Do Aluminum Radiators Need Special Coolant?
The key to maximizing the life of an aluminum radiator is not so much the radiator coolant brand as it is the water type. All coolants sold today will protect aluminum radiators. This wasn’t always the case, however. Traditional copper/brass construction was the primary radiator material for six or seven decades and most coolants sold over the counter at your favorite parts store did not have the proper additive and protection package for aluminum radiators. So, you had to be cognizant of not only your radiator’s build materials, but what radiator coolant you were purchasing. Today, all modern coolant brands are sold with the ability to work in traditional copper/brass construction, aluminum and composite construction, and full aluminum construction with a coolant additive for aluminum radiators.
Should I Use Distilled Water in My Radiator?
All water sources contain various minerals that can eat through aluminum despite having an inhibitor package in the engine coolant. So, what are the possible sources of water? Let's start with well water, which is typically full of iron and very hard. If that well water is softened, then it contains sodium or salt. Tap water from your local municipal supply will have various amounts of calcium, fluoride, and chlorine. So, the only way to ensure that the water you use is chemical and mineral free is to purchase distilled water from the local grocery store. The older copper radiators spoiled us because they were so forgiving with these minerals. “Old timers” will have a tough time with this water requirement because they have used all types of water without any problems in the past. However, today’s aluminum radiators and aluminum engine components like cylinder heads, intake manifolds, and more, are provided the best protection with distilled water.
Should I Use 50/50 Coolant or Concentrate?
Concentrated ethylene glycol based coolant creates a potential problem because this lets the installer choose the water source and that is where many make a big mistake. The solution to this water problem is simple, do not purchase the concentrated engine coolant. Buy the coolant in a pre-mixed form to eliminate the possibility of any errors. Pre-mixed 50/50 coolant already contains the distilled water and the proper ratio to make filling your cooling system simple. You no longer have to pre-mix the engine coolant or guess at what water ratio you have. Just pour it in and forget it.
Is It Bad to Mix Green and Orange Antifreeze?
Traditional radiator coolant we’ve all known and used is typically green in color, though some brands are yellow. These traditional coolant products all contain the correct additives and protective agents for aluminum radiators and engine parts. Newer GM vehicles and many import brands use a red, orange, or pink-colored radiator coolant. While these coolants were designed for different OE applications, we do not advocate using them in classic or performance vehicles and especially do not use them to “top off” a vehicle, as they should not be mixed with traditional coolants. If so, we strongly suggest you completely drain and flush the system and fill with new, traditional-style coolant product. We make it easy for our customers by offering our High Performance Coolant product that is compatible with all metallic materials used in performance engines. Our High Performance Coolant is compatible with GM, Ford, and Chrysler specifications and aftermarket liquid coolant additives.
How Long Does Coolant Last in A Car?
We recommend using a quality five-year radiator coolant and replacing it every three years to be safe. The reason coolants have a term on life is because that is how long the inhibitor package will last. Remember this, it has nothing to do with the color of the engine coolant when determining the condition of the inhibitor package. When the inhibitor package decays you no longer are protected from minerals attacking those expensive aluminum engine parts and your radiator.