Ever heard a story about steam coming out of a friend’s car? Or actually seen it on the road and hoped you would never face it? Well! It might happen to any of us. Steam billowing out from your car’s bonnet could be due to a lot of reasons. But in all probability, it would have a very simple cause – lack of coolant.

What is coolant?

Coolant, also known as radiator fluid, flows through a car’s engine and radiator through hoses. It protects the car’s engine from overheating as well as freezing. However, like all other consumables in your car, coolant deteriorates over time, becoming acidic by nature. It no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. Hence it needs to be changed at certain intervals.

How often should you change it?

  • Though the frequency of changing the coolant varies with the car’s brand, age and mileage, ideally it should be changed after the first 60,000 miles and then every 30,000 miles. Environmental regulators prefer cars to have longer intervals so as to reduce waste fluids. Hence, quite a few automakers have equipped their vehicles with long-life coolants.
  • Ideally the coolant level should be between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ levels. If it has gone below the minimum level, it needs to be replaced.
  • If you find slight discolouration in the fluid inside the radiator, then it should be changed immediately.
  • When small fragments or dirt is found on the top of the fluid indicating its impurity then the cause needs to be detected and coolant changed.
  • Also the type of coolant you use and the environment you use the car in determines the frequency in changing coolant.

Tips for coolant change

  • Don’t check the coolant level or try to replace when the engine is hot, you could get scalded by the sudden overflow. Moreover, while hot, the level will expand and not show the accurate status.
  • A routine flush and changing, when required, will enhance the efficiency of the coolant and the car.
  • Ideally the coolant level should not drop before the specified duration. If it does so, then send the car in for a complete inspection, there might be a leakage somewhere.
  • It is advisable to use the manufacture-recommended coolant only. Different types or brands of coolant might have different compositions and not work well together.

The coolant does not just keep the engine cool, it also prevents corrosion and scale build-up. Hence, it’s important to keep an eye on it and top it off as and when needed, to ensure longevity of the engine and the car.

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