How Coolant Works and Why You Need It

We’ve all experienced car troubles when it’s cold out. The batteries are dead, the wipers are stuck, and our brand-new tires are already worn down. Winter is also harder on your engine than other seasons are. To mitigate the effects of cold temperatures, your engine is equipped with a cooling system. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is designed to prevent freezing and boiling and to protect your engine’s main parts. Without coolant, your car would stop running, overheat, and even start cracking. Can’t help but wonder how coolant works and why you need it? Let’s go over the basics of engine coolant and how it protects your vehicle from the cold-weather blues.

What Does Coolant Do for My Engine?

Your engine’s cooling system works by sending coolant through passages in the engine block and heads. As the coolant flows through these passages, it picks up heat from the engine. The heated fluid makes its way through a rubber hose and then flows through the thin tubes in the radiator. An airstream that enters the engine compartment from the grille then cools the coolant. Once it’s cool, it returns to the engine and absorbs more heat.

The water pump keeps the fluid moving through the system. Coolant lowers the freezing point of water and raises its boiling point elevation. This way, your engine can operate in temperatures well below freezing and handle the high temperatures produced by the engine core. Coolant protects your vehicle from freezing and boiling, and it even protects metals and nonmetallic elastomers, such as rubber and plastics, in the engine and cooling circuit.

Coolant Degradation and Replacement

Taking care of your engine’s cooling system—including the coolant—is important. It removes unwanted heat from the engine and keeps the core components safe from temperature-related damage. Failure to take care of your engine’s cooling system can lead to corrosion, liner cavitation, engine failure, and more.

Just like your motor oil, brake oil, and transmission fluid, coolant will eventually degrade. As it degrades, its effectiveness decreases. And as its effectiveness decreases, the likelihood of your car breaking down goes up. To keep your coolant in good condition, you’ll want to replace it every 30,000 miles, or around 50,000 kilometers. Antifreeze is normally sold as a 100% solution, but you should mix it evenly with distilled water to create a 50-50 blend. You can also buy prediluted solutions.

Just remember that different vehicles have different maintenance recommendations. If you have a diesel-powered truck, for example, make sure to follow the recommendations outlined for diesel engines, which can differ from the recommendations for gasoline-powered engines.

Now that you know how coolant works and why you need it, you can make the most out of your engine’s cooling system. By taking care of the cooling system, you can avoid the hassle of winter-related car problems. Instead of dealing with a failing engine, you’ll be cruising down the highway with ease.

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