courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man
A previous issue had an article about car radiators, which made me think of questions I have about my own vehicle. I drive a 1993 4 cylinder Toyota pickup, automatic transmission. When I last had the oil changed and tires rotated (a local garage does this for about $18.00, which I find to be reasonable), the mechanic recommended I have the radiator flushed and cleaned at the next (3,000) mile change/checkup. He quoted about $45.00 for this procedure. I've owned this vehicle since 8/93, and upon purchase it had 18 miles on it. It now has just over 21,000 (I don't travel much) and has never had anything but a regular check in regards to the radiator/anti-freeze. I'm not sure how to do this myself, or if I can. I know it is possible for me to change my own oil, and I do this when time & convenience allow. The complex where I live forbids car repairs/maintenance to be done in the parking lots, and I have to do that kind of thing at my brother's house. I'm wondering if Bob could explain the procedure, supplies needed, and estimated time involved in flushing the radiator? Also, I wonder if he would think it worth the cost of purchasing one of those type/model "bibles" published for the vehicle owner interested in doing maintenance herself. Any advice offered will be muchly appreciated.
First, I must start with the last few questions that you asked. Should an owner get the "bible?" Not only get the "bible" but get a code scanner! If you have never seen that "annoying" check engine light, this little device will help you determine what it is. In regards to home radiator flushing, there are several ways to do it.
One way is a little kit that includes an adapter that you install in one of the heater lines. Personally, I can't believe that they sell these things! They want you to cut a perfectly good hose and insert this adapter with a screw cap and clamps... Do you know how many of these things that I have seen leak after a few years? Stay away from them.
The other way is with a chemical flush. This is most likely what your local service station is going to do. Go to your local auto parts discount house, discount department store, or anywhere that might carry liquid radiator flush. Prestone makes a good one.
Now I also must admit that this is something that I neglect to do myself. On my truck, (for those of you that don't know, it's a 91 Ford Bronco with a 351 engine) I have only done this once, last summer! and as a result, the thermostat failed (got dirty and would not close causing the car not to build and heat, but it was 6 years old).
I was involved in a program with Volvo, and one of the things I had my mechanics do, was check the condition of the anti-freeze... after this program was over, I did mine, but only because it was fresh on my mind. It is one of those things that you tend to forget about. Now after you get the chemical flush, go to your brothers house and get out the garden hose. The process will take about 30 minutes... read the instructions carefully.
It will tell you to open the cap and pour in the fluid, make sure that you do this with the engine cold. If you don't, have you ever seen "ole reliable" the geyser at Yellowstone park? If not, you will and will probably get hurt in the process with the hot water escaping out the top! Be careful! Follow the instructions on the bottle... after the chemical has been in for a few minutes, you will have to drain it out and run the car on WATER for a few more minutes... this removes the chemical from the system... then fill drain and refill with the appropriate amount of anti-freeze and water.
Make sure that you have your heater on Hot and on high while doing this. This will make sure that the whole system gets cleaned. This will make a mess at your brother's house, so bring a pizza with you... Hey, it works for me.
Bob, The Auto Answer Man
Have a car care question? Visit our automotive center and see if we've already answered it or a similar question.
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