the attendant at the full fuel pump asks if you want to check the oil level.
It is very important to check the condition of your vehicle’s coolant. Traditionally, green or ethylene glycol based coolant is by far the most dominant antifreeze. The green color is due to the added dye to differentiate the product as an antifreeze.
Few motorists realize that antifreeze has a lifespan of only two years because it degrades. It loses its protective organs and begins to form acids. These acids will react with your car or truck’s radiator, aluminum cylinder head, head gasket and pipes.
The first step is to check the coolant level in your vehicle’s expansion tank. If the coolant is not visible, open the plastic cover and look inside. Sometimes the opaque bottle may be too dirty to see the coolant level from the outside. If the bottle is empty, you may be leaking coolant, or if you haven’t checked it in about six months, it may have evaporated. Then open the radiator cap (the engine must be cold) and check if the coolant level is up to the top. If it is, then you are fine. Fill the expansion tank with a mixture of 50% antifreeze and 50% water.
If your radiator is low on coolant, you need to determine if there is a coolant leak. First, inspect the water pump, which is usually located in the front and center of the engine block. It has a fan pulley and two radiator hoses. If possible, look under the water pump and you may discover a small hole. If the water pump is leaking, you may see a leak there. Warning signs can be watermarks or lines that will be visible on the crankshaft pulley or engine tray, etc. This is where you may have lost coolant from the expansion tank.
If there is a coolant leak here, in most cases the water pump will need to be replaced. To confirm this, you will need to test the pressure in the radiator. IF the water pump is not suspect, start the engine and inspect the upper and lower radiator hoses for leaks, as well as the heater hoses. The problem could be as simple as a loose hose clamp that needs to be tightened.
Other hoses to check are the small hoses that may run in a carbureted vehicle to heat the thermostat or heat the idle valve regulator on a fuel injected car or truck. If no leaks are detected, fill the expansion bottle and check again in a week or so.
Another aspect related to the coolant in your vehicle is to check the color of the antifreeze. This is very important. New antifreeze will be light green in color, and coolant that has been in the vehicle for two or more years will be brownish green due to degradation. This is a good sign that the antifreeze has become acidic and needs to be replaced. A good rule of thumb is to change the coolant in your vehicle every two years. After two years, coolant can eat away at the water pump impeller, destroy head gaskets, and cause sludge to build up in the radiator and heater core, which can cause your engine to overheat.
If you’re still not sure if your antifreeze is good or bad, take your car or truck to a reputable repair shop and have a mechanic check the coolant with a refractometer. This device will illuminate your coolant and measure the turbidity of the antifreeze. Reading the graduated number scale will allow the technician to determine how clean or dirty the coolant is. If it’s at the limit, it’s time to flush the coolant. Before flushing the coolant, it would be wise to pressure test the cooling system to ensure there are no leaks in the system before new antifreeze enters.
While you’re checking your vehicle’s coolant this time of year, check the fan belt or serpentine belt to make sure it’s tight. Have your mechanic perform a stress test on your vehicle’s battery to make sure it will last another winter in its condition. If it shows 9 volts instead of 12 or 13 volts, you need to replace it. Finally, have the technician check the starter motor current draw and the alternator charging output to make sure these important components are working properly.
Getting these inspections done on your vehicle should give you peace of mind knowing you’ve done everything you can to ensure a flawless winter. Happy motoring!
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#Shakes #Rattles #Squeaks #amp #Thunks #Antifreeze