Keeping Cool

Cooling system recommendations simplified.

Running the perfect mixture through your cooling system is one way to help guarantee top performance from your vehicles.

Cook says to find the specifications, look to the owner's manual of each vehicle.

"Most manuals recommend that you keep your coolant at a 50/50 level and that you change it out over a certain amount of time."

According to International Lubricants, Inc. ( ILI), manufacturer of Kool-It® and LUBEGARD automotive products, studies show that most cars on the road have cooling systems that do not contain 50/50 water/antifreeze ratio due to lack of maintenance. ILI suggests that different additives can benefit cooling systems that don't maintain the proper ratio.

"The additives help minimize potential corrosion by maintaining adequate pH levels. Even if the antifreeze already contains surfactant additives, the use of these additional additives is usually beneficial because most cars are shortchanged on the 50/50 water/coolant mix," says Kristen Clark, marketing manager for ILI.


Water quality is an issue manufacturers deal with regularly. Most OEMs recommend distilled water.

"All of the OEMs have water quality requirements relating to hardness of the water, the calcium, magnesium, sulfate and chloride levels. Distilled water is a good choice because it doesn't have any of those things. Also, good tap water could be a sufficient choice--it's things like well water and ditch water that won't meet the spec's," Roberts says.

Water is important because it can affect the pH levels, cause scale, deposits, or even add corrosive elements to the coolant

According to Shell's Roberts, when scale and deposits are formed, you reduce heat transfer, which will lead to overheating.

ILI says the debate has raged for years within the industry as to whether distilled water is best to use in a cooling system. Although plenty of OEMs actually require the use of distilled water in their vehicles' cooling systems under the threat of a possible warranty violation, ILI said that the insistence upon the use of distilled water is wrong.

"Their argument is that while it is true that distilled water's purity prevents electrolysis and scale/deposit formation, it unfortunately comes with a potentially damaging side effect," Pat Burrow, technical product manager from ILI says.

Burrows explains that during the distillation process, water is vaporized so all its impurities are left behind. These impurities include a number of minerals including calcium and magnesium, the two components that make water hard. The water is then condensed back into its liquid phase, so the result is pure water. The problem is that when water is distilled, the resulting solution is composed of chemically imbalanced ions.

"This leaves distilled water 'electrochemically hungry' so it will actually strip electrons from the metals in a cooling system as it attempts to chemically re-balance itself," he says.

"The negative effects of tap water can be greatly reduced by using an additive which contains a polymer dispersant. ILI's Kool-It® Supreme Coolant Treatment contains polymer dispersants which encases & floats calcium, etc., keeping these particles in the system, liquid," says Burrows.

The solution?

"Many experts we've spoken to insist that the use of purified water is indeed preferred to prevent the possibility of other forms of contamination," says Burrows.


"Engine coolant is very vital to maintain temperature levels for these high tech engines to get the most performance out of the vehicle," says Bob Young, project manager for Dunn and Bybee Tool Company, Inc. "When the coolant levels aren't maintained, it is important to remember the effect it can have on other components."

"You can't reverse the damage--all you can do is get it clean, patch it up and start brushing. If there are particles floating around, about all you can do is a flush and fill and put in new, good coolant," says Cook.

"Anything bad in the system will only make it worse. Corrosion metals can catalyze the oxidation of the coolant even faster, but the point is, you shouldn't have all of these things that tend to catalyze and further degrade the coolant in the first place," warns Roberts.

We Recommend