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Car Care Tips - Cooling System Maintenance
Never open the radiator of a car that has just been running. The cooling system of a car is under high pressure with fluid that is usually hotter than boiling water. Look for the cooling system reserve tank, somewhere near the radiator. It is usually translucent white so you can see the fluid level without opening it. (Do not confuse it with the windshield washer tank). The reserve tank will have two marks on the side of it. FULL HOT and FULL COLD. If the level frequently goes below full cold after adding fluid, you probably have a leak which should be checked as soon as possible. Today's engines are much more susceptible to damage from overheating, so do not neglect this important system.

Flush your cooling system once a year. The best time is at the beginning of the summer or the beginning of the winter. A good technician will flush the engine block and heater core. He will clean out the overflow bottle and test the radiator cap. He will fill the cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of coolant. He will pressure test the system at a few pounds over the normal operating pressure. If after a short time there is no pressure loss indicating a coolant leak and none of the hoses blow or swell up, then all is OK. Remember that antifreeze needs water to work.

You should never use a mixture of more than 60% coolant or antifreeze. It's the anti foaming agents, the rust inhibitors, and the water pump lubricants that wear out. With the price of plastic tank radiators approaching $400 and damage related to the deterioration of aluminum timing covers costing $600 to $1,000 to repair, why not spend between $50 and $85 for a yearly flush?

Do you want to know how your cooling system works? Read on. The coolant and water mix is pumped through the engine by the water pump. The job of the liquid is to pick up the heat and carry it to the radiator so it can be dissipated. The water pump can't pump foam, so they put anti-foaming agents in the coolant. We know that every car that overheats, does so because of the lack of coolant (because of a leak) or because of a restriction of the flow (closed thermostat, plugged radiator, or a water pump that's not pumping because of a drive belt that broke or an impeller that's come loose). The thermostat's job is to open when the coolant gets too hot and let the coolant travel faster into the radiator. If it senses the coolant is too cold, it closes to slow down the flow and keep the coolant in the engine longer. We all know that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. For every pound of pressure you put water under, it will raise the boiling point approximately 2 degrees. So a good 15 pound radiator cap will raise the water's boiling point 30 degrees from 212 to 242 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 50 % of coolant and the boiling point of the mixture is well over 260 degrees Fahrenheit. We know that steam can't be pumped by the water pump, that's why we need the coolant to stay in a liquid form.

It's important to know we want today's cars to operate at 220 degrees Fahrenheit . So if the coolant turns to steam too early because of a bad radiator cap or a weak mix of coolant and water, the car will overheat at 230 degrees or so, which leaves little room for an extended stop at a traffic light on a hot summer day. Very few overheated cars are fixed with just a radiator cap and I've never seen a car fixed with a flush. Flushing a car to fix an overheat is like rinsing out your mouth with mouthwash to kill cavities. A flush is done after the repair, not as the repair.

Proper maintenance of your car's cooling system is crucial to ensure the engine remains at an optimal temperature and to prevent overheating. Here are some key maintenance steps you can take:

1. Check the coolant level: Regularly check the coolant level in the coolant reservoir when the engine is cool. The reservoir usually has markings indicating the proper level. If the level is low, add a mixture of coolant and distilled water according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

2. Inspect for leaks: Periodically inspect the cooling system for any signs of leaks, such as puddles of coolant under the car or visible wetness around hoses, radiator, water pump, or the engine. If you notice a leak, have it repaired promptly to prevent coolant loss and potential engine damage.

3. Flush and replace coolant: Follow the manufacturer's recommended interval for flushing and replacing the coolant. This interval is typically every two to five years or every 30,000 to 50,000 miles (48,000 to 80,000 kilometers). Flushing the cooling system removes old coolant, debris, and contaminants that can hinder its performance.

4. Check hoses and belts: Regularly inspect the coolant hoses and belts for signs of wear, cracks, or leaks. Replace any damaged hoses or belts as needed to maintain the integrity of the cooling system.

5. Clean the radiator and condenser: Use compressed air or a gentle stream of water to remove dirt, debris, and insects from the radiator and condenser fins. This helps maintain proper airflow and cooling efficiency.

6. Inspect the radiator cap: Check the radiator cap for any signs of wear or damage. A faulty radiator cap can lead to coolant loss or improper pressure regulation. If necessary, replace the radiator cap with a new one.

7. Maintain proper engine temperature: Keep an eye on your car's temperature gauge while driving. If you notice the temperature rising above the normal range, it may indicate a cooling system issue. Stop driving immediately and have the vehicle inspected by a professional.

Remember to always consult your vehicle's owner's manual for specific maintenance recommendations and intervals tailored to your car's make, model, and year. Regular maintenance and inspections will help ensure the cooling system operates effectively and prolong the life of your engine.



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