Many drivers understand that their vehicles require coolants, but some vehicle owners are not certain about which type to use or what exactly coolant is in the first place.
Much like oil, coolant serves the basic function of transferring heat and adding anti-freeze protection. Depending on your type of vehicle, you may need a coolant with specialized additives, a coolant formulated for specific manufacturers or a coolant designed for high-mileage cars.
Main function of coolants
The primary purpose of coolant is to transfer heat and prevent engine damage caused by freezing or boiling. Heat can only be effectively transferred with a liquid in the system, so it’s crucial to keep your coolant from freezing or evaporating.
Additionally, if coolant boils, the vapour formed does not transfer heat well, which means the engine metal can actually melt if the coolant is not kept in contact with certain places that need to stay cool. Some modern vehicles are made with tight engine compartments that don’t feature good air flow, which means they could overheat in a matter of minutes without a functional cooling system.
Coolant also serves the purpose of protecting metals and non-metallic elastomers like rubber and plastic parts in the engine and the cooling circuit.
Importance of picking the right coolant
Without the proper coolant in your vehicle’s system, corrosion and component damage can lead to long-term effects. They are sometimes latent, meaning it takes up to a year for corrosion damage, deposits, and plugging to cause a problem.
This is often misidentified by drivers as a radiator failure rather than simply acknowledging that the wrong coolant was used. If a radiator ends up badly corroded or full of plugging internal deposits, a malfunctioning coolant system is a likely cause.
Again, coolant-related problems happen inside the motor so, you might not realise the damage being caused unless you look at the cooling passages and the internal heat-transfer surfaces of the engine.
When should I change or top-up my coolant?
The amount of time between coolant changes has been steadily increasing as engine technology improves.
As recently as two decades ago, changing your coolant every two years was the standard recommendation. Then, about a decade ago, that span increased to five years. In many of today’s modern vehicles, a cooling system is designed to allow up to 10 years or up to 200,000 miles before adding new coolant. In fact, some vehicles are filled for life.
On the whole, coolants play a vital role in preserving the engine heat balance and protecting engine components against corrosion. It helps to do extensive research on which coolant is most suitable for your vehicle as well as how frequently it should be replaced or topped-up. You can also decide based on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. Coupling these points can help avoid an array of problems and keep your vehicle at its best.
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