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Coolants Tom Birch Jim Halderman 1 Introductions: Tom Birch Retired instructor from Yuba College, Marysville, CA. Author of many automotive textbooks Former officer in CAT and NACAT Board Member Introductions: Jim Halderman

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Tom Birch

Jim Halderman

Tom Birch, 3/07


introductions tom birch
Introductions: Tom Birch
  • Retired instructor from Yuba College, Marysville, CA.
  • Author of many automotive textbooks
  • Former officer in CAT and NACAT Board Member
introductions jim halderman
Introductions: Jim Halderman
  • Former flat-rate technician and instructor and a business owner. Author of many automotive books and lives in Dayton, Ohio.
topics to be discussed
Topics to be Discussed
  • Purpose and function of engine coolants
  • Principles and details about water quality
  • Types of coolants
  • pH testing and importance
  • Cooling system testing and service procedures
what is coolant
What is Coolant?

Additives: About 3%

Coolant is a mixture of: 1. Water (50%)

2. Freeze depressant (Usually ethylene glycol-about 93%)

3. Corrosion inhibitors (additives)

Ethylene Glycol: 47%

Water: 50%



Need to know


Water is the principal ingredient and:

1. Is inexpensive 2. Is a very efficient heat exchange fluid 3. Has excellent thermal conductivity 4. Has a good specific heat 5. Freezes at 32°F (0°C) 6. Boils at 212°F (100°C)

The water used in coolant must be clean & pure.


Need to know

good water
Good Water

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for water quality include:

Chloride <40 ppm Sulfate <100 ppm Calcium <100 ppm Magnesium <100 ppm Total Hardness <170 ppm pH Range: 5.5—9.0 Iron <1 ppm


Nice to know

good quality water
Good Quality Water
  • Good quality water types include:
  • Deionized
  • Distilled
  • Demineralized
  • Purified


Need to know

city tap water
City Tap Water
  • Usually unknown quality
  • Can have unwanted chlorides, minerals, or salts
  • Unknown pH

Need to know

what to do
What to do?

Test the water at the shop and if it has high mineral content, consider:

1. Purchasing distilled or de- mineralized water

2. Installing a micro filtration system

3. Installing a reverse osmosis system

Need to know

burst pressure
Burst Pressure

Water expands when it freezes, and this creates the burst pressure that can break cooling system components.

Antifreezes (freeze depressants) lower the freeze temperature.


Nice to know

freeze boil

Pure Water

50/50 Anti-Freeze/Water

70/30 Anti-Freeze/Water

Freezing Point

0° C (32° F)

-37° C (-35° F)

-55° C (-67° F)

Boiling Point

100° C (212° F)

106° C (223° F)

113° C (235° F)

Freeze & Boil


Need to know

ethylene glycol
Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is the base antifreeze used in every OEM factory fill.

The additive package will vary.

Need to know

propylene glycol
Propylene Glycol
  • Only sold to the aftermarket
  • Not recommended for use by vehicle manufacturers
  • More expensive than EG, Increased cost is $/gallon
  • Still toxic but is not as sweet as EG

Need to know



Need to know



Need to know

embittered coolant
Embittered Coolant

Embittered = tastes awful

Embittering agent is required (denatonium benzoate, 30 ppm) Required in California and Oregon since 2004 but not included on the label.

Need to know


The major additives:

1. reduce corrosion

2. buffer pH

3. add color (dye)


Need to know


The color helps us identify a coolant leak. It also helps us identify the additive package.

Should not be used as an indicator what to use-some Chrysler vehicles used HOAT coolant that was green


Need to know


Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT) is the traditional green coolant used in most older vehicles. This solution offers fast-acting corrosion protection, but the additives are quickly consumed, exposing the cooling system to possible corrosion problems if not changed regularly.

Need to know


iat usually green in color
IAT antifreeze can contain:

Silicates (possible abrasive dropouts)



IAT (Usually Green in Color)

IAT is considered obsolete and can cause early failure of ceramic-phenolic seals used in newer water pumps.


