7 Vehicle Towing Tips – Safe Towing

towing boat trailer7 Vehicle Towing Tips For Safe Towing

At one point or another you may have needed to tow something behind your car; it could be your camper trailer, boat or caravan. Getting these things hitched and pulled by our vehicles can be a ordeal specially if you don’t follow some basic safety guidelines. Towing significantly alters the way you need to drive your car.  Handling tolerances are narrowed significantly.  Neglecting to do some basic safety procedures before driving with a heavy load could result in disaster.  Planning ahead is critical when towing.  If it happens to be your first time, you need to ‘over’ prepare.

Untoward incidents can be prevented by following some of these safety procedures when towing.

1. Vehicle Safe Load

The first thing we need to do is consult the car’s users manual for the maximum load that our cars can handle. We don’t want to go towing and halfway our destination then find that our cars break down because it is no longer able to pull the additional weight. We have to remember that additional load will make the components of our cars, like the engine, transmission, diff, clutch etc,  work harder to compensate for the added weight and thus we need to have our cars at tip-top shape.

2. General Condition And Roadworthiness

Next is to check the parts of our car and make sure they are in tip-top shape. Make sure the coolant and engine oil levels are at the right level. If you have not done an oil or coolant change for quite sometime, it will be best to do those things first before towing. Heavy loads can make the engine work harder and this in turn can generate heat fast. And we know that insufficient engine oil or coolant can cause engine malfunction due to overheating. Next is to check the tyres. Make sure the tyres have the right pressure. Over-inflated or under-inflated tyres could cause trailer sway and ultimately a jack-knife!!  If you have ever had one of these events your knees may be still shaking!  Also make sure to check the tyres on the trailer or camper van are free of cracks on the sidewalls and have a good tread. Another thing we need to do is to bring spare tyres and wheels. Bringing spares will never hurt and can prove useful in case they are needed.

towing accident
Towing accidents like this can be prevented by planning ahead and following safety procedures

3. Brakes And Lighting

Ensure that our vehicle lighting and braking systems are working. Having our vehicle’s lights in working condition is a must. This is particularly needed when you are driving at night. Driving with a busted light could endanger not only ourselves but other drivers and pedestrians as well. Worse still, you are violating the law which could earn a ticket or worse if caught driving with that faulty lights.  How many times have accidents happen simply due to failed brake lights?  Your brakes are particularly important when towing.  It is also ideal that the thing you are towing has a separate braking system to minimise having the vehicles working overtime. This is critical if you are towing a major bit of kit.  Your car may be completely overwhelmed and pushed into an accident or off the road if the thing you are towing does not have its own braking systems working as expected.  Neglecting to check that ALL brakes are working properly could be a disaster on the road if they fail.  Yes, the added weight due to the extra cargo can increase the damage significantly.  Believe me I have seen it!  The results can be frightful!

4. Properly Rated Tow Bar

We need to use the appropriate tow-bar(s) for our vehicles. A very good tow-bar to use is one that returns both the car and the caravan to a level position once set-up properly. If you are unsure of what tow-bar to use, it is better to consult an expert. Asking for advice will help prevent unwanted events from happening like accidents. We also need to consider proper weight distribution to avoid the trailer or caravan from flipping or swaying. Ideally, the weight 60% of the weight of the caravan should be loaded towards the front.  The correct rating for the tow bar is not something that you should guess at.  You need to make sure that the mountings and the bar itself are all appropriate for what you intend to tow.  Get this wrong and you are driving a death trap!

5. Practice Towing!  It’s A Skill

Once we have checked everything, it is essential for us to get accustomed driving with the load of a tow. You can do this by doing short trips with the trailer. The best time would be early morning where there is less traffic. This is necessary for you to get used driving with the towed cargo. This can help you determine the driving speed you can be comfortable with.  You can practice parking with the towed vehicle and also help determine if your car is able handle the additional weight of the trailer.

6. Car Mirrors

Your car’s mirrors also play an important role when driving with your towed cargo. Ensuring that the mirrors  give you the ability to view both rear and side traffic clearly. Failing to do so is dangerous and will create an ordeal for you especially when overtaking.  You many need to fit extended mirrors!  If you can’t see, you can’t tow!

