Archive for the ‘coolant’ Tag

Basic Auto Care Many Drivers Miss

Fluids and lubricants rank among the most neglected items when it comes to basic auto care, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

Community car care events held throughout the country found that the top-three fluids most likely to be low or contaminated are windshield washer fluid in 26 percent of inspected vehicles, followed by engine oil at 23 percent and coolant at 19 percent.

Windshield washer fluid keeps dirt and debris from collecting on a vehicle’s windshield, allowing the driver full visibility and making it an essential safety item. Windshield washer fluid should be checked monthly and drivers should use a fluid that is specially formulated for their climate.

Engine oil lubricates the moving parts of a vehicle’s engine, helping keep the engine clean and preventing wear and overheating. Neglecting to change a vehicle’s oil can lead to costly repairs, including replacement. Engine oil levels should be checked frequently and changed per the owner’s manual.

Coolant absorbs heat from the engine and dissipates it through the radiator and heat exchanger. Because coolant breaks down over time, neglecting it can lead to corrosion, rust and engine overheating. Flushing and replacing coolant every six to 12 months, depending upon climate, will help prevent costly repairs.

“Checking fluids and lubricants is easy to put off, but each is critical to your vehicle running properly and safely,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “The good news is that they are easy to check and inexpensive to replace. Whether you do it yourself or visit a trusted technician, be sure to inspect your vehicle for any possible signs of trouble so you can address minor service needs before they turn into major repairs.”

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at

Does Engine Coolant Go Bad?

Yes, engine coolant does deteriorate over time, but unless something unusual occurs, you probably won’t need to change the coolant in most late-model vehicles until 100,000 miles. Older vehicles probably require more frequent coolant replacement, so check your owner’s manual to be sure.

Most manufacturers now use extended-life coolant with a recommended change interval of 100,000 miles. That varies based on maintenance schedules for each manufacturer and individual models. Some Subarus, for example, call for coolant replacement after 13 years or 132,500 miles. Many Ford engines say to replace it after the first 100,000 miles and every 50,000 miles thereafter, though heavy-duty applications (such as frequent towing) should have it done more often.

No matter what the maintenance schedule is for your vehicle, after a few years of ownership it is a good idea to have the coolant checked by a professional periodically for acid buildup, rust and other contaminants, and for its resistance to freezing and boiling. If you have added water (particularly tap water) to top off the cooling system, you may have introduced contaminants or diluted the antifreeze/water mix (generally 50/50) and altered the freezing and boiling points.

If your engine is running hotter than normal, deteriorated coolant could be a possible cause. Most manufacturers and service shops recommend flushing the cooling system at the same time the coolant is replaced to get rid of deposits that accumulated over the years.

Manufacturers specify certain types of antifreeze, and some may be red, others pink or green, but don’t go to an auto parts store looking for the right color. You need to ask for the right type of antifreeze for your vehicle, whether you’re adding some yourself or having it replaced by a pro.

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What To Do When Your Engine Freezes Up

It sounds like a contradiction but it happens. Your car froze up and it is overheating like it is the middle of August. What can cause a car’s engine to freeze up and overheat at the same time?

The short answer is that a lack of anti-freeze has resulted in the contents of the cooling system freezing up inside the car’s engine–in the radiator or the hoses that carry the anti-freeze from the radiator to the engine and back again. Insufficient cold weather protection is caused by an improper concentration of coolant/anti-freeze. This can happen when other work is done to the cooling system, possibly a hose replacement, and when the system is topped off with water, which compromises the strength of the anti-freeze. Another possibility is that someone has confused pre-mixed anti-freeze with the full strength version and further diluted the 50/50 mix with additional water.

Don’t run the vehicle. You might think that as the engine heats up the freeze point will break loose. What happens instead is that the radiator blows apart as extreme pressure builds up due to the coolant’s inability to circulate. No, what you have to do is seek shelter from the cold.

Try a little warming. When you have moved the vehicle out of the cold and to a warm area, it would be best just to let the engine thaw out at its own rate, but that usually is not quickly enough. So you might move a space heater (avoiding anything that could cause a fire) as close to the engine as possible to accelerate the thawing process. After the car has been out of the cold for some time you can try starting it, monitoring the temperature gauge to make sure that the ice blockage has melted. Be sure to stay with the car as it is running since overheating can occur very rapidly.

Drain and refill the radiator. Once you have confirmed that the ice is gone, drain and refill the radiator to the proper concentration of anti-freeze, making sure that you run the vehicle long enough for the thermostat to open and then adding more anti-freeze.

Check your levels before winter hits. Having an engine freeze up is something that usually only happens once in a lifetime of driving, because the lesson learned is forever seared into one’s memory. The way to avoid the trauma is to have the anti-freeze strength checked at the beginning of each winter driving season. It is a job you can do yourself with a very low degree of difficulty and a minimal investment of less than $10, which is the price of a tester.

An engine overheating during freezing weather is one instance when you should assume the worst which is that the motor has frozen up, because the consequences of assuming anything less are far too consequential.

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