Need to know

oat usually orange
OAT (Usually Orange)

Organic Acid Technology (OAT) is the formula found in DEX-COOL®, and is usually the antifreeze/coolant of choice for GM, VW, and many Japanese/Asian vehicles. This formula is engineered to offer long-life corrosion protection.

The downside of OAT is it is not compatible with other types of coolant (IAT and HOAT). In fact, Ford, Chrysler and others say to not use this type of coolant in their newer models.


Need to know

oat continued

NAPS=nitrates, amines, phosphate and silicate free

Nice to know

dex cool concerns
DEX-COOL Concerns
  • Root cause seems to be air entering system past the cap and leaking intake manifolds
  • Replace cap and check cap seats if radiator contains air
  • Air causes rust of cast iron and formation of ‘Brown Gunk’
  • Rust then causes blockages

Need to know

rust in engine
Rust in Engine

Need to know

gm dex cool problems
GM DEX-COOL Problems
  • Class action suit; GM may have to pay for intake gaskets on V-6s (V-8s still being determined)

Brown Gunk on radiatorcap

Need to know

dex cool s unique formulation
DEX-COOL’s Unique Formulation
  • DEX-COOL uses Ethylhexanoic Acid (2-EH) as a corrosive inhibitor
  • 2-EH is prone to damage plastics like Nylon 6.6 used in intake manifold gaskets and radiators
  • G30 OAT and Peak Global OAT do NOT use 2-EH

Nice to know

hoat many colors
HOAT (Many colors)

Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) is found in newer Ford, Chrysler and Mercedes vehicles. Said to use the very best aspects of both IAT and OAT, HOAT is a very protective, long-life coolant.


Need to know

g designations
“G” Designations
  • G= Glysantin –trade name of BASF. Valvoline (Zerex) in the US.
  • G30 and G34= non-silicate and phosphate free
  • G05 = different from Texaco’s DEX-COOL, G05 product contains from 252 to 308 PPM Silicon which Valvoline believes provides a better aluminum protection

Nice to know

g designations continued
“G” Designations-continued
  • G11=Blue VW used before 1997
  • G12=Pink/Red VW 1997+
  • G12=Purple VW 2003+
  • HOAT formulation; phosphate free


g designations continued33
“G” Designations-continued
  • G48=Low Silicate and Phosphate free
  • Blue Color
  • NAP =nitrates, amines, phosphate free
  • BMW


replacement antifreeze
Replacement Antifreeze

The best choice is to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.

OR, you can follow the recommendations of reliable antifreeze manufacturers (next slide).

Need to know


Substance pH

Hydrochloric acid -1.0

Battery acid 0.5

Lemon juice 2.4

Cola 2.5

Vinegar 2.9

Orange or Apple juice 3.5

Acid Rain <5.0

Tea or healthy skin 5.5

Milk 6.5

Pure water 7.0

Healthy human saliva 6.5 – 7.4

Blood 7.34 – 7.45

Sea water 7.7 – 8.3

Hand soap 9.0 – 10.0

Household ammonia 11.5

Bleach 12.5

Household lye 13.5

Caustic Soda 13.9



pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Less than 7 is considered acidic. Greater than 7 is considered alkaline.



Nice to know

ph effects
pH Effects

Fresh antifreeze should have a pH between 9 and 11, used between 7.5 and 10. Antifreeze tends to become more acidic over time.

Excessively acidic or alkaline coolant will cause corrosion of cooling system components through galvanic action. It can also increase electrolysis; the dissimilar metals in contact with an electrolyte can produce a simple battery.