7. Maintain Safe Margins When Driving

When driving, you need to remember to maintain a safe speed. Driving fast, though it is nice to do sometimes, would make it more difficult to control the car and the towed vehicle. There is also a possibility that the trailer would sway forcing you to lose control.  If you have ever seen this happen you will know how frightening it is. Driving fast usually puts a strain on things when braking and of course on the tyres. With the added load of the trailer, this will add further to the difficulty when braking.

Summing Up

So in summary, towing is not for the badly prepared driver with the wrong and underrated vehicle  or equipment.  Do your homework and be prepared.  If you do not.  You will be risking your life and that of others.  Seriously, it is one of the most underrated risks you can take with your life.  Get it right and its a joy.  Get it wrong and you will regret your carefree attitude for sure.

 

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Basic Car Tools (Darn It, I Have A Flat Tyre)

flat tyre

Just imagine, you are driving in a country road when suddenly you hear the flop flop of a flat tyre. Disheartening, isn’t it? Especially if it happens in the middle of nowhere.  However, it is not something to worry about if you have a spare tyre and the tools to change the flat tyre.  A flat tyre is one of the most common car problems that could happen at the most unexpected time and place.  The number of cars I have bought that did not have a full set of tools and a good spare to go on with, is incredible.  In fact, I think I have not ever bought one that had everything right without me asking.  Seriously.  So check yours out; or your children’s, especially if one of them may have purchased a used vehicle.

Having the right tools to change a flat tyre is critical. First it could save you money by not having your car towed to the nearest auto-shop or mechanic, not to mention having to pay the auto-shop for changing the flat tyre.  Let me tell you, that will add up big time!  Secondly, it could save you time.  Getting a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere without the right tools and having to walk or wait for a passersby to help, is great pain.  You also lose valuable time you will never get back!  By having the right tools in place, you don’t need to wait for someone to help you out, or wait for a tow-truck to bring your car to the nearest auto-shop. Sure there might be people willing to help, however you have to wait and hope. Maybe you can take a ride with some good Samaritan and leave your car; although it is not really advisable to leave it especially if you happen to be on a country road. Who knows what could happen to your car if you leave it out there unattended.  Changing the flat tyre would probably take around 20 minutes.

So what are the things we need to change a flat tyre?

tools

1. Spare Tyre – obviously, you cannot change the the flat tyre without a ‘good’ spare. From time to time, I make it a point to check the pressure on the spare tyre to ensure that in case it is needed the spare tyre has the right pressure.  It always makes me laugh when I look at the more modern vehicle spare tyres.  They are not like they used to be.  Some are like a bicycle tyre.  And watch the speed rating on these too.  Some are only rated to 80KM/hr or less.  Be very careful if you have one of these in the boot!

2. Jack – The jack is used to lift the car enabling you to remove the flat tyre once it’s off the ground. Make sure to check your car’s user’s manual for the correct placement of the jack before cranking it. You want to replace a flat tyre, not to create further problems to you or your car because the jack is placed somewhere it’s not supposed to be.  IMPORTANT!  Remember that a car that is jacked off the ground is very dangerous!!  Do not get under the car when it is jacked up.  It can be risking your life to do this.  Do not jack the car up in a dangerous place on the road where busy traffic is going to run you over.  Also be aware that if you try to jack the car up on an incline it may fall off the jack!!  Soft ground is also a no no.  Make sure the hand brake is on and the car is in a low gear or in park.  If you are at all unsure about jacking up a car safely do not do it!  Get an expert to help.  I have put these comments in here because this can be a deadly adventure if you are not aware of what you are doing.

3. Lug Wrench/Wrench – we need this to loosen the bolts or nuts from the wheel. Remember though, don’t remove the nuts or bolts from the wheel completely as it will make the car unstable. Breaking the lock of the nuts is best done prior to jacking the car up.  Don’t undo them too much.  Just a turn of the wheel brace at the most.  Otherwise if you have the wheel in the air, it can spin or be quite springy and make it very difficult to crack the nut lock.  Place the jack and crank it up until it has contact with your car’s frame. Again check your car’s user’s manual as to where the jack should be placed. Once the car is lifted enough, remove the bolts or nuts by hand  and remove the flat tyre. Make sure to lay the tyre flat. You don’t want to have it rolling somewhere.

