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Cars / Trucks /
How to change the
antifreeze / coolant.
Tools / Materials (See Below for
Appropriate antifreeze /
coolant for your vehicle (see section on how to choose the right
antifreeze / coolant)
Appropriate radiator pressure cap replacement
Appropriate radiator hose replacements
Appropriate radiator hose clamp replacements
Garden hose (hooked up to faucet for cold water use)
newspapers or work blanket/tarp (for antifreeze / coolant spill
large pan (to capture running/draining antifreeze / coolant)
Vehicle ramp (or jack stands) (in either case, make sure the
ramp or jacks is covered with a rubber pad so as to not damage
any part of the vehicle off of which the vehicle is lifted from
The antifreeze / coolant in your vehicle
be changed at least every 30,000 miles / 2 years of regular vehicle
use (in any event, be sure to check with your vehicle manufacturer,
such as consulting its issued owner's manual, to confirm the
antifreeze/coolant-change period to maintain your specific
Caution: When dealing with anything that may be
potentially hot, make sure you take precautions
to avoid contact with it. Additionally, make sure your vehicle
is securely supported when working underneath it. Furthermore,
in this case, never leave any exposed antifreeze / coolant
unattended as its "sweet" smell can attract animals (such as pet
dogs, etc.), which can fatal for them since drinking it usually is
fatal; if it is not in the vehicle, it should be handled outside as
a poison with great care.
There is basically a two-step process of changing your
antifreeze / coolant before adding the replacement antifreeze /
coolant: 1) Draining
the antifreeze / coolant; and 2) "Reverse
flushing" the antifreeze / coolant out of the radiator (draining
is the only option for factory-sealed radiators if you are doing
this on your own and not in an automotive shop). Reverse
flushing is important to do since it has been noted that merely
draining leaves behind a significant amount of the
old antifreeze / coolant in the radiator itself, plus the
reverse flushing gets rid of unwanted deposits built up in the
To change the antifreeze / coolant in your vehicle, do the following:
Draining the Antifreeze / Coolant
It is best to
change the antifreeze / coolant when the vehicle is not "hot,"
so be sure the vehicle is "cold" (i.e., having not been used for
at least 3 hours)
Drive the vehicle
into your work area (be it a garage or what have you), and
safely drive over and park on a vehicle ramp so as to provide
you with more access underneath the vehicle, particularly where
the antifreeze / coolant will be drained, etc. While the front portion of
the vehicle is on the vehicle ramp, be sure to correctly push in
a wheel chock behind each rear tire; refer to the instructions
of the wheel chock manufacturer as necessary.
briefly consult your owner's manual for the location of your
coolant-drain plug of your radiator so that you will have a general
understanding of where it will be when underneath your vehicle.
As you see fit,
place rags/newspapers/a work blanket/tarp underneath the front
portion of the vehicle, especially in the area underneath the
coolant-drain plug, where work will be performed as a proactive
measure to mitigate any antifreeze / coolant spill, and have a large pan (to capture running/draining
antifreeze / coolant)
ready for use.
Once the vehicle
is securely and safely supported by the vehicle ramp and wheel
chocks, your rags/newspapers/a work blanket/tarp
is in place, and you have allowed the engine to cool for a bit
after driving the vehicle onto the vehicle ramp, carefully
remove the radiator pressure cap with a rag around it, being
careful and taking all precautions necessary since--while the
engine is cool--the radiator can still be under pressure.
Once the cap is safely unscrewed off and removed, look at the
cap to see if it is suffering from rust or other worn-out
conditions; if it is, replace the cap with another radiator
pressure cap appropriate for your vehicle (bearing on top of the
cap the same written pressure rating as that of the old radiator
pressure cap). Though, if you are going to replace the cap
with a new one or will keep the old cap, in either case, do not
put the cap back onto the radiator until you are done draining.
underneath the vehicle and find the coolant-drain plug underneath the
radiator and then, before
attempting to loosen it, put your large pan directly underneath
With the pan
already positioned to collect all the antifreeze / coolant that will be drained
from the hole that will be "unplugged," use your hand to actually remove
the coolant-drain plug for the antifreeze / coolant (and make
sure you hold onto the gasket that is found between the plug and
the radiator to which the plug attaches) to begin draining, all the while
making sure you are not
blocking the drain flow from the radiator drain hole to the pan
you previously directly positioned underneath with any part of
your body. As may be necessary, move the pan to ensure
that you capture all of the draining antifreeze / coolant as is possible.
