Cooling System Maintenance is Key
to Avoiding Cold Weather Breakdowns
Cooling system problems are a major cause of wintertime automobile breakdowns, but they can easily be prevented. A few periodic maintenance steps can keep your family from being stranded on the highway during the cold winter months and save you some costly repair bills.
In simple terms, your car?s cooling system keeps the engine from burning up. It keeps antifreeze/coolant and water circulating through the engine block and the radiator to disperse the heat. This is essential, since heat build-up can cause engine damage that is sometimes irreparable.
The antifreeze also keeps the water in your car’s cooling system from freezing in winter when temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important because frozen antifreeze could crack an engine block, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
There are several steps S&S Service Center recommends you take to keep your car?s cooling system working effectively. If you are not comfortable with any of the following steps, we will be glad to help:
- Monitor your car?s temperature gauge often. Know where the gauge?s needle usually rests when your engine is running normally. A higher temperature may be your first clue of a cooling system problem.
- Make sure your antifreeze/coolant is clean. Most new antifreeze mixtures are different colors to help designate their chemical makeup. As it ages and picks up impurities, it darkens, turning brown or rust-colored, a signal that rust is building up in your radiator. A simple device called a hydrometer can measure the amount of protection your antifreeze will provide.
- Thoroughly flush your coolant system and replace the antifreeze-water mixture recommended for your climate at least every two years or every 30,000 miles. Besides maintaining a safe temperature in your motor, the mixture protects the cooling system?s copper and aluminum parts from corrosion and deterioration, keeping the system flowing smoothly.
- Check your coolant reservoir monthly and top it off as needed with the appropriate antifreeze and water mixture. We recommend checking the windshield washer reservoir at the same time.
- Routinely check cooling system hoses and clamps. Your entire cooling system can malfunction because of something as simple as a broken hose or a loose clamp. A periodic inspection will alert you to trouble spots that need prompt attention. Be alert for ruptures, cracks and a spongy feel in hoses. Also check for broken or loose clamps. When you find a worn-out hose, your best protection is to replace all the cooling system hoses at the same time.
- Check the condition of belts. Fan belts can break, fray, stretch or loosen, preventing the radiator fan or water pump from doing its cooling job. As a result, the car can overheat, sometimes resulting in serious and expensive engine damage.
- Have your radiator cap tested periodically. Your car?s cooling system is pressurized, which means its liquids would have to reach a higher temperature before they would boil. Just like hoses, a piece as small as the gasket in the radiator cap could fail under the high pressure and cause your entire cooling system to malfunction. Pressure-testing the radiator cap will alert you to a potential problem.
There are other not-so-easily-visible parts of your cooling system that can fail, such as the water pump or the thermostat. Their inspection and repair is best left to a trained automotive technician. You know you can find knowledgeable, skilled technicians at S&S Service Center. Give us a call.