At one point of your driving life, you would have experienced a moment when your car’s engine overheated and ended up in a steaming mess. This is common among many drivers, especially since we are working with a piece of hardware which utilizes large amounts of heat to operate. In order to regulate the engine, a radiator is affixed to it in order to help disperse the heat and minimize any possible risks of damages. Caring for your radiator is a very important maintenance procedure that should be strictly considered in order to keep your vehicle in optimal working condition.
To begin, radiators use a coolant and water mixture to conduct heat from the running engine and release it by passing the solution through a set of coils that allows air to pass through and exhaust the said heat.
The coolant used is usually composed of propylene or ethylene glycol and labelled as Antifreeze. Mixing this with deionized water in a 50:50 or 70:30 mixture should improve the performance of your radiator by both decreasing the melting point to -37oC and increasing the boiling point of the solution in the engine to 129oC; this is helpful as the water does not easily freeze in cold climates and boil at hot environments. Typical engines run at temperatures reaching 93oC, the higher boiling point should provide enough reassurance that the engine will not overheat unless in extraordinary conditions.
Additional features of the coolant include the prevention of rust and of the formation of an acidic solution which can harm your engine. Note that you must use deionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled water since these are free of minerals commonly found in tap water. The minerals can deposit in the radiator pumps and damage the setup.
Be advised that you cannot use 100% pure coolant alone as it will not efficiently conduct the heat and will actually work against you. Water contributes to the solution by adding density and increasing the surface area coverage of the solution, factors that antifreeze lacks. Furthermore, water also raises the mixture’s heat transfer coefficient. So although the coolant affects the critical temperatures of the solution, the water promotes the conduction of the heat to the concoction itself.
Over time, normally around 3 or 5 years (or 36,000 and 50,000 miles respectively), the coolant expires and risks becoming acidic itself. If the solution in the radiator becomes acidic, it promotes rust and ion formation in the system which contribute to electrolysis and, in turn, corrodes engines and degrades gaskets. Check your coolant regularly to see if it needs to be flushed and replaced with a new one.