Car + Garage

Ex­pert ad­vice on re­pair, main­te­nance and gear. Change your coolant

The Family Handyman - - CONTENTS - By Rick Mus­coplat

If you buy one spe­cial tool, you can change your own coolant in about an hour—and save!

In the old days (the ’90s and ear­lier), chang­ing your ve­hi­cle’s coolant was sim­ple. Then cars got more com­plex and DIYers got in­tim­i­dated by the pre­cise fill­ing and “air-bleed­ing” pro­ce­dures re­quired to elim­i­nate en­gine air pock­ets. All it takes to get back in the game is a one-time $90 in­vest­ment in an air-pow­ered re­fill­ing tool. Then you can change your coolant your­self in about an hour. You’ll save about $50 on your very first coolant change, and about $100 on each one af­ter that. This pro­ce­dure works for any cool­ing sys­tem that’s not con­tam­i­nated with rust or oil. I’ll show you how to check yours and then how to change the coolant.

Start the in­spec­tion when your en­gine is cool. Re­move the ra­di­a­tor or coolant reser­voir cap and ex­am­ine the coolant color. If it looks rusty (don’t con­fuse or­ange coolant with rust), has crud or oil float­ing on the top, or looks like choco­late milk, call it quits and take your ve­hi­cle to a pro. You have prob­lems that this pro­ce­dure won’t solve.

If the coolant looks clean, start the job by jack­ing up the ve­hi­cle and sup­port­ing it with jack stands. Next, place a large drain pan un­der the ra­di­a­tor. Loosen the lower ra­di­a­tor hose clamp with pli­ers (spring­type clamp) or a screw­driver (worm-drive clamp) and re­move the hose (Photo 1). If the hose won’t budge, use a hose re­moval tool (one choice is Tool Aid No. SGT13860; about $8 on­line) to break it loose (Photo 1). Let the ra­di­a­tor and wa­ter pump drain com­pletely. Then reat­tach the lower ra­di­a­tor hose and clamp.

Next, find and re­move the block drain plugs (their place­ment varies, so re­fer to a re­pair man­ual for the lo­ca­tion of yours). Re­in­stall the block drain plugs and move on to the re­fill­ing step.

Re­fill with fresh coolant

In­sert the air tool (we used the UView 550500 Air­Lift II Econ­omy Cool­ing

Sys­tem Re­filler; $90 on­line) into the ra­di­a­tor neck or over­flow bot­tle. Con­nect the ex­haust hose and com­pressed-air line and route the open end of the tool’s ex­haust hose into an empty gal­lon jug or pail. Then open the valve and let the vac­uum rise un­til the nee­dle reaches the edge of the red zone on the gauge. Then fill with coolant (Photo 2). The vac­uum sucks out any air pock­ets as it re­fills the sys­tem. When it’s full, just re­in­stall the ra­di­a­tor or over­flow tank caps, re­move the jack stands and go for a spin.

1. Re­move the lower hose

Slip the pointed end of the re­moval tool all the way into the end of the hose. Then pull it around the ra­di­a­tor neck to break the hose loose. Then pull it off quickly and im­me­di­ately di­rect the coolant into the drain pan.

2. Vac­uum-fill the cool­ing sys­tem

In­sert the fill tube into the coolant bot­tle. Then open the valve and let the vac­uum pull fresh coolant into the sys­tem. Re­peat the pro­ce­dure un­til the sys­tem is full.

Hose re­moval tool Lower ra­di­a­tor hose

Valve Air-pow­ered re­fill toolRa­di­a­tor neck Fresh coolant

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