4. Tyre Pressure Gauge – I always have this tool handy and present in my car’s boot. Tyre pressure affects your car performance wise. Incorrect pressure on tyres can make the car unstable and hard to control, probably increase fuel consumption(most likely in under-inflated tyres) and can be a cause accidents. Having this tool and using it to determine that the tyres have the right pressure not only helps maintain the optimum performance of our cars but as well as contribute in our safety while driving.

Make sure to put the tools away too.  It’s very easy to forget one or leave a mess in the boot.  Here’s an important point.  GET THE PROBLEM TYRE FIXED IMMEDIATELY!  I don’t know how many times I have been caught with a flat tyre in the boot because I thought I’ll get that fixed tomorrow!  Or, the problem tyre is the first of the batch ready to go.  In the next day another one let’s go.  What I have found is that often when the tread is low, nails and screws etc can penetrate that much easier.  So don’t push your luck!

Of course we should have these tools in the boot of our cars, however for those who do not want to go through changing flat tyres themselves because of some reason or another I would suggest the following:

tyre sealants

1. Have a Tyre Sealant Kit with you. Tyre Sealant Kits are devices that inject air and sealant into flat tyres when used. They are quite handy especially for people who do not have the strength to remove the bolts/ nuts from the wheels or don’t have a spare tyre. Using one of these products, is very easy and does not require much physical effort, except maybe patience in waiting for the tyre to be completely sealed and inflated. Make sure to read and follow the instructions given for this to work properly. However, there are some limitations on using Tyre Sealant Kits. One is, these are not permanent solution to the problem. After applying the kit, the tyre would still need to be changed or fixed. There’s also a limit to the number of miles and the speed that the car could be driven at using the sealant kit.  Also, depending on the location of the damage on the tyre, the tyre sealant kit may not work so you need to check the damage on the tyre and find out if the sealant kit will fix it.

2.  You don’t want or don’t have the means to change the flat tyre and the Tyre Sealant Kit you have, did not work because of the location of the damage on the tyre; then you may want to make use of the Emergency Roadside Assistance. This is a service provided to give aid to a motorist whose vehicle has a mechanical failure either at home or on the road. An example of such service is the  RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance. They provide assistance if you encounter mechanical failure, flat tyre or even battery-related problems. To know more about the services and the plans they offer, you can just click on the link.

Given these options and tools that we could use, having a flat tyre should not be that great of a problem. It can happen at the most inconvenient of times but that is just the way it is. Things could happen that are beyond our control and the only means for us to lessen the inconvenience is to be prepared.

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6 Great Tips For Taking Care Of Your Car’s Body

Owning a car is a necessity for most of us, either because we need to use it for work, to run the family around or to tow that prized boat.  Some have even made the choice to go without a car for the sole purpose of making life simple and carefree, but let’s face it most of us need that car.  If you add it up, we all spend a lot of money to buy our cars. In many cases it is one of the biggest investment we make over our life time.  Here are some Australian averages for example.

Australian averages (per week):

  • $223 – current housing
  • $193 – transport
  • $161 – recreation
  • $59 – household furnishing & equipment
  • $44 – clothing & footwear

Source: www.ibisworld.com.au;

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, 2009-10.

It is also spending that we probably should weigh up carefully before we do it.  Mainly because most cars depreciate in value over time.  In fact some vehicles drop 30% of their value the moment you drive them off the new car showroom floor!  This article is aimed at helping you keep that asset in the best shape you can and minimising that auto showing on the liability side of the ledger as much as possible.  We spend money to buy fuel gas, car accessories, car parts and for repairs needed when something breaks down on your vehicle you likely have to fix it. But a bit of effort on cleaning and proper treatment of the your auto exterior can keep its value as high as possible. If you don’t keep on top of auto body care, its going to cost you a lot to do something about it later.  A full paint job can cost thousands!  And when someone comes to check out your wheels when you offer them for sale..  Appearance counts for a lot.  The only way to keep that car’s value is to do proper care and maintenance.

Minor scratches and stone chips are common car problems that don’t need a panel shop in all cases. You can do something about these yourselves and can help you save those precious dollars down the road.  Minor touch ups can be done with care yourself and at the minimum can reduce rust.  Touch up with care can certainly improve the overall look of your car.

