Your car's cooling system is designed to keep the
engine from overheating while in operation. This is achieved through the use
coolant and a radiator which removes heat from the coolant once it has
passed through the engine block and cylinder heads. In time the engine coolant
will need to be changed and flushed to help protect the engine gaskets, seals
and cooling system from corrosion which will cause
How Often Should I Change My Coolant?
Depending on usage and driving conditions such as sub zero weather the engine
coolant should be changed every 55,000 miles to help keep its protection
properties. There are different kinds of coolant which can go longer between
changes and many manufactures have specific coolant that must be used with their
particular automobiles. If a normal service schedule has been neglected coolant
can transform its chemical composition and actually turn into an acid which will
and seals causing coolant leaks.
How Much does it Cost?
When having a cooling system service performed by a repair garage or dealer it will cost between $120.00 and $160.00 (US). This will include emptying
of the radiator and cooling system and coolant reservoir and refilling it with new coolant.
They should also check the system coolant level once the engine has warmed up to it's operating
temperature. You can do the job yourself for about $30.00 (US) by getting the
coolant yourself from Amazon or the local parts store.
Let's Get Started!
When changing the coolant from your car's radiator there are two things to
remember. First, no matter how much coolant has drain out of the system there will
always be some left in the engine block which will be difficult to remove
just by draining the system for the first time. A flush machine can be used but
the problem is most states have outlawed these machines
do to their waste coolant expulsion into the environment. It is now preferred to
drain the cooling system then refill it, run the engine for a short time and
then drain and refill it again to flush the system. The key is to not allow any
of the waste coolant out into the storm drains or the environment in any way. Also
coolant is toxic and will harm animals and humans if ingested.
You may need to
raise your car off of the ground using a floor jack and supporting it with
jack stands for safety. Start with the engine cool and wear gloves and safety
1. Locate the Radiator Cap
The radiator cap is located on the top of
the radiator or on the coolant reservoir. Some systems have two caps one that
holds pressure and the other just keeps dust and dirt out of the reservoir.
2. Remove the Radiator Cap
Release the pressure inside the cooling
system by pushing down and slowly twisting the cap counter clockwise. This will
make sure there is no pressure in the system and it will allow air to enter the
system while draining.
3. Draining the Coolant
Most car's have a radiator drain valve that
will be visible at the bottom tank or on either side tank. If a valve is not
loosen the lower radiator hose and slowly remove it from the radiator to
initiate the draining process.
Open the drain valve by turning the it counter clockwise. Have a fluid catch basin
ready to catch the now draining coolant. Sometimes the coolant will contact
frame members and other supports which can make catching the coolant a little
more difficult. In these cases use more than one catch basin. Clean up any
residual coolant that has not made it into the catch basins so it will not
be stepped into during the service.
After a short time the coolant will stop flowing which means the coolant is
done draining. You should have between 1 1/2 and 2 gallons in the fluid bucket
or catch basin. Be sure the radiator cap has been removed which will help you
get most of the coolant out if the system. Then tighten the drain plug or
reinstall the lower radiator hose.
4. Flushing the System
To flush the cooling system refill the
radiator with plain water. Then start the engine and allow it to run until it is
at operating temperature while keeping the radiator or reservoir full. Once the
engine is warm
and the thermostat has opened shut the engine off and repeat the draining
process motioned earlier in this guide. Perform this operation as many times as needed until the system
is clean. If your car has a non pressurized external
coolant reservoir you are going to want to remove it and clean it out
separately so any old coolant does not contaminate the new coolant in the
5. Refill the Radiator with Coolant
When you are ready to refill the system with coolant remove the cap from the new
coolant container. Underneath the cap there will be a seal that ensures you that
the coolant has not been watered down and is pure from the manufacturer.
Using a funnel to avoid spillage slowly pour the coolant into the radiator or
reservoir until full. Then start the engine and allow it to warm up while slowly
adding coolant. If you have flushed the system there will be no need to mix
coolant with water because there will be a sufficient amount or water still
remaining in the engine block. Continue to add coolant until you have reached
the full line in the reservoir or the top of the radiator. Start the engine and
allow it to warn up until the thermostat opens, you will notice the level in the
reservoir or radiator drop. Continue filling the system until it is at the full
when hot line.
8. Reinstall the Radiator Cap
While the engine is still running reinstall the radiator cap. Be sure to
double check the coolant level in a few days and check for leaks or that air bubbles in the system have
not worked themselves out
of the system lowering the coolant level. Also check the coolant level in the reservoir and
refill as needed.