Radiator Fluid Replacement

auto mechanic opening radiator cap while maintaining car cooling system workshop

The radiator fluid helps to protect your vehicle’s engine from freezing or overheating. To keep the fluid effective and able to do its job, you must invest in radiator fluid replacement services.

Here, you can learn more about the role of radiator fluid and why it is so important to the function of your vehicle.

What Is Radiator Fluid?

Radiator fluid is a mix of chemicals that enhance anti-overheating and anti-freezing properties. It also includes corrosion inhibitors.

You will find people also refer to radiator fluid as antifreeze or engine coolant. It was first used by military vehicles during the first World War. Initially, ethylene glycol was used instead of glycerol to keep radiators from freezing. Eventually, automakers started to use ethylene oxide-based coolant for engine manufacturing, and it took until the mid-1930s for green, inorganic, traditional antifreeze to be used.

In the late 1990s, this was no longer used and replaced by OAT – organic additive technology coolants. Learn more about these below.

What Does Radiator Fluid Do?

The radiator fluid in your vehicle acts as a type of heat transfer “vehicle” for your engine. It warms the engine block when it is cold and pulls heat away from vulnerable components when it is hot. The entire cooling system under your vehicle’s hood is a loop. It flows through the engine and the heater core before it reaches the radiator and restarts the loop.

Modern vehicle manufacturers will consider all types of weather conditions when specifying radiator fluid. This ensures that your engine and other critical components are protected in cold and hot weather extremes.

The corrosion inhibitors in radiator fluid work to protect the engine and the cooling system from the buildup of contaminants, rust, or scale, which can cause components to degrade as time passes.

If radiator fluid were not present, your engine would likely seize up or overheat and cause significant damage to your vehicle. You may even find that without this essential fluid, you are left stranded on the side of the road.

Different Coolant Types

There are different types of coolants. The type your vehicle needs depends on various factors. Learn more about each of the options here.

IAT Coolant

IAT stands for Inorganic Acid/Additive Technology. It is the most common type of radiator fluid that is used and has been a staple for automakers for more than seven decades. It is made with a base of ethylene glycol, which is combined with phosphate and silicate additives.

Phosphates will protect iron engine blocks from rusting, while the silicates protect aluminum cylinder heads that have been damaged from getting any worse.

In 1994, GM discontinued the use of this green coolant, with Chrysler and Ford changing what type was used in 2001. A reason for the switch was the materials that were being used to build engines. Older engines were typically made with cast iron, and modern engines are mostly made of aluminum.

Additionally, inorganic additives break down faster and have shorter service lives than organic additives.

DEX-Cool Coolant

This type of coolant is usually orange or red in color. It is made with silicates, phosphates, and organic acid technology combinations. This combo was created to help reduce corrosion from occurring in aluminum engines.

This coolant can work with all General Motors vehicles manufactured in 1995 or later, most Chrysler vehicles from 2013 and newer, and Ford vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2018.

Coolant for Older Cars

If you have an older vehicle, which includes any U.S.-manufactured vehicle built before the late 1990s, it is best to use IAT engine coolant. It is green in color and designed to prevent corrosion on older engines.

What Does a Radiator Flush Do?

A radiator or coolant flush is a process used to clean your vehicle’s cooling system from all rust and sediment. The coolant’s job is to keep your engine from getting too hot while it is running and from freezing in colder weather when it is not running.

With a radiator flush, you can feel confident that your vehicle’s coolant system will continue to operate properly and keep these components free of damage and issues.

Signs When You Need a Radiator Flush

Some of the signs it is time for a radiator flush for your vehicle include the following:

  • High reading on your vehicle’s temperature gauge
  • Engine overheating
  • Your vehicle smells sweet or like maple syrup
  • You notice green fluid leaks or white engine vapor
  • You have reached a certain mileage

How Often Should You Perform a Radiator Flush?

It is a good idea to look in your owner’s manual for your vehicle to see how often the manufacturer recommends a radiator flush. Most vehicles require this service every two to five years or 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

What Will Happen If You Don’t Flush Your Radiator?

If you do not invest in a radiator flush, it may cause issues for your vehicle. Corrosives can build up in the coolant, which can cause the metal parts of your engine to degrade. If too many contaminants have built-up, your engine will freeze, and you may not be able to repair the damage that occurs.

Investing in regular coolant flushes will help you avoid all these issues.