You might already know that the leading cause of automotive failure is tire-related, but do you know the second most common cause? No, it’s not teenagers – it’s the coolant system. We depend on our vehicles to operate in a wide range of temperatures and conditions, and our engine coolant must be able to perform no matter what. Think for a moment about the environment where that coolant works. Your engine is a very hot, high pressure, corrosive place, so the coolant’s job is not an easy one. However, like most parts of your vehicle, if you take good care of your coolant system, it will take good care of you.
Antifreeze, or “Antiboil”
Engine coolant is a specially-formulated liquid that performs many functions in your engine. The right mix of water and antifreeze protects the engine against damage from both freezing and overheating. So, why not just use water? Well, most engines operate at temperatures well above water’s boiling point, and steam won’t do much to keep things cool.
Antifreeze also protects the coolant system against corrosion that could weaken the system over time and cause it to fail. Your vehicle’s engine components are made from varying combinations of steel, aluminum, plastics and rubber. Engine coolant has to be designed specifically to protect against corrosion for all of these different materials. This is why car manufacturers recommend different types of antifreeze for each vehicle.
The thing to remember is this: Coolant system failure may be very common, but it is also very easy to prevent. The friendly experts at Kennedy Transmission know each manufacturer’s individual recommendations, and can tell you when your coolant needs to be changed. They can also perform a coolant system service.
Schedule Repeat Service for Total Coolant Coverage
Even the best antifreeze cannot completely protect your coolant system from harmful deposits forever. Its anti-corrosion additives are used up over time, so the coolant must be replaced at regular intervals to ensure your engine is protected. A standard coolant system service cleans out the system and replaces old fluid with fresh coolant. This is a simple, low-cost way to protect against major engine repairs down the road.
Some manufacturers may also recommend periodic coolant system flushes. A flush adds a cleaning step to the fluid replacement process. Be sure to check with your service consultant at Kennedy Transmission to see what they recommend.
Prevention is Key
Someday, you may have to deal with an unexpected overheating problem. Be sure to watch out for the two main warning signs: if your temperature gauge is in the “hot” zone, or if you get a warning light to check your coolant.
Overheating can lead to expensive repairs if not dealt with properly. Severe damage can actually melt down your engine and require you to replace the whole thing. So take all warning signs seriously, and if your car does overheat, follow these steps immediately:
What to Do If Your Car Overheats
- Turn off the air conditioner. This will lower engine temperature right away.
- Turn your heater to maximum heat and run the fan at high speed. You might need to roll down the windows, but this will help to vent a lot of heat off the engine.
- Pull over as soon as you can safely do so, especially if you are stuck in slow-moving traffic, and shut the car off. It may take up to 45 minutes for the engine to cool to the point that it’s safe to operate the vehicle again.
- If you need to add water or antifreeze, be sure to wait until the car has cooled down first. Opening the radiator cap or even the overflow bottle when the coolant is hot and under pressure may result in serious burns.
After the engine has cooled completely, look to see if the coolant is low in the overflow tank. If so, cover the overflow tank cap with a large cloth and open the lid. Then start the engine and pour in some water or antifreeze. Pouring it in when the car is running will circulate the new, cool fluid with the warmer fluid already in the engine, which should temporarily avoid engine damage.
In the event of an overheated engine, you can add water or antifreeze to the overflow tank yourself, but please keep the following things in mind before you risk damage to yourself or your engine:
- Never, ever open the radiator pressure cap. Any residual steam released could severely burn you.
- Try to get to a service center immediately if your coolant is low. If that is not possible, follow the directions in your owner’s manual.
- Remember that you need to use a proper mixture of water and antifreeze or you risk damaging your engine. If you have to make an emergency addition to your cooling system, follow up with your service center as soon as possible so they can make any necessary corrections.
- Not all cars use the same type of antifreeze. Mixing antifreeze types or using the wrong kind of antifreeze may void the manufacturer’s warranty on your cooling system.
Kennedy Transmission Can Keep You Running Cool
The coolant system is one of the most important parts of your vehicle, and like anything else it needs proper care to prevent damage and keep it working its best. The good news is the expert technicians at Kennedy Transmission know the ins and outs of even the most exotic coolant system, and they can help you with everything from a service to a complete flush to keep your engine running smoothly. Use our online shop locator to find a location near you and schedule an appointment today!
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