| It doesn’t cough or wheeze but there are telltale signs that your vehicle’s cooling system is under the weather. The most noticeable symptoms are overheating, leaks, a sweet smell of antifreeze and repeatedly needing to add coolant, according to the Car Care Council. |
“Cooling system neglect is cited as a principal reason for mechanical failure of a vehicle,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “In addition to the danger and inconvenience of a breakdown, the damage to the engine and transmission can add up to big bucks.”
The engine cooling system affects a vehicle’s overall dependability and engine longevity. The key parts of the cooling system remove heat from the engine and automatic transmission and dissipate heat to the air outside. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine. The coolant absorbs heat and returns it to the radiator where heat is dissipated. The thermostat regulates the coolant temperature to keep it consistent for efficient engine operation.
A major factor that affects the replacement of cooling system parts is the frequency of regular maintenance, such as coolant changes. Coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles, although motorists should consult their owner’s manual for specific recommendations about how often to change antifreeze and flush the coolant system. A coolant flush and fill is basic to cooling system maintenance as new antifreeze helps the engine run cooler and a flush removes dirt or sediment that could damage other cooling system parts.
The coolant level should be checked regularly at the reservoir and motorists are reminded to never open a hot radiator cap. If the coolant is low, a 50/50 mix of approved antifreeze and distilled water should be added.
Motorists can also do a visual inspection of hoses, belts and the radiator to help identify cooling system problems before they escalate. Radiator leaks, bulging hoses or frayed and cracked belts are clues that the cooling system is in need of maintenance.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org .