Rust can develop on the body of your car over time. Rust will develop faster if no maintenance is done; such as washing and waxing. Salt from ocean spray, ocean mist or from snow melting and bird’s droppings are some of the things that can aide in faster rusting of your auto’s bodywork. Your car’s under-chassis is also quite vulnerable to rusting specially if you live in a very humid environment or a place where salt is commonly used during winter seasons.  Below are some helpful tips that you can do.

  1. Wash Your Car Regularly – Washing your car regularly, at least once or twice a month, ensures the removal of dirt, salt and other debris from the surface of the car’s body. These elements can cause staining, rusting and corrosion if not removed. Make sure to wash the underneath of your car thoroughly. Dirt and salt(specially if you are living in places with winter where salt is used to remove snow on the road), can build up  if not properly cleaned. Salt can and will corrode those areas and damage those sections of the cars body. Use a pressure-washing hose to better wash the underneath of your vehicle.  If you are in a bayside area, once again salt is a big factor.car wash
  2. Use water to remove bird droppings – Most people think this is due to the acid content.  But according to car care product supplier Autoglym, however, damage actually results from cooling paint lacquer which contracts and hardens around the deposits.  See here The great thing, is that paint damage can usually be avoided – but only if owners act fast.. Soak the bird droppings with water, add a few drops of soap to be more effective, for a few minutes and then spray them off.
    removing bird droppings
  3. Wax your car – Waxing not only makes your car new looking, but it also serves as a layer of protection against corrosion.  Water that may seep through scratches and any porous surfaces on your car’s paint. Make sure to use non-abrasive car wax and not cutting compounds. Check your car’s user’s manual for any brand or type of car wax recommended by the manufacturer before buying the car wax. When applying the car wax, use a large soft sponge or soft cloth to avoid scratches and make sure to only put in on the painted surface of your vehicle. Avoid putting it on the rubber or plastic parts because this can cause permanent stain. However if you accidentally rubbed the wax on those parts, remove the it immediately. Remove all the wax by buffing the surface of the car using a clean, soft cloth.  car wax
  4. Make use of rustproofing agent – This is really helpful if you are living in a very humid place or if your car is subjected to salt in the air specially if you live in places where salt is used during winter months. Rustproofing can help prevent rust build up and corrosion in your car’s body and under-chassis.

    rustprroofing

  5. Apply paint to small dents, scratches or chips on the surface of  your car.  – Dents, scratches and chips can create corrosion if not repaired immediately.  Not only that, these things are not good to look at on the surface of your car’s body. To repair these, purchase a touch-up paint from your car dealer or manufacturer. Make sure it is the same exact color as the paint in your car. You can often go to the OEM Dealer for your car and get exactly the same colour of paint that was applied to your vehicle in production.  Remember to ask for advise.  The dealers are generally very happy to help. Before applying the paint, make sure the car is clean and dry.  Dirt or moisture can lessen the effectiveness of the paint. Squeeze a small amount of paint into the cap of the paint tube and dip a wooden toothpick into the paint. Using the toothpick, carefully apply the paint into chipped, deeply scratched or dented area. Refer to the instructions of the touch-up paint on how long before the paint needs to dry before you apply the clear coating. For minor scratches, you can use a polishing compound to remove scratched area. This takes a good eye, if the scratch is in a clear coat, remember it may not be a good idea to polish your way through that coating.  It is possible to buy special compounds that will fill areas of clear coat that are scratched and do a great job of making it appear the surface has been restored.  Here is a great one from a big manufacturer.  Make use of a damp sponge or soft cloth and gently polish the affected area. Don’t rub to vigorously, this might damage your cars body paint. After a little while, wash the area and check if the scratches are gone. If they are still there apply again the polishing compound. Once the scratches are gone, you can apply car wax on that area to make it shine.  scratch

 

 

 

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Top 5 Ways To Avoid Damaged Mags And Care For Your Wheels!

How To Avoid Damaged Mags And Care For Your Wheels!

Here are the top 5 pain points for mag /alloy/chrome damage.

