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Proper Care of your Car’s Cooling System

Updated on July 29, 2010

I’m sure that you change your oil and keep up with your car’s routine maintenance, right? If you love your car, or if you simply don’t want to pay a ton of money keeping it running, there are a few things that simply must be done. Oil and filter changes are only part of the maintenance. One of the components of your car that needs yearly attention is your cooling system. The best thing about this is that you can do it yourself and save a ton of money.

First of all, your cooling system is comprised of a water pump, a heater core, a radiator, a cooling fan, a thermostat, and a whole bunch of hoses. When you turn on your car, coolant is pumped through special water jackets that are in your engine to help cool your engine and to maintain a near constant temperature for the whole engine block. As the coolant heats up, the thermostat opens up and allows the coolant to circulate through your radiator which cools the liquid with the assistance of a large fan. These fans can be mechanical or electrical, depending on your model of vehicle. The coolant is also pumped through a heater core, which is a small radiator that is inside your climate control system. When you turn your heater on, it is the heater core that is providing the warmth.

If the system fails, your engine’s components will expand unevenly as they heat up causing gaskets to fail and components to break. This type of engine damage is never cheap and can require replacing the entire engine. Since the consequences are so severe, let’s talk about what you need to do every year to keep your cooling system working its best.

I recommend investing about ten whole dollars into a radiator flush kit. This contains nothing more than a small plastic T-valve that allows you to hook your garden hose to your cooling system. You will also need a few gallons of antifreeze. Do not buy the premixed coolant; it is a waste of money. What you need to do every year is to remove your radiator’s drain plug, which is located at the bottom of your radiator and drain all of the fluid out into a catch container. Coolant is both dangerous for the earth, but is extremely poisonous to pets that will be drawn to it because of its sweet smell. Once you have removed all of the fluid, hook you’re your garden hose to your flush kit and attach to the upper hose on your radiator. Use the hose clamps to seal the hoses on and turn on your water. With the drain plug still open on your radiator, your catch container still in place, your radiator will begin to fill with the water from your garden hose. Turn your car on. You will now have fresh, cool water coursing through your engine and dumping all of the rust and buildup out through the drain plug. Monitor the water level in your radiator carefully; you do not want any air bubbles building up inside your engine. Once the water coming out of the bottom of your radiator is perfectly clean, turn off the engine. Next close the drain plug and remove the flush kit and replace the upper radiator hose to the radiator suing the hose clamps. Check the water level in your radiator. You will want to add enough antifreeze to make a 50/50 mixture so make sure that you radiator is about half empty. If you need to, open the drain plug to remove some more of the water. Top off your radiator with antifreeze. Next, with the radiator fill cap removed, turn on the car and turn the heater on to high. You will see the coolant pumping through the radiator. Keep adding more antifreeze as the liquid level drops. This is to remove all air bubbles from your engine and coolant system. Seal up the radiator once you are sure that all air is gone and turn off the engine.

By deep cleaning your coolant system, you are removing all of the junk that can clog up the small channels in your radiator. You are also removing any air bubbles that can cause hot spots in your engine and you are guaranteeing that your coolant system is in perfect working order without paying some shop a bunch of money to do it!


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      Mindy 6 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. Maintaining my car's cooling system is essential to keep me comfortable all the time.