The winter months may be upon us, but that doesn't mean things are cold inside your engine - far from it. Some drivers assume their car will only overheat in the dead of summer, but the reality is that any engine will overheat if the cooling system is not functioning properly. One of the key contributors to faulty cooling systems is sludge and build-up due to owners not regularly flushing the radiator. Fortunately, this is an easy procedure that most amateur mechanics can perform on their own.
It might seem odd that a radiator is responsible for "cooling" the engine, because when most people think of a radiator, they think of that type that keeps their houses warm in the winter. The radiator found in cars actually works quite similarly - the difference is that it's taking the heat from the coolant circulating through the engine and dissipating it into the air. This lowers the temperature of the coolant after it passes through the engine and allows it to be used again and again.
Of course, that's all for naught if your coolant is sludgy and contaminated. This is why flushing the radiator is so important. To begin, make sure that the engine is completely cold. Despite its name, coolant can get very hot and the radiator cap is even hotter. Make sure the car has been off for several hours before attempting this job.
Locate the radiator's drain valve using your owner's manual. You should see a handle that makes it easy to drain the coolant from the radiator. However, do not drain directly onto the ground. Coolant is poison to just about all living things, but it gives off a sweet smell that attracts animals and small children. Be sure to drain directly into a pan and make sure that you properly dispose of the coolant at a recycling facility that accepts hazardous materials when you're done.
Once the coolant is completely drained, it's time to get rid of all the rust, sludge and carbon deposits that have likely attached themselves to the interior of your radiator. First, close the drain valve. Then, simply take your garden hose and insert it into the radiator until the radiator is full. Now open the drain valve to flush the water out. Essentially, you want to repeat this process until the water comes out completely clear. That way, you know that there's no contaminants left inside the vehicle.
Close that drain valve once again and now grab your coolant mixture. Most people use a mix of 50 percent antifreeze with 50 percent water. Fill up your radiator with this just like you did with the water before.
One step that many drivers ignore is to "bleed" the coolant system. Turn on your car's engine with the radiator cap off, and let it idle for about 15 minutes. Be careful while doing this, as the air coming out of the cap will be quite hot. Then turn the heat on in your car as high as it will go. This dissipates the built-up air inside the engine. After you've done this, you'll actually have room to add a bit more coolant, as there will be less gas trapped within the system.
Flushing your radiator is a simple process, and one that drivers shouldn't ignore. Most recommend performing this task every two years, so it's something that every driver should take the time to do.