It’s that time of year when Jack Frost is not only nipping at our noses, but also looking at ways to damage our cars’ engines.
When temperatures get cold enough it’s possible for cars’ cooling systems to freeze, potentially wreaking havoc on a number of components under the hood.
The preventative measure is, quite obviously, to use anti-freeze but there’s more to it than just pouring this bright green (and sometimes pink) liquid straight into your radiator.
Les Mc Master from the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) warns motorists not to be fooled by just any anti-freeze products on the market.
“There is quite a lot of confusion surrounding the use of anti-freeze in the cooling systems of vehicles. The incorrect application of anti-freeze, or the dilution thereof, can result in serious corrosive damage to various parts of the engine including water pump, radiator and even the engine-cylinder head,” he warns.
The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has two standards for anti-freeze. The first is SANS/SABS 1251, where a product must be diluted with clean water in one of two different ratios – either 50/50 (1:1) or 33.3/67.7 (1:2). The second, SANS/SABS 1839, is where a coolant is already diluted with water in a 40/60 ratio and is ready to use.
If a pre-diluted anti-feeze is diluted even further, it can not only lose its ability to prevent freezing but could also cause corrosion inside a cooling system. This is also true for using straight water, even in warm summer months. But, using straight, undiluted anti-feeze can also be harmful. Without a proper water mixture, anti-freeze can cause your engine to run hot.
Anti-freeze products do not only protect against freezing. A characteristic of a good quality coolant is that it will prevent boiling, and act as an anti-corrosive – but only when used properly.
Tips for using anti-freeze effectively:
– Buy branded coolant products from reliable and reputable outlets.
– The price of the product is a good indication of quality. Cheaper varieties could skimp on vital ingredients.
– Ask that your mechanic uses a hydrometer to check the coolant in your vehicle. The mechanic should also check for solids (rust particles) in the coolant and look out for indications of electrolysis (white surface spots) especially in aluminium radiators.
– In a good coolant, the content of the vital chemical – mono-ethylene glycol – must not be lower than 30% or higher than 50%. The glycol content can also be measured using a hydrometer.
– Coolants of various colours are available on the market, some with fluorescence added to make leak detection easier. Colours are no indication of the type of chemicals used in the mixture.
– Check with your vehicle’s manufacturer for the preferred type of coolant and its mixture ratio.