Antifreeze; coolant. Whatever you call it, it’s still the same thing. It keeps the car from boiling over. It keeps the car from freezing. But there are a lot of mistakes that most drivers make.

The first and foremost one is if a little bit is good, a whole lot is better. Wrong. The proper concentration for most areas of the country is going to be 50 percent water, 50 percent antifreeze. Now what happens if you go beyond that? Here we have a 50-50 mix. Look at the bolt in there . It’s nice and shiny[left]. Here we have pure antifreeze. Look at this bolt. It’s all rusty[right], and they’ve both been in there the same amount of time.

But another common mistake, and that is there are all kinds of different antifreezes on the market these days, and many of them are vehicle-specific. Now we have the ethylene glycol{right]. We have Dex-Cool[middle], Asian red [left], and there's a whole host of other ones. Well don't think that these products are universal, because they're not. They are not interchangeable in many situations. So read your owner's manual and only use the product that is supposed to go into your car. One size does not fit all.

Then you make mistakes with the way you check antifreeze. You know, you’ve got all these hydrometers around. Yeah, they’ll tell you what the freeze protection of the coolant is, but they don’t tell you anything else. And one thing to be careful of, if you have one of them that the bulb on it is green, it isn’t even for checking regular antifreezes. This is for propylene glycol. So be careful about that.

Then come things like test strips. Sure, we use test strips in the industry to check the condition of coolant. But the ones you typically buy are only going to tell you the freeze protection and the boiling point of it. What technicians use, well the test strips have multiple functions, and they’re going to tell us not only the freeze protection, but they’re going to tell us the PH, or the acidity of the antifreeze in the radiator. Antifreeze becomes acidic with age, and it just eats things up.

But when it eats things up, you can be looking at big problems. If the cooling system is poorly maintained, you can get coolant mixed with oil. The head gasket went bad, the coolant got into the oil, we got a mess and it destroyed the engine. Now how can you prevent things like that? Well, you should flush the cooling system every two years. Now the exception to that is if your car came from the factory with a long-life coolant, follow the directions in the owner’s manual. And while you’re flushing it, have your technician replace the radiator cap and the thermostat. These things wear out, and by keeping them fresh, you’ll protect against overheating problems. You’ll also, by flushing and taking care of things and putting the proper amounts and proper coolants in, you’ll avoid problems like this radiator succumbed to, and that is a lot of buildup of scale inside it. It had to be replaced.