The number 1 Proactive Maintenance check to keep you warm this winter

CHECK THE STRENGTH OF THE ANTIFREEZE

What does antifreeze do? It does just what it says, it prevents the liquid in the cooling system from freezing when the weather turns cold outside. It is also used to transport heat that the engine creates into the cabin of the vehicle to keep you warm in the winter.

The liquid in your cooling system is a mixture of water and antifreeze. If there is not enough antifreeze in the mix the water will freeze and can burst a freeze plug or cause damage to the engine block.

HINT: The words Antifreeze and Coolant can be used interchangeably. They are the same thing.

It is wise to check the strength of the cooling system at least once a year, before winter. This is another of those easier checks, but takes an inexpensive tool. You’ll need to purchase a coolant hydrometer. These are usually only a few bucks at one of your local auto parts stores.

Radiator cap is silver with a yellow and black label. Coolant overflow bottle is white and on the lower right of this picture.

Radiator cap is silver with a yellow and black label. Coolant overflow bottle is white and on the lower right of this picture.

To test the strength of the coolant your vehicle will need to be cold. This is for your safety. It is possible to test antifreeze when it’s hot, but cracking open the cooling system when the coolant is hot is dangerous and can lead to serious burns.

On most cars since the 80’s there will be an overflow bottle that you should be able to take a sample of the coolant out of without cracking open the radiator cap. If there isn’t any liquid in the overflow bottle then you can open the radiator cap (as long as the vehicle is cold).

Usually on the overflow bottle lid there is a label or raised print that states “Coolant only” or “Antifreeze”. The radiator cap should have a warning on it to not open when hot. Pop open the lid or the cap and follow the instructions on your tester.

The tester should tell you the coldest temperature that the coolant will protect to. Check to see if the antifreeze protection is rated to equal the coldest weather you are expecting to see this winter.

Once you’re done, you can empty the tester back into the overflow reservoir.

FOLLOW UP: If there isn’t any liquid in the overflow bottle you may want to check the hoses, fittings, and radiator for leaks. If you have questions about this feel free to respond with a comment. I’ll see if I can help you locate the issue.

If your coolant is too weak, or rusty colored then you may need to have a drain and fill done to get it to the right protection strength and eliminate dirty coolant.

In conclusion, by checking your antifreeze and cooling system prior to winter you will know what condition it is in. This system is what transfers heat from the engine into the cabin so that you can stay warm in the cooler months of the year.

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