Basic maintenance: AC, battery, radiator and power steering (Pt. 2)

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Close-up of a car radiator being filled with green coolant.

Only put the same color of 50-50 coolant-water mix in your car's radiator. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Fir0002/Wikipedia)

Basic maintenance tips like these aren’t difficult to follow, and they’re essential if you’re hoping to enjoy maximum life from your vehicle. CLICK HERE if you missed the beginning of this article.

Basic maintenance tips: Radiator

While air conditioning keeps you cool, what about the engine? That’s where the radiator comes into play. Without proper radiator function, engine temperatures can run dangerously high. This in turn can cause parts in the engine to crack, warp and otherwise become completely non-functional. Keep that fluid level high and properly mixed.

Radiator tip No. 1 – Keep it sealed, keep it safe

If you notice a radiator leak, be proactive. You don’t necessarily have to have it replaced if you act fast. Use a radiator sealant like Alumaseal to plug the hole. Just pour it into the radiator, make sure the radiator is topped off with coolant, then run the engine for at least 20 minutes. Not coincidentally, this same technique can also help seal a leak in your car’s heater core.

Radiator tip No. 2 – Make it half-and-half

Radiator coolant should be neither all antifreeze nor all water. The mixture should be roughly a 50-50 ratio between the two. This ensures proper heat transfer without the dangers of freezing that all water poses.

Radiator tip No. 3 – Keep that radiator full

Periodically check your radiator reservoir to ensure proper fluid level. Don’t do this if the engine is hot – wait until it’s cold. Fill it to just beneath the brim with 50-50 mix so that you don’t spill coolant on the ground needlessly.

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Radiator tip No. 4 – Go for the flush

Over time, coolant tends to degrade and become contaminated. A radiator flush then becomes a good