You may have noticed that the leaves are turning colors and the temperatures are dropping. Fall’s here and that means winter is right around the corner. Is your car or truck ready for winter? If not, there are two main places you need to prepare for the cold temps BEFORE the snow starts – the inside and the outside. At J-Mac Car Care, we specialize in radiator repair, so this blog post will focus on the importance of taking care of your radiator.
Why is a flush-and-fill even important? Simple! Many of the engine components use different fluids to operate. These fluids are used to create a thin layer between the metal parts of the engine. They help reduce the friction, heat and wear of the components, extending the life of the engine.
Over time, those fluids will wear down, burn off, become contaminated, leak out, or just loose their capacity to perform the duty they were designed for. When they wear out, they will need to be replaced with new fluid to keep your vehicle engine working well and not to damage the engine components. Regularly, the engine fluids should be flushed as well. A fluid flush will remove mostly all of the old contaminated fluid and then it will be replaced with new fluids. This way, the new fluid and contaminated fluids do not mix within the engine, causing more frequent fluid changes.
Engines that do not receive regular fluid refill and flushes will have a shorter lifespan and will not work to their maximum capacity.
Okay, so you’re sure you can just do it yourself. Well, the basic flush and fill you get at home is to just empty out the antifreeze you have in your radiator into a bottle, jar or even onto the sidewalk (this kills animals…you know) then replace it with new. Taa daa! Not only is your car “winterized” but you’ve had a totally awesome “flush and fill.” Not. We’re here to let you know that isn’t it. This “flush and fill” is a basic DYI job and for your car to be truly winterized, you need a professional flush-and-fill.
Here’s how a real flush-and-fill is done in a simple three step process.
Step 1: Inspection
The inspection will begin with your radiator cap. It is removed and inspected to make sure that the spring is functioning correctly and to make sure that the rubber seals around the cap area are not cracked. Any problems here need to be addressed and your radiator cap may need to be replaced. Your radiator cap is very important to the health of your coolant system. For example, if the lower seal of the cap has expanded and is now past the brass plunger, the cap will need to be replaced.
The second place that will be inspected is your water pump. It is important to check the water pump for any leaks and cracks. The weep hole is checked for any leakage and the shaft is checked for play. All of the hoses and hose clamps are checked for any leaks. Any damage in this area needs to be fixed sooner than later.
The places that will be inspected are the thermostat and electric fans. It’s important to inspect the thermostat to make sure it opens and closes at the correct temperature. The electric fans are inspected to verify that they are working when they need to be, like when you’re using your air conditioner (not that you would during the winter anyways).
Step 2: Flush
Once the basic inspection is completed it’s time for the flush-and-fill. You start by removing the drain plug on the radiator to drain the old coolant. Make sure the old coolant is collected in a catch pan. Antifreeze is VERY toxic to animals and humans so don’t drink it!
Now there is no set way to flush a cooling system. Some shops use chemical flushes while other shops use reverse flushes. It’s important to know what kind of flush you’re the repair shop uses. Here at J-Mac, we use a BG chemical flush to clean everything out. It’s gentle enough to not damage any of the “sensitive” parts (aluminum) of your radiator, but strong enough to really clean out the gunk. Then we do a double flush, meaning a reverse flush then a regular flush. This is all done by hand, making sure all of the things that don’t belong (gunk, build-up, particles, etc.) are out and your radiator will be running smooth.
Before starting to flush your system, make sure to remove your thermostat. It will make the flush easier and it will be more thorough. You’ll also want to remove both of the hoses in the heater core and do a flush through that as well.
NOTE: Doing a flush through the heater core will not solve all problems, which includes not having any heat. If your car has no heat, your heater may need to be replaced.
Step 3: Fill
Last but certainly not least, you just need to refill the coolant that was removed from the vehicle. Don’t forget to bleed the coolant once it has been refilled until no air comes out of the bleed valve.
For all you DIY-ers, this isn’t an easy task. J-Mac offers free estimates on work and we recommend using a professional for winterization of your radiator and to make sure you’ll have heat for the cold months to come. Oh and if you mention you found out about J-Mac online, we’ll give you 10% off your repair bill!