An engine has a lot of moving parts, and moving parts create heat through friction & combustion. Your car is equipped with a radiator & engine cooling system to keep your engine from overheating.
Automobiles use a mix of 50/50 water/antifreeze that absorbs the heat in your engine. That heat is dispersed as coolant runs through your radiator.
The engine cooling system is amazingly trouble-free and requires very little maintenance, especially considering how much heat it absorbs.
“How Can I Tell If Something Is Wrong With My Engine Cooling System?”
When something goes wrong with your cooling system, you’ll notice a few things that could happen:
- you’ll start leaking antifreeze (look for puddles under your car)
- you’ll have heater problems (very chilly when it’s winter)
- your car will overheat
- you have to top up your car’s coolant just every once in a while (because it’s a small leak)
I’ll cover some of these problems throughout this page.
“What If I’m Losing Coolant?”
You back out of your parking stall at the grocery store, and low and behold a puddle of antifreeze is now sitting where you were just parked. Your passenger remarks “what’s that sickly sweet smell?” You realize that your car is leaking somewhere, but you don’t where from, or how.
It could be leaking from your water pump, or something as simple & cheap as a heater hose. A cooling system has several different parts that can leak.
These parts include:
- the engine head gasket
- the water pump
- cooling hoses
- the radiator
- the heater core
- any other components that have coolant running through them
If it’s a big leak, it can be very easy to find. However, small leaks can require a pressure test (and a keen eye) to pinpoint their exact cause.
Internal coolant leaks are more difficult to assess. For example, coolant in the oil, or out the tailpipe, could mean a head gasket is leaking, or a cylinder head is cracked.
This type of internal coolant leak requires engine teardown for repair, and can get rather pricey depending on your vehicle & engine type.
Many of these problems can be avoided by proper care and maintenance of the cooling system.
“Does My Cooling System REALLY Need To Be Serviced?”
I’ve seen many vehicles in the wrecking yard that have packed it in for no other reason than a lack of maintenance to the cooling system, causing the engine to fail.
So service your vehicle’s cooling system!
“How Often Should I Service My Engine Cooling System?”
Most late model vehicles have long-life coolant, meaning 5 years (or 100,000km) between changes. These are called “low-maintenance systems”.
Some vehicles (especially older ones) may not have this long-life antifreeze, and requires service every 50,000km (or 2 years). If the system is working properly, changing the antifreeze is all that’s necessary.
Servicing your cooling system is not a guarantee that nothing will ever break on it, but it will greatly increase the longevity of any components involved.