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WHY REPLACE ENGINE COOLANT
By: Ralph Seekins
Question: I know you recommend regularly changing engine coolant. The coolant in my
vehicle looks good in the plastic reservoir. So why should I change it?
Answer: The appearance of engine coolant (commonly called anti‐freeze) has very little to do
with its condition or the need to replace it. Replacing the engine coolant should be a part of all
regularly scheduled maintenance programs as recommended by your vehicle?s manufacturer.
This vital service will help your vehicle perform more reliability and last longer. Let me explain
Engine coolant is the stuff that pulls the heat from your engine and then dissipates that heat as
it passes through the radiator. The typical engine cooling system is made up of a number of
different components made from different materials. For example, a cooling system may
include components made with Aluminum, Copper, Brass, Steel, Rubber and Plastic. As a
result, the coolant for any particular cooling system must be compatible with all of those
different components ? a good reason you should use only the type of coolant your
manufacturer recommends. One other good thing coolant does is raise the boiling point above
the 212 degree Fahrenheit boiling point of straight water. Radiator boil over is never any fun.
As coolant circulates through your vehicle?s cooling system, it also performs some other very
important functions. For example, it impedes corrosion and provides lubrication for the water
pump seal. As it ages, coolant picks up corrosion and different deposits created in the engine
and, as a result, it can become acidic. That acidic fluid along with the dissimilar metals used in
the cooling system can actually create a sort of crude battery. The resulting electrical charge in
that acidic fluid can then accelerate corrosion of the different component parts of the system
and also adversely affect the electronic engine controls. When you change the coolant
according to your manufacturer?s recommended schedule it prevents this acidic condition and
thus helps prevent corrosion and expensive repairs.
In some cases, engine coolant can be in such poor condition that a coolant flush becomes
necessary. A coolant flush requires an approved coolant flushing machine and isn?t something
you want to try at home. A proper flush helps remove corrosion and other deposits that were
created in the engine and radiator. Some repair stations recommend a coolant flush any time
the coolant is replaced. Our recommendation for a flush (and the recommendation of any
reputable service provider) is based on a careful analysis of the old coolant and the condition of
the cooling system. It is not an ?every time? kind of thing.
Now, when you do replace your vehicle?s coolant or have it replaced, it is essential for safe
operation in our Interior Alaska climates that the coolant is mixed with water in the proper
amounts to have freezing protection down to somewhere between ‐55 and ‐60 degrees Fahrenheit. Too strong amixture can degrade heater performance and can cause failure ofthe
engine block heater(s).
Replacing the engine coolant as a part of a regularly scheduled maintenance program at the
manufacturer?s recommended intervals is vital to your vehicle?s reliability and longevity. New
coolant has a non‐acidic, non‐corrosive PH level that will not destroy your cooling system
components. Using the proper coolant at the proper mixture will help keep your engine from
overheating and can prevent it from freezing during cold weather.
If you have questions regarding the coolant condition or the cooling system on your vehicle, we
recommend having it checked by your vehicle manufacturer?s authorized dealer or repair
station. Some, such as our Quick Lane, will perform a courtesy, no charge, inspection for your
peace of mind.
Good luck and safe motoring.