One of the most comical things I’ve heard some people say is that they don’t think they need an oil change because the car still runs good. And those people are totally oblivious to the coolant that carries away engine heat.
Then there are those who care a lot about their cars, but know very little about where things are under the hood, even if they do care deeply about what goes on under there. I knew of one young woman who saw a coolant level warning light on her Jeep Liberty and was concerned enough about it that she opened her hood, got her water hose and filled the crankcase with water.
|Some customers don’t worry about their cooling system until this needle makes its way into the red or a “Check Gauges” light pops on.|
Another customer recently came to me with her Buick smoking and making strange noises. She said she had seen the oil light come on and so she added oil, but she wasn’t sure she had added enough. I pulled the dipstick and we found that it was about five quarts overfilled. When I asked her why it had so much oil in it, she said she didn’t know anything about the dipstick – she just figured she needed to add oil until she could see through the filler cap hole that it was full.
But there are some drivers who are car-conscious enough to check and change the oil regularly, and they’ll even check the rest of their fluids, but too many don’t ever think of replacing the coolant or doing anything else to the cooling system until it springs a leak or an overheating episode happens. Oil changes happen regularly. Coolant changes every 60,000 miles tend to be forgotten. It’s sort of like the transmission – some folks don’t consider doing anything to it until it starts having problems. And a neglected cooling system tends to develop a few problems that can’t be easily dealt with, and some of the fallout from such lassitude is more or less permanent. Flakes of rust shred water pump seals, heater cores and radiator fins, and used-up coolant stops protecting the metal parts. I’ve repaired overheating problems in some cases by just replacing old coolant.
|Rust attacks parts from the inside out in a very big way. It clogs radiators and can erode an expansion plug that, on the outside looks just fine. We replaced all the expansion plugs in a 1998 Taurus while we had the transmission out and washed enough rust out of the block to fill a large coffee can. And it wasn’t even overheating.|
From our side of the service aisle, it’s a foregone conclusion that cooling system service makes a LOT of difference, and it’s a great (and necessary) upsell on vehicles that are in need. Checking the vehicle’s maintenance record and schedule is a legitimate practice too (if there is one). If you follow the manufacturer recommendations at the intervals they publish, it pays off in the long run for the customer as well as the shop. It’s a win-win, but you must sell it!
Plastic parts that fail
To save weight, car manufacturers have been making lots things out of plastic for decades now, and many of these plastic parts carry hot coolant, which, in many cases has been a tremendous repair boon for those of us who wrench for a living. How many shops could fill the back of a pickup with plastic coolant-carrying parts we’ve replaced over the past six months?
A while back, a lady came to me with a high-mileage Honda Accord and asked what I would do to reduce the likelihood of mileage-related unscheduled maintenance. One of the several things I suggested to her was that we replace the radiator and the coolant along with it. Why? Well, most of us have seen more than a few engines destroyed because of an old radiator that cracked on the highway, dumped the coolant and led to a meltdown. Then there are those radiators that leak from the rubber seal between the core and the tanks. That happens even on lower-mileage platforms, and sometimes it happens with replacement radiators if they’re cheapies.
And there are those crummy plastic elbows GM used to pipe coolant through the belt tensioner on turn-of-the century 3.8L platforms, but good metal replacements are now available for those. And there are also the plastic intake manifolds that like to split and plastic and silicone manifold gaskets that die every day and start dumping coolant everywhere. Most of us have also replaced leaking plastic thermostat housings on Ford Explorers and those annoying plastic 2.7L water outlets (the one that comes with the ECT sensor in it).
If you put a heater core in a mid-2000s Nissan Pathfinder, you may find that underhood heater hose manifold and pipe assembly brittle to the point of dreadful fragility, and since it includes an electric water pump, it’s about 250 bucks.