Proper maintenance of the cooling system has always been important, but with today’s engines running hotter than ever it is even more critical that you maintain your cooling system properly. A compromised cooling system can affect the vehicle’s fuel economy and durability.  In fact, 40% of all engine problems are related to the cooling system problems.

The cooling system has a big job to do. It has to provide heat transfer, prevent failures from overheating, provide freeze protection and inhibit corrosion.  

There are a wide variety of coolant types on the market to help prevent corrosion and ensure proper heat transfer and freeze protection. Selecting the right one is critical to proper cooling system operation.

The first step in a coolant maintenance program is to make sure the system has the appropriate type coolant. If you are unsure which coolant is the right one, refer to the Technology & Maintenance Council’s Recommended Practice on coolant maintenance (RP-365). Each coolant has its own mix of inhibitors and it is important not to mix products as it can affect performance.

Once you have the right coolant in the system, the next step is to test it regularly to ensure the right level of additives. TMC recommends checking color, clarity, freeze point and SCA level when performing cooling system maintenance.

“Color” tells you which type of coolant is in the vehicle but also is the first indication that something may be wrong with the coolant or the cooling system. If you encounter dark colored coolant, especially if accompanied by an odor, take immediate action to troubleshoot the system and then replace the coolant.

If the coolant is cloudy or if you can see debris in it, you need to find the cause of the problem, fix it and then replace the coolant.

For optimum freeze protection, the coolant needs to be a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water, according to TMC. You will need to add antifreeze/coolant concentrate or water, depending on the concentration level.

The inhibitors in the coolant are what protect the components. Use test strips to test protection levels and adjust as needed.

Failure to keep the cooling system properly maintained can lead to a variety of problems including wet cylinder liner cavitation, rust and corrosion, hard water scale, and silicate drop-out deposits. The result of these problems could be a truck on the side of the road. With coolant, a little maintenance pays big dividends, especially given the cost of today’s more fuel-efficient engines.