Once the draining
of the antifreeze / coolant slows to a trickle and finally comes
to an end, use a rag to wipe off any old antifreeze / coolant remnants found around the edges of
the coolant-drain hole and on the coolant-drain plug itself.
With the gasket in place, put the plug back in the coolant-drain hole,
making sure it is securely in place.
Flushing the Antifreeze / Coolant (Not for sealed radiators; see a
Now, look to the top
of the radiator to find and remove the top cap.
Upon removing the cap, insert a garden hose in the hole of the
radiator to fill it with
cold water until it overflows out of the radiator and you notice
that was is coming out is clean water and nothing else.
Now, put the top cap securely back into place on top of the
Next, remove the coolant-drain plug from the bottom of the
Now, perform the "reverse flush" by inserting the garden hose
into the drain hole that appears underneath the radiator and
then run cold water again now through this drain hole, doing it
until you see clean water coming out (creating this "reverse
flush" by doing it from the bottom of the radiator).
Use the garden hose to flush out the engine cooling jacket, too,
with cold water.
Take a look at the two radiator hoses and their respective hose
clamps, making sure that they appear to be in good working
order, including that the hoses are not leaking, have no cracks,
no rust, and do not otherwise appear worn out or compromised in
its structure (flimsy, soft, etc.); if any such defects are
present, now is the time to have such hoses, and if need be
their clamps, replaced. (If one hose seems to be bad, go
ahead and replace the other since it will most likely fail,
too.) Use a screwdriver to remove these defective hoses
and clamps to be replaced.
the Appropriate Antifreeze / Coolant
First, make sure you understand what is the right mixture of antifreeze / coolant
and water for your vehicle. (Please see the section on how to
properly mix your antifreeze / coolant.) Generally, for
driving normally in most parts of the country, the solution mix
ratio of 50:50 (50 parts
ethylene glycol-based antifreeze / coolant to 50 parts distilled
water) is appropriate. Otherwise, for really cold climates, you may opt for a
60:40 mixture (60 parts ethylene glycol-based antifreeze / coolant
to 40 parts distilled water). If need be, check with your
Once again, look to the top
of the radiator to find and remove the top cap.
Upon removing the cap, insert your funnel into the top hole of
the radiator that appears, and then pour the appropriate antifreeze / coolant into the radiator through
funnel: For the 50:50 ratio, first pour about 50%
distilled water (50% can be ascertained by estimating what is
50% of the inside of the radiator or 50% of the amount of old antifreeze / coolant
you previously drained out into a pan). You should fill the radiator
with this appropriate antifreeze / coolant up to its top, just
before the hole opening. Once you do this, re-secure the
radiator top cap, and then turn on your
vehicle (while still parked on the ramp, of course) for just a
bit so that your engine can run for at most 10 minutes; this will heat up the engine and eliminate any air pockets
that may give you a false indication that the radiator is filled
up to the top with the new antifreeze / coolant you are putting
in. After you do this, wait for at least 20 minutes for
your engine to cool off, and then repeat the pouring of the
appropriate mixture of antifreeze / coolant and distilled water
until the radiator is filled up to its top, just before the hole
Upon filling the radiator to the top with an appropriate mixture
of antifreeze / coolant and distilled water, make sure you
re-secure the top cap of the radiator for the last time.
Aside from refilling the radiator itself, newer vehicles each
come equipped with an antifreeze / coolant tank on the side,
which should be refilled as may be necessary to the maximum
limit with the same appropriate mixture of antifreeze / coolant
and distilled water.
Finally, after ensuring that you have refilled the radiator to
the top with the appropriate mixture of antifreeze / coolant (if
applicable, filling up the the separate antifreeze / coolant
tank on the side with the same), restart your vehicle, allowing
your engine to run. At this time, while your vehicle is
running, conduct a final inspection of the vehicle in an effort
to identify any antifreeze / coolant leaks. If you see no
leaks, then you are fine for about another 2 years / 30,000
miles. If you see leaks, you should consider having your
basically the routine of helping to keep your vehicle's radiator in
good working order so as to maintain the overall cooling system of
the vehicle and keep it running without an overheat breakdown. Make sure to keep up with this routine in order to
keep your vehicle properly maintained.
Handyman Zone Team
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