Maintenance is an integral part of owning a healthy vehicle. Regular care for your vehicle not only keeps your vehicle in good running condition but also could save you money from time to time. Most vehicle owners rely on service centres for their regular maintenance such as an engine overhaul or an engine oil change. Not every aspect of vehicular maintenance requires a mechanic or a visit to the service centre, one can keep their vehicle running smoothly by performing routine self-checks and simple tasks. One of these simple tasks is to check and change the vehicle’s coolant.
What does the coolant do?
The engine coolant system runs the coolant liquid through the outer layer of the engine and through the radiator fan in order to pull heat from the engine and maintain optimum running temperature. The internal combustion engine generates very high temperatures that can cause damage to the internal parts and could stall the engine. The radiator fan is activated by a thermostat, which runs as soon as the preset temperature is achieved and begins circulating the coolant fluid through the engine ensuring it prevents the engine from overheating. The coolant temperature is prominently displayed on the drivers’ console.
What are the types of Coolants?
Coolant provides multiple purposes to an engine. One of those is to help reduce corrosion and engine rust. Coolants also are resistant to freezing, this protects the engine from cracking and enduring extreme pressure changes.
There are three types of coolant that are generally used in vehicle cooling systems.
- Inorganic Acid Technology (IAT) Coolant – This is the conventional type of coolant which has often been used in older vehicles for decades. It comprises ethylene glycol with silicate and phosphates added to prevent corrosion. This type of coolant requires change at frequent intervals as it loses its cooling capabilities very quickly. They are either a green or a yellow-coloured coolant.
- Organic Acid Technology (OAT) Coolant – This type of coolant is made for newer vehicles (2000 and later) and uses organic acid to prevent engine corrosion. It is made with ethylene glycol with silicate and phosphates added to prevent corrosion. These types require a change every three to five years. Orange and dark green are the most common colours.
- Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) Coolant – This type of coolant uses both silicates and organic acid to protect your engine and fight corrosion. It needs to be changed every five years. This type may come in multiple varieties of colours. This is the most common type of coolant used in the newer makes of cars.
How to check and change the coolant?
The coolant is stored in a reservoir attached to the radiator of the vehicle. This reservoir is usually translucent and is embossed with minimum (MIN) and maximum (MAX) markers. One must ensure the coolant levels are maintained in between those markers. Another indicator for low coolant is an overheating engine temperature gauge. Most newer vehicles are equipped with a low coolant indicator on the drivers’ dashboard.
Manufacturers often mention in the owner’s manual how long the coolant lasts before it needs a refill. Most vehicles travel about 50,000-70,000 km or every 3-5 years. It is considered good practice to do a complete flush out when changing coolants as they clear out rust particles. The wrong coolant can negatively affect the vehicle over a period of time. A malfunctioning coolant system can cause the radiator to fail, resulting in an overheated engine.
It’s always good practice to check your coolant levels every time you replenish your wiper fluid (usually located next to each other) or have your mechanic check your coolant system the next time you’re getting your vehicle serviced.