With winter coming up, one aspect of the car that drivers will need to pay attention to is antifreeze. Drivers might have a few questions when it comes to changing the antifreeze, such as how often it should be done or why exactly its necessary - and what could happen if its not done properly.
For starters, it really varies how often antifreeze needs to be changed. Manufacturers will typically say that the solution should be switched out every two to three years, or 30,000 miles. Some antifreezes claim that they work for much longer, such as 50,000 miles, so in these cases it's really up to the driver how often they do it. Some choose to change the antifreeze every year before winter begins, and while this is not completely necessary, it definitely doesn't hurt.
A good way to test your antifreeze is to check its pH level. Many suppliers sell antifreeze test strips that will give you a rough approximation of how much longer your antifreeze has to go before it needs to be changed.
So why do these tests look for the pH level? Essentially, the main reason for changing antifreeze is corrosion. The products used in antifreeze are naturally acidic, and they will do damage to the engine and radiator if left unchecked. This is why antifreeze contains chemicals - known as corrosive inhibitors - that keep the product safe to use in engines. This is known as alkalinity. Over time, however, these chemicals will degrade and get used up, which is when damage can be done to the engine. Aluminum parts are especially susceptible to acidic antifreeze, and this can cause major problems if it goes unnoticed.
Replacing the antifreeze in a car is relatively easy. There is a drain valve on all radiators where you can let out the old antifreeze. Use a two-gallon bucket for this job, and be sure to take the used coolant to a place that can properly dispose of it, such as a local auto parts store or lube shop. Then flush the system by using a mixture of water and a special cleaning solution. Essentially, this is just running the engine after pouring the solution into the radiator, then draining it like you did the antifreeze.
Finally, mix your antifreeze solution - about 50 percent coolant and water should do the trick, although you can add a little more antifreeze for colder temperatures. Some antifreeze is sold pre-mixed - with the 50-50 solution already in the bottle. Pour that in like you did the cleaning solution and your car should be ready for winter.