This week on ExperTec Costa Mesa’s Cars 101 Blog, we’re keeping you and your engine cool. We’re gonna cover your vehicle’s engine’s cooling system, how it works, and the reasons why it might need some work.
Coolant, also widely known as antifreeze, is essentially the fluid responsible for absorbing and dissipating heat from the engine by flowing through passages within the engine, then out of the engine and through the radiator, where it is cooled off by fast-flowing air going through your grille and is cycled back into the engine again. It is made from a mixture of either ethylene or propylene glycol and water, usually in a 1:1 ratio. Coolant service means draining and flushing your car’s cooling system, then refilling it with new coolant.
Coolant flowing through your engine will accumulate dirt and rust particles over time, which can clog up your engine’s cooling system and cause serious problems, especially during extreme temperatures such as in the summer or winter. In addition, since it operates in an extremely hot environment, coolant undergoes chemical breakdown over time, which breaks down its rust inhibiting chemicals, allowing corrosion to form on your engine and radiator.
If your antifreeze’s rust inhibitors stop working, then your engine’s cooling system will start to rust from the inside out, usually starting with your engine block. Over time, the rust particles which are absorbed into your coolant will also clog the tiny pipes where it flows through the radiator and cause your engine to overheat, very likely resulting in you needing a new engine and several thousand dollars in parts and labor just to get your car back on the road again.
Coolant disappearing can only mean one thing: a leak in your cooling system. You may have either an internal or external leak. Internal leaks are harder to deal with and more expensive to fix, but both require immediate attention since running low on or running out of coolant poses an extremely high risk of causing catastrophic engine failure.
Your vehicle owner’s manual should tell you how often you need to check and replace your coolant. If you check your coolant level when the engine is cold, it should be at or above the “minimum” line on the transparent reservoir. If your engine is hot, it should be at or slightly below the “max” line. You can tell your engine temperature from looking at the temperature gauge on your dashboard. If the temperature gauge is higher than the halfway mark, your engine may have a cooling problem.
If you plan on going somewhere where the temperature drops below freezing, you might want to check the concentration of your coolant. Diluted coolant can freeze when the temperature drops below freezing and crack your engine and other important components.
It is worth noting that antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste which many pets are attracted to, and that even small amounts can easily kill the average sized pet if ingested. There is no way to make it less appealing to animals without sabotaging its function, but antifreeze made with propylene glycol instead of the more common ethylene glycol is only about a third as toxic. If you have pets, it can be worth taking care to only use propylene glycol antifreeze.
Here at ExperTec Automotive in Costa Mesa, we can take care of any of your coolant problems and keep your car cool. If you think that you may be having problems with your car’s coolant system, call our certified mechanics today to schedule an appointment. ExperTec is Costa Mesa’s favorite AAA approved auto shop!