1/ Alloy / Mag Wheel Curb Damage

Scenario: Your [Please substitute name here] Son / Daughter / Better Half / Buddy, drive your car and the next day you are admiring your awesome mags glistening in the sun only to see, to your horror smashed rim lips and scuffing…. Man, that hurts! The cries of; “it wasn’t me!” Will surely follow… Wow, doesn’t it suck, when you hear that curb grinding into the side of your mag?! There goes [sustitute amount here] 200 / 300 / 500 bucks worth of wheel.. The truth: Always remember that very few people will treat your car as well as you do. People will be unlikely consider how much you paid for your awesome wheels or how much it kills you to see the scrapes on those rims every time you walk up to your

Solutions: Avoid loaning your car out to others. Full stop. Try mag rim protectors.  This product is aimed at protecting you assets. The protector is a hard plastic rib that is fitted onto the rim lip to make a barrier between the curb and the wheel. It is like a last line of defense. When I first saw these things I was blown away! What a great and simple idea. For a small investment and a little time to fit them you have got some protection against the evil of CURB DAMAGED WHEELS! I don’t know who invented these things but it is a stroke of genius. Not to mention the fact that they can add another dimension to the look of your mag wheels and the car itself.

wheel_protect
Protects Wheels Looks Great!

Check this picture out. Umm the wheels I mean!

Car Rim Protectors Colours
Colours Mag Alloy Wheel Protectors

Cool colours too!

Of course they won’t protect you from a complete curb banger driving your car, that is committed to total destruction of your rims. But they do certainly help. If you are not really handy you may want to get some help getting them fitted. An air compressor is necessary as you will need to let air your of your tires to get them on.

2/ Under inflation / Flat Tire Induced Alloy Damage

Scenario: You are looking at that tire and it looks a little low.. “Hmm’” you wonder to yourself, “I wonder if that tire is a bit low?” “I will remember to check that when I fill up next time…” Of course before you fill up there is a horrific grinding sound as you go round a corner..

Solutions: Check your tire pressure regularly. This is particularly important on modern low profile tires and wheels. Make sure you monitor it. If you have one tire loosing pressure more than others, it likely indicates a slow leak. GET IT FIXED! A slow leak will catch you out. I have found that as tires get close to the end of their tread and are nearly worn out. They are much more likely to lose the seal on the rim or get a puncture. Consider changing to a new set of rubber as soon as you feel tread is a little low. Don’t spin it out and try to get more out of the tires than you should. Often it will result in flat and potential rim damage.

3/ Cleaning Damage

Scenario: How crazy does this sound. You are a compulsive or perhaps out of the blue cleaner… But the problem is that in your zeal to make those babies shine or get rid of that last little bit of tar kills the glow!  You use just a little steel wool or what about a bit of solvent.. to get that stuff off… It will be ok…  But its not!

Solutions: There is a huge range of cleaning products available for cars and in the household. You may have a garage full of cleaners. Remember that some of the surfaces on your groovy wheels are often quite soft comparatively. For example if you have some awesome matt powder coated wheels they will not look awesome for long if you hit them with an ajax type cleaner that is full of powdered abrasives! This stuff can even take the shine right off Alloys that have been highly polished at the factory. It can be mind blowingly difficult to get that shine back again. Sure you might have removed some tar and bugs, but the wheel may have lost that sparkle. Also avoid abrasive pads or steel wool for example. If you can feel any abrasiveness on your fingers it should not go on your wheels. Likewise with solvents or caustics. Some of these cleaners are mystery bottles. Who knows what is in them really; probably only the lab that concocted the stuff. There are cleaners for chrome rims and there are cleaners for alloy rims. Make sure to select only quality products or use basic car cleaning detergents and keep it really simple. Hose off any grit first. To avoid the grit scratching your rims as you try to clean it. Get them wet early and soaped up for a good soaking. Also avoid cleaning your wheels in the red-hot sun. Find a nice shady spot. This will cause your soap and water to have no time to penetrate. Chamois are great too. Use them to enhance your shine and dry off the rims fast. If you use a rag make sure it is clean when you start. Make sure if you use a sponge it does not get grit stuck in it. If it does don’t use it.

4/ Poor Fitting Tools

Scenario: You’re on the side of the road with a flat tire. You drag out the wheel brace to remove you alloy pleased that you didn’t stuff it up by driving it flat.. Whew! But man, this wheel brace is like wrestling with a seal, its slipping and jumping. Finally you look at what you’ve done. Two-damaged wheel nuts and ding in the alloys… Bummer!

