Changing Your Vehicle's Coolant
Coolant, also widely referred to as anti-freeze, is the fluid which is mixed with water and is circulated throughout a liquid-cooled engine to remove excess heat and prevent damage. On newer autos, it is often used to cool the transmission fluids, as well. There are also some coolants which are sold pre-mixed with water and this type of coolant mixture takes the guess work out of how much of one or the other to add when working on or refilling coolant systems.
Your coolant keeps your engine running more efficiently during the winter and summer months. First, coolants contain an antifreeze formula which prevents the water in your cooling system from freezing and possibly cracking your block. It also protects your engine by allowing it to stay warmer in the winter, making for easier starts and less warm-up time. In the summer, coolant helps keep your engines cool by incorporating boil-over treatments. Additionally, modern coolants also offer anti-corrosion chemical elements to keep your engine clean and assists in its longevity.
You should replace your coolant fluid at least once every year. Usually this is done before winter to assure that your vehicle is winterized, as the colder winter months and freezing offer the most danger and risk for an engine and its components.
When you change your coolant, you will have several options to use for your new coolant. Assure that the antifreeze or coolant you use is the right one for your vehicle. Normally, anti-freeze is green, but red colored Dextron is used by some manufactures. Because transmission fluid is usually red, we personally prefer that coolants remain a neon colored green so that if a leak ever occurs, it can be easily identified. There, we recommend using Prestone Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant, which is compatible with ANY antifreeze/coolant, regardless of color, for use in ALL makes and models of cars and light duty trucks. This patented formula provides a high degree of performance durability and carefully balanced protection against temperature extremes and rust corrosion of all cooling system metals, including aluminum. However, you may use your own choice, this is a matter of preference.
Changing Your Engine's CoolantPreparing to Drain Your Radiator
Draining helps reduce rust and sediment acquired in your radiator. Be sure to have an acceptable drain pan or other container handy that will catch and hold all of the fluid, before starting.
Also be sure to follow all local laws concerning the handling of antifreeze or engine coolants. Keep it away from pets or children. Dispose of the chemicals in a manner acceptable to local law enforcement. Most automotive parts stores can handle these fluids through a recycling program. Never dispose of antifreeze or coolant improperly, such as by pouring it on the ground, into a septic tank or into a storm drain. For this reason, you may want to purchase a drain pan that you can easily seal, where the top will act as if a funnel, for draining and transporting your fluids to a proper disposal facility.
Draining your radiator
Drain your cooling system according to your manufacturer's specifications. Usually, it is a simple matter of opening a drain on the lower end of your radiator. On older vehicles, this will look like a drain petcock with a butterfly grip. On newer models, this may be a plastic cap with a protruding edge to use as a handle. You may have to remove an under-the-bumper skirt or other body panel to get to the bottom of the radiator and see the drain plug.
Open the drain plug and drain the coolant into your drain pan.
Flushing the Cooling System
You may wish to flush your radiator. Flushing the system cleans the engine block's cooling channels and cavities. Use a quality cooling system flush/cleaner and/or system and follow its directions.
Fill with the proper coolant and water mix for the desired freeze and boil-over protection indicated by the coolant manufacturer. Mixtures usually require at least a 50% to a 70% coolant to water mix, in order to provide effective engine protection.
Remember to consider the old coolant as a hazardous and poisonous fluid which you are responsible for until you have disposed of it properly.
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