A Quick Guide To Flushing Your Coolant

By | September 30, 2011

Flushing your coolant is an important component of car maintenance, and a crucial element to extending the life of a car’s engine. A car’s cooling system regulates engine temperature, and protects the car from the extreme heat, that is sometimes generated by the engine. Also, flushing keeps the cooling system free of contaminants, buildup, and rust, which could potentially lead to radiator damage.

Cleaning the radiator grill is an important step. Using a nylon brush and soapy water, scrub away the insects and debris, which inevitably accumulate on the radiator grill. Always scrub in the direction of the radiator fins, as fragile metal may be easily damaged. While working, always support the hood to avoid slippage, and watch for sharp edges on the fan blades and radiator. When the surface is clean, gently rinse with clean water, removing all soap and debris.

Properly draining old antifreeze is crucial. Slide a drain pan under the car, and center it under the radiator’s drain valve, or petcock. Antifreeze is extremely toxic, but has a sweet smell that may attract animals, and children. Therefore, antifreeze must never be drained onto the ground, and must never be left to drain unattended. Once antifreeze has been drained into a pan, the pan must never be re-used for cooking or serving food.

Replacing the radiator cap should be part of the flushing routine. If the spring is easy to compress into the rubber seal, then the lid will not maintain pressure, and must be replaced. Also, if the seal appears dry or cracked, then replacement is a good idea. Different caps have different pressure ratings, so owners should consult the car’s operating manual, to find out which rating is right for their engine. Usually, the rating is etched into the top of the cap, for easy reference.

When preparations are complete, car owners may open the drain valve. When all coolant has drained into the pan, funnel the used liquid into a sealable container, for disposal. When the radiator is empty, close the drain valve, take a garden hose, and fill the radiator. Open the drain valve, and allow water to drain out into the pan. Repeat the process until the water runs clean, and place all runoff into sealable containers. If hoses are leaky or cracked, or if clamps are rusty, then the parts should be replaced before new coolant is added. Also, if hoses have a mushy consistency when squeezed, owners should consider replacement, before flushing.

When cleaning is complete, new antifreeze should be added. Most cars utilize a mixture of fifty percent antifreeze, and fifty percent water. Most experts advise using distilled water in the coolant mixture, so that minerals which are naturally present in tap water do not build up in the radiator, or denature the coolant. Overflow reservoirs should also be filled with the mixture; if in doubt about their location, consult the owner’s manual.

Air pockets must be bled from the cooling system, after adding fluid. Without replacing the radiator cap, to prevent pressure buildup, turn on the car’s engine, and let the engine run for approximately ten minutes. Then, turn the heater on high, to allow the antifreeze mixture to circulate, and release any air bubbles which may have formed. Once air has been removed, add some more coolant, watching carefully for hot air, which may bubble out of the radiator spout. When finished, replace the cap, and clean off excess fluid using a rag.

After checking the drain valve for leaks, car owners should dispose of all old components. Old components will include the drain pan, as well as any rags used, or old radiator caps, clamps, and hoses. After disposing of components, the bottles filled with old coolant should be immediately taken to a hazardous materials recycling center. Because the smell and color of antifreeze appeals to children and animals, bottles of old fluid must not be kept, for any length of time. After disposal, owners should wash hands, and any other skin which may have touched antifreeze, with soap and water.

Car owners must never remove a hot radiator cap. A cooling system cleaning should only be initiated with a cold engine, because a hot engine means hot coolant, trapped inside the radiator, under very high pressure. Removing a hot radiator cap could result in severe scalding and injury, so owners should always wait until their engine is cold, before beginning work. Also, work gloves must always be worn, to protect the hands from toxic coolant. Every two years, flushing your coolant is a good idea, to keep the engine and radiator in proper working order.

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