Decoding Radiator Coolant – What Does it All Mean?

Imagine your car to be a super-charged battery, connecting to the power and intensity of a micro sun, or enough energy to warm a mansion in the middle of an Artic winter. It’s toasty inside, maybe a little bit too warm – your engine is very much like this house.

You’d think as engines shrank, their energy output would be streamlined and somewhat reduced, and you could be forgiven for assuming that, but you would be wrong. Even the most aerodynamic models suffer from overheating issues, as air is often direct away from the engine.

What Is Coolant Anyway?

Coolant is a concentrate used to maintain the optimum temperature of the engine, ensuring your car runs smoothly and nothing overheats. If you see smoke, turn off the car, get out and let the hood settle for a while. If you still see smoke, call roadside assistance.

Generally, coolant is composed of Ethylene Glycol and dose of additives (organic, synthetic or a mix) and a balance of water. Occasionally the non-toxic Propylene Glycol makes an appearance. While glycol itself boats inferior cooling properties next to good ol’ water, it does raise the boiling point of the coolant, staving off that smoky experience highlighted above.

The Checklist

Living in the shadow of a harsh Bundaberg sun can have its drawbacks, so understand what your coolant does for your car is vital to identifying possible issues with the radiator. Tofts recommend the following checklist when assessing whether a coolant is right for your car:

- Does the product advertise effective heat transfer properties?

- What is the boiling point and freezing point of the coolant? Will it boil faster than water? If so, you should keep looking.

- Does it prevent corrosion and erosion inside the radiator chamber? A cracked radiator cannot be fixed with a bit of tape, no matter what your Dad says.

- Does it list anti-foaming as a feature? Any foam build up will impact the performance of your car.

- What does its compatibility list look like? Is it synced to your cooling system, does it work well with hard water, can it resist sedimentation? Or will it slosh around a bit and do nothing?

- And the big one, is it chemically stable? Unstable cocktails can make for big bangs or small ones. If you’ve never heard of it or a Tofts assistant tells you to stay away from that brand, it’s best not to go there.

Still not sure what your car needs to guarantee the best performance, kilometre after kilometre? Contact the team at Tofts.

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