Cooling System Health Check The Repco 8 Step Guide
Is your vehicle in check for your next summer road trip? Checking your car's cooling system is one of the easiest things you can do to avoid costly repairs, breakdowns or expensive engine damage which can see you stuck on the side of the road or cutting your holiday short. Preventative maintenance is one of the most important things you can do to avoid cooling system issues and make sure your system is ready to tackle to open road in even the warmest of conditions. Preventative maintenance doesn't always mean costly shopping lists of replacement parts, by simply inspecting some of the integral cooling system components, you can ensure that your cooling system is healthy and won't leave you stranded.
1. Coolant Level
When checking your coolant, the most important thing to remember is to make sure the engine is cold. The best time to do this is in the morning after the car has been sitting overnight. With the radiator cap removed, you can begin to check the coolant level in the radiator. If you can't see any coolant or it looks a little low, it is important to top it up or flush the system entirely and replace with new coolant. You should also check the radiator expansion tank and make sure this is filled to the 'full' mark also.
2. Coolant Condition
Using a coolant test strip, you can test for the amount of glycol in your coolant to confirm that it is healthy. If the reading is not satisfactory, it is important to drain your coolant, flush the system and re-fill with brand new coolant to give your engine the best chance of keeping cool.
When inspecting your radiator, it's important to look for any cracks, splits, leaks or corrosion. If you notice any of these with your radiator, it's a good idea to fit a replacement radiator ensure your car keeps cool. For the 4 wheel drive crowd, make sure your radiator isn't packed full of dirt, dust and mud otherwise air won't be able to pass through freely to cool the engine.
4. Radiator Hoses and Hose Clamps
Inspecting your radiator hoses and heater hoses is imperative to make sure your coolant stays inside the engine and doesn't spring an unexpected leak as you drive. By examining for any signs of drying, cracking, splitting, weeping or residue, you can confirm the health of your hoses or determine that you need fresh ones. As for the hose clamps, any signs of corrosion, weathering or leaking should indicate that these need replacing. Even if your visual inspection checks out, it's a great idea to keep a few spare hoses and hose clamps on-hand when taking off on extended road trips.
5. Radiator Fan
A quick visual check to make sure everything’s working correctly will give you an indication of your radiator fan's health. Allow the engine to warm up, park up somewhere and pop the bonnet with the car running to make sure the fan is operational. A clutch fan system should spin once the engine has warmed up, however modern engines with electric thermo fans may kick on and off as temperature rises and falls.
6. Water Pump
If you notice excessive noise from your water pump or any signs of leaking, it's probably time to start shopping for a fresh replacement water pump. If your pump is leaking or not operating correctly, coolant flow can be compromised and spell the end of your holiday with an overheating engine.
7. Drive Belt
When getting into the guts of your engine to inspect your water pump, it's a good idea to run your eyes over all your drive belts. Tasked with everything from power steering, air-con and even your engines timing, it's important to make sure your belts are tight and don't show any signs of ageing with cracks, splits or weathering. If you hear your belts squealing as your engine runs, check to confirm the health of the belt and then adjust the tensioner to eliminate belt slip and squealing. Drive belts are another handy spare to keep in your car for longer drives.
Testing your thermostat is a great way to ensure that your car can properly warm up to operating temperature and not overheat when it gets there. Using a pot of water on the stove and a thermometer, you can make sure that your thermostat is opening at the correct temperature. If not, fit a replacement thermostat and your engine will warm up and cool down just as the manufacturer intended.