Experiencing mechanical breakdown on a road trip is probably one of the most exasperating incidents in this world. Imagine sunny day, upbeat road music, hearty conversations, and impressive scenery. Suddenly, your vehicle goes kaput, and your fun on the road instantly comes to an end. Terrible, isn’t it?
Prevention is absolutely better than cure. Instead of worrying about what to do when the car breakdown occurs, focus on what to do before it actually happens. To avoid a maddening road experience, you better learn the root of the problem and start doing some ways to prevent it. Bear in mind that most automotive breakdowns are consequences of cooling system failure, and one of the common reasons cooling systems fail is coolant negligence. Accordingly, it is important that you regularly check your coolant in order to keep your car’s cooling system in good working condition. In case you need some help, I want to share with you my time-tested coolant checklist.
- Strength of the Coolant
Evaluating the strength of your car’s coolant must be done to find out the antifreeze concentration. To increase its boiling point temperature and lessen the freezing point, the concentration of antifreeze in the coolant should be increased. On the other hand, the highest antifreeze concentration must only be 65-70%. Going beyond this limit diminishes the heat-carrying ability of the coolant, which is a usual reason why overheating is common in hot weather.
- Level of the Coolant
To prevent overheating, you should know how to detect leaks. Consequently, you have to test the coolant level on a regular basis. Always remember that you have to check the level at the coolant reservoir. Don’t commit the usual mistake of checking the level at the radiator. The radiator will only drain off the coolant from the coolant tank whenever necessary.
So, how do you actually spot a leak? It’s relatively easy. Though many vehicles lose coolant after a while because of evaporation, a considerable loss of coolant in a very short phase is, more often than not, an indication of leak. So aside from the coolant reservoir, you have to examine the water pump, freeze plugs, radiator for possible external seepages.
You also have to do a pressure test on the cap and radiator to detect where the coolant is heading. For the test to be effective, a rigid system should cleave to the pressure limit for two minutes. A tight system should hold the maximum rated pressure for no less than two minutes without any decline in the gauge reading. When the system fails to hold this pressure, there is an internal leak. You have to examine the appearance and level of oil to know if coolant in the crankcase is polluted. Oil level that goes beyond the standard level and a frothy look indicates a broken head gasket. This should alarm you because a leak into the combustion chamber coming from a cracked head gasket is damaging to your vehicle. It will either pollute the oxygen sensor or taint the spark plug. If you’re lucky enough not to discover any observable leaks, you just have to make certain that the cap has the appropriate pressure rating. The loss of coolant might just be a result of temporary overheating due to a substandard cooling fan or engine overload.
- Condition of the Coolant
Checking the condition of the coolant goes beyond examining its look. There are times when the coolant appears uncontaminated, but its internal make-up isn’t really good. This may lead to several mechanical problems, which you definitely don’t want to encounter.
To check the condition of the coolant, you need to do a chemical test strip. This will determine the amount of reserve alkalinity left in the coolant. Dip the test strip into the coolant. You can determine the condition of the coolant by comparing its color against a color reference chart.
Leakages caused by coolant neglect could cause a lot of problems to your vehicle. So, to enjoy a continuous smooth drive, bank on some preventive measures like giving your vehicle a regular coolant check-up.