Need to know

ph of various coolants
pH of various coolants
  • IAT= 9.0-10.5 new
  • OAT= 7.5-8.5 new (G30 and G34 designation)
  • HOAT= 7.5-8.5 new (G05,G48,G11 or G12 designation)

Need to know

desired ph
Desired pH

Need to know

coolant summary
Coolant Summary
  • Ethylene glycol - Most ethylene glycol coolant is any color and contains about 93% ethylene glycol plus water and additives.
  • Propylene glycol- less harmful to pets and animals because it is not sweet tasting, although it is still harmful if swallowed.
  • Organic acid technology (OAT) antifreeze coolant – This type is ethylene glycol based but it does not contain silicates or phosphates. It is usually orange. DEXCOOL is an OAT coolant.
  • Hybrid organic acid technology (HOAT) – This orange,green, red, blue or yellow coolant is an ethylene glycol based coolant similar to the OAT- type antifreeze as it uses additives (a low amount of silicate)
  • VW/Audi pink - Most of these coolants are HOAT (ethylene glycol-based with
  • some silicate and contain an organic acid) and are phosphate free.
  • Asian red– This coolant is ethylene glycol-based and is silicate-free, yet contains phosphate.
  • Mercedes and Ford yellow – This conventional ethylene glycol coolant has low amounts of silicate and no phosphates.
  • Mercedes Lifetime – Very expensive, can be drained, filtered and reused.
  • Korean or European blue – This conventional ethylene glycol coolant has low amounts of silicate and no phosphates.

Nice to know

corroded water pump
Corroded Water Pump

One of the reasons for the removal of silicates from coolant

Need to know

corroded pump can cause
Corroded pump can cause:
  • reduced coolant flow and an overheating condition

Need to know



Cavitation is the sudden formation and collapse of low-pressure bubbles. With gasoline engines, the pressure drop can occur at the inlet of the water pump. These bubbles produce a pitting of the solid metal .


Need to know

cavitation damage
Cavitation Damage

The very low pressure can produce gas bubbles that implode next to a metal surface. The implosion blasts particles from the surface.

Need to know

diesel wet sleeve cavitation
Diesel Wet Sleeve Cavitation

The sleeve can vibrate during the combustion stroke producing the pressure drop, bubbles, and metal erosion. Heavy duty coolants contain supplemental coolant additives (SCA) to help prevent this.

Need to know


Common corrosion is the “decomposition of metal” and is commonly called rust, an iron oxide that forms on iron components.

Corrosion is also aluminum oxide, the whitish material that forms on aluminum components

Oxide formation eats away at the parent material from the outside, and it also forms an insulating barrier for heat transfer.


Need to know


aluminum oxide, often found on coolant outlet/stat cover


Need to know

metal corrosion
Metal Corrosion

This iron tube has been ruined by rust.

Need to know

galvanic action
Galvanic action
  • Galvanic activity does not require an outside source of voltage
  • The higher the conductivity of the coolant, the greater the amount of corrosion

Need to know


Nice to know

bi metal corrosion
Bi-Metal Corrosion

Ions move from more active metals to less active metal through the coolant which acts like the electrolyte

Nice to know


Electrolysis requires the use of an outside voltage source.

When electrical ions move from metal to the coolant, they can take metal atoms with them. This metal transfer can eat holes in a heater core or radiator. Electrolysis holes will usually start from the inside and have a dark coloration.


Need to know


The oil cooler in this radiator tank is covered with white scale. The scale caused the transmission fluid to overheat, and this contributed to early transmission failure.

If the ECT sensor received a scale coating like this, what would happen to engine and transmission performance?

Need to know

coolant tests
Coolant Tests

Normal coolant tests include:

  • Visual Inspection: should be clean and bright
  • Freeze Point: high boiling point indicates dilution
  • pH: wrong pH indicates buffer loss
  • Coolant Voltage: high voltage indicates wrong pH or stray current flow
  • Miscellaneous or Fleet Concerns

Need to know

coolant condition
Coolant Condition

This “green” antifreeze has a clean, bright appearance. The other types will have a different color but should also appear clean and bright.

A muddy brown or rust-reddish color indicates that corrosion is occurring.

Need to know

freeze protection refractometer
Freeze Protection, Refractometer

A few drops of coolant are placed under the sample window. The technician then holds the unit up to light and looks through the eye piece (right end).