Solution: Make sure that you have the right brace for your wheel nuts. Often when we fit new wheels, we are excited and focusing on the wheels and tires, not 6 months down the track when the flat tire arises. Its right about then we find that our groovy new wheel nuts are not really quite the same as the old standard ones. Get a wheel brace that is exactly right for the new lug nuts. That will avoid a lot of heart ache damaged knuckles and possibly rims and lug nuts.

5/ Car Wash Damage

Scenario: The car is pretty clean, but I think I’ll just give it a little spruce up and whip through the car wash… “Wow, those whirly things on the side of the car hitting my rims are pretty full on!!”

Solutions: Hand washing is the best! I don’t know how many times I have thought I will try this car wash it looks really modern. Only to have my spoiler get the clear coat stripped off by the whirly brush that ripped into it. Or finding out I followed the four wheel drive club and all the spinning chamois were full of grit .. If you have a nice set of wheels don’t take the risk. Car washes can be like mechanized death for your car finish. Hand washing is best.

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Coolants

The internal combustion engine builds up heat as it runs. The small explosions that take place inside the cylinders as well as the friction creates this heat. Engine oil, helps avoid some heat generated by the engine friction, along with some reduction due to air flowing over and around the engine. However, this is not enough to keep the engine from overheating and creating damage to its parts. There have been some successful air-cooled motors such as those in motor bikes and of course the Volkswagens such as the beetle and combo. But removing excess engine heat from the traditional four stroke internal engine requires ‘water cooling’ jacket around the cylinders. Or more precisely a water / coolant mix. When the car is running it is the job of the circulating coolant to dispense with this excess heat as it passes through the radiator. The radiator of course also has a fan that will run to keep the air flow over the radiator especially during times where the car is not moving or moving too slowly to create its own airflow.

How long would an engine run without coolant? Not very long in most cases. Perhaps minutes. The heat generated is quite incredible. If the motor is run for long without coolant it is generally severely damaged even if it does not completely heat seize. From my observations damage to most motors requiring the motor to be rebuilt or replaced is caused by either faulty poorly maintained cooling systems or a lack of coolant or both at some point.

Why Do I Need Coolant…? Why Not Just Use Water?

Well water alone could work, but a few of extra things that coolant does are as follows:

  1. Provides resistance to corrosion in the engine cooling systems by avoiding things like electrolysis
  2. Dissipate more heat than water alone can and avoids the system boiling at higher temperatures
  3. Stops freezing of the coolant in extremely low temperatures

These are two pretty important factors to consider when you choose a coolant for your vehicle.  Normal or even distilled water will allow metallic parts and even rubber or even synthetic parts to perish and corrode more quickly.  A quality coolant is critical in avoiding these reaction.  The reactions are magnified at higher temperatures and under pressure.  The ratio of coolant to water you use and the coolant quality will make sure that the life of the cooling components will be at their maximum.  It will also make sure that under load your engine has the best possible chance of transferring all that heat to the air.  So let’s say you develop a cooling system leak and you are topping up with water regularly.  You need to remember that you will be diluting the effectiveness of the coolant.  This can have catastrophic affects.  The moral of this story is get the leaks fixed immediately, flush, clean and replace the coolant as quickly as possible!

Composition and Importance

Coolants are usually a mix of water and various chemicals. One of the often used chemicals is propylene glycol.  It is a chemical additive that lowers the freezing point of the coolant. It can often be referred to as antifreeze.  Although there may be other additives in the coolant such as glycerol that helps enhance this affect.   Glycol also helps in raising the boiling point of water thus making the engine temperature stable in very hot climate or if the engine is subjected to extreme conditions. A good ratio is to mix water and antifreeze 50/50. This is sufficient enough for the kinds of conditions the engine is subjected to. However, it is also good to note to check the specified ratio by the car manufacturer in the car’s user’s manual.   If you are in an cold climate or at that part of the year where freezing of coolant could be an issue.  You must make sure that you are using a good antifreeze rated coolant and it is at the right ratio.  Otherwise your motor can be severely damaged.  It is possible for the freezing coolant to crack the block of your engine!  So keep the ratios right for your area.

Without the coolant, the engine can overheat leading to mechanical failure and a costly repair/replacement of the engine. Water, although a very good coolant by itself, is not enough to provide sufficient cooling for the engine. The reason being is that water has a low boiling point. Adding glycol can raise the boiling point of the coolant and can help the engine operate efficiently at high temperatures.

It is vital to check the coolant level often to prevent possible overheating or hot spots in the engine. Although the main component does not break down, some of the inhibitors present that prevents corrosion eventually do.  Once the the inhibitors are used up, corrosion starts to eat away at the metal inside the engine and radiator. The images below show corrosion due to the coolant-inhibitors being used up.

Corrosion Due to Coolant-Inhibitors being used up

How To Change Your Vehicle’s Coolant

Given the importance of the cooling system in the optimum performance of your vehicle, it is critical to check it often and change when necessary. Also take note of the car’s users manual specification on when to change the coolant. There can be reasons and benefits to change the coolant sooner than specified by the car manufacturer. Personally I check the cooling system as often as I can for signs of corrosion and proper level etc. This is one maintenance habit that practice to help me get me more miles out of my engine.

Note* Follow your car’s users manual instructions for draining the spent coolant from the cooling system. The steps below are some of the things I usually do when changing the coolant in my car. The steps listed here may or may not apply to your vehicle and should be performed with utmost care if ever you decide to follow the steps shown here.

  1. Park the vehicle in a safe place, away from children and animals. Waste coolant is dangerous to animals or children and can be fatal to them when ingested.
  2. Make sure the engine has cooled down and ignition turned off before changing the coolant. This is to prevent harm to you. Also be aware that the system is under pressure.  So use a rag and release the pressure in the system gradually and carefully.
  3. Gather all the necessary tools, like screwdrivers, draining pans, needed before starting on the coolant change. This will save you time and make the change faster. Also make sure to use the coolant/antifreeze specified on your car’s users manual to prevent unwanted damage due to using of unspecified coolant. Do not compromise on low quality or low ratios of the coolant.  It can be a costly mistake if you end up with corrosion or over-heating.
  4. Using the owner’s manual, check and locate the radiator drain plug.  Place the drain pan or receptacle below the drain plug, hose or tap. Loosen the screw plug, bolt plug or in many cases there is a simple drain plug (petcock). Avoid spilling the drained coolant onto the ground or into storm drains or sewers to avoid pollution of the environment.
  5. Once the liquid has completely drained, close the valve and pour the used coolant into containers with tight-fitting lids. I make sure to label these containers and store them away in a safe place like a cabinet with a lock in place. This will ensure the safety of our pets and our children who are not aware of the dangers of being exposed to such items. When disposing of the coolant make sure it goes into a the right drums at your local municipal tip.  There are usually drums available for these sort of wastes if you ask the attendant.
  6. The next step would be to flush the radiator using water and a radiator flush solution. Close the valve, open the radiator cap and pour the radiator flush solution. After that, you should run the engine with the heater control on High for about 10 minutes.  This ensures the flush compound will circulate into the heater core. Make sure to watch the temperature gauge or warning light to avoid overheating the engine. Allow the engine to cool off before attempting to drain the water or flush solution to prevent burns or injury to yourself. Once the radiator is cool enough to touch, drain the flush solution and transfer the drained liquid to tight-lid containers and make sure to label the containers properly to avoid accidents.
  7. After all the liquid has drained, close the drain plug and begin adding the new coolant mixture. However, before adding the new coolant, make sure that the one you are using is specified by the car manufacturer. Also take note on how much coolant your cooling system can hold. These are pretty simple steps that are often missed or taken for granted, but the result can be very expensive. Make sure that the liquid reaches the proper level on the coolant reservoir and continue adding if it doesn’t.
  8. Replace the pressure cap and run the engine with the heater on High until the temperature meter reads in the normal range. Double check the levels and finalise the top-up.  This is an important step as there are often a few air locks that only come out once the engine is run up to temperature and the thermostat opens.  Do not miss this step!
  9. Clean up. Make sure to put contaminated rags in sealable plastic bags and put them into garbage. And again, make sure to place unused coolants away from your kids or pets by storing them in a place where the coolants could not be easily reached.
  10. Also I make sure to check the liquid level after a few days of driving the car. This is to make sure that the cooling system has enough liquid to cool the engine when the car is running. If it is low, then just add until it is on the right level.
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