Eye Piece

Sample Window

Need to know

refractometer image
Refractometer Image


Read Here

The image will show the amount of freeze protection and is read at the scale at the bottom edge of the shadow. This unit can check EG and PG antifreeze freeze protection and battery specific gravity.

Need to know

freeze protection test strips
Freeze Protection, Test Strips

Test strips will change color when they are dipped into the coolant, and the color change is compared to the container.

Test strips are fairly accurate, easy to use, and inexpensive.


Need to know

coolant corrosion protection
Coolant Corrosion Protection

The new test strip color is compared to the color pads on the container to determine the amount of freeze protection and corrosion protection.

Need to know

freeze protection hydrometer
Freeze Protection, Hydrometer

? Accuracy

Need to know

testing coolant with a voltmeter
Testing Coolant with a Voltmeter
  • This test gives variable and questionable results depending on many factors
  • Galvanic=less than 200 mV
  • Electrolysis= (engine running and accessories switched on and off)=less than 300 mV. This check can locate faulty ground connections

Need to know

radiator voltage
Radiator Voltage

Connect the negative voltmeter lead to a good ground (this radiator has a plastic filler neck), and immerse the positive lead into the coolant. A reading of 0.300 V or greater indicates corrosion is probably occurring.

Need to know

ph tests
pH Tests

pH can be measure using test strips or a meter.

Fairly accurate and costs pennies/test.

Need to know

ph meter
pH Meter

This Milwaukee is probably more accurate and cost $30.00.

Need to know

coolant replacement
Coolant Replacement
  • About 15 to 20% remains in the system after it has been drained
  • Fill system with antifreeze first and top off with water
  • Or use premixed coolant for good results, and adjust to 50-50 mix
  • Be sure to use the specified coolant
  • GM warns not to reuse coolant drained from the system

Need to know

coolant replacement 2
Coolant Replacement-#2
  • Check the pressure cap and radiator for faults
  • Check all hoses and always use coolant hose

Need to know

ford specifications
Ford Specifications
  • Yellow-colored Motorcraft Premium Gold Engine Coolant, meeting Ford specification WSS-M97B51-A1.* Green-colored Motorcraft Premium Engine Coolant, meeting Ford specification ESE-M97B44-A.* Orange-colored Motorcraft Specialty Orange Engine Coolant, meeting Ford specification WSS-M97B44-D.

Nice to know

universal coolant
Universal Coolant?
  • Universal antifreeze is a traditional green, all-purpose inorganic, additive formula suitable for use in passenger cars and light duty trucks Chrysler/Ford <2003 & GM <1995).
  • Arctic Blend Universal antifreeze/coolant contains a bittering agent to deter accidental swallowing.
  • ASTM D-3306
  • • ASTM D-4340
  • • ASTM D-4985
  • • ASTM D-4656
  • • ASTM D-6471
  • • Cummins 90T8-4
  • • Detroit Diesel 7SE298
  • • GM 1825
  • • GM 1899
  • • GM 6038M
  • • GM 1825M
  • • SAE 1941
  • • Thermo-King
  • • TMC RP 302B
  • • John Deere 8650-5

Nice to know

universal coolant74
Universal Coolant
  • Universal Gold premixed antifreeze/coolant is a universal, hybrid organic acid technology (HOAT), extended life, low-silicate, phosphate-free antifreeze/coolant suitable for automotive/light duty and heavy duty diesel applications. This product was formulated to meet Ford WSS M97B51-A1 and Chrysler MS 9769 and other "global antifreeze" type specifications, as well as ASTM D3306, D4985 and D6210/11. Since this is a HOAT extended life antifreeze/ coolant it combines carboxylate organic acid salts with conventional inorganic salts and azoles; making it compatible with both extended life and conventional technology antifreeze/coolants.

Nice to know

universal coolant75
Universal Coolant

Arctic Blend, Recycool, and Prestone Prime are coolants that have been formulated to be used in any vehicle. Two of these are ethylene glycol-based and one is propylene glycol-based. Exact specifications are available on the internet.

Nice to know

  • Passivate is a chemical reaction the takes place between coolant additives and the metal that it protects. It is fairly fast, a few days, with some combinations and slow, weeks, with others. It creates the barrier between the metal and corrosion, and each chemical creates it's own barrier. Each chemical package (IAT, OAT, or HOAT) does its own passivation, and if you change chemical packages, passivation has to start over, possibly impeded by the earlier package.
  • It boils down to: DO NOT CHANGE PACKAGES.

Nice to know

coolant recovery and storage
Coolant Recovery and Storage

Some shops recycle used antifreeze

Should be stored until picked up for recycling

Notice double containers to help avoid spills

Need to know

flushing a dirty system
Flushing a Dirty System

1. Drain system 2. Fill system with clean water & chemical 3. Run system to operating temp. (Heater on) 4. Drain system & fill with clean water 5. Repeat until drain water runs clear Any remaining flush agent will upset pH. 6. Fill system with 50/50 antifreeze/water mix 7. Run system to operating temp. (Heater on) 8. Adjust coolant level

Caution: If flushing a really dirty system, be prepared to repair some leaks.

Need to know


Some communities permit draining into sewer. EG and PG will biodegrade. There is a problem however if coolant is spilled on open ground.

Need to know

be sure to clean the overflow surge tank
Be sure to clean the overflow/surge tank

It should empty if you start draining with the cap in place.

Need to know

coolant exchange machine
Coolant Exchange Machine

Most shops use machines like this.

Coolant drains have become fragile and hard to find.

Need to know

always check or replace the radiator pressure cap
Always check or replace the radiator pressure cap
  • The cap can be located on
  • the radiator
  • The coolant recovery reservoir
  • The upper radiator hose
  • Note the pressure.

Need to know

cap has two seals
Cap has two seals

Upper Seal

Filler Neck

Lower Seal


What will happen if the upper seal fails? What will happen if the lower seal fails?

Need to know

never open when hot
Never open when hot!

1 psi will increase the coolant boiling point 2.7oF. A 15 lb. Cap will increase the BP 40.5oF.

What can happen if the cap is removed from a hot system?

Need to know

proper fill
Proper Fill

All of the air must be removed from the cooling system by one of these methods:

  • Bleeder screw: lets air escape
  • Air Lift: evacuates system before fill
  • Spill-Free Funnel: Lisle #22150
  • Fluid Exchange: requires special equipment

Need to know

bleeder valves
Bleeder Valves
  • Use a clear hose attached to the bleeder valve and the other end in a “suitable” container
  • Prevents coolant from getting on the engine and gives the technician a visual clue as to color of coolant

Need to know

leak detection
Leak Detection

A good system holds pressure

Tracer dye and some antifreezes glow under UV light

Need to know

what should technician s do
What should Technician's do?
  • Check service information for the designated coolant and replacement interval
  • Check the coolant appearance and level at every service
  • Check the pressure cap appearance at every service
  • Check the appearance and pH for signs that the coolant should be replaced before the regular service interval
  • Check Freeze Point, pH, and Galvanic/Electrolysis

Need to know

typical questions answers
Typical Questions/Answers

1.Are all green antifreezes the same?

A. No-Chrysler used HOAT coolant that was green like IAT coolant

2. Can DEX-COOL be replaced with conventional green coolant?

A. Yes, but then the coolant has be replaced every 24 months or 24,000 miles

questions answers

3. Can coolants be mixed?

A. No

4. Is DEX-COOL propylene glycol ?

A. No. DEX-COOL and all other coolants are ethylene glycol except one labeled propylene glycol and is never used from the factory

  • Not all coolants are the same
  • Not all tap water is OK to use
  • Premixed coolant usually produces good results
  • Check the coolant freezing/boiling point
  • Check the coolant pH
  • Always check or replace the pressure cap, especially on DEX-COOL vehicles
contact information
Contact Information
  • Tom Birch-
  • Jim Halderman-

  • For a copy of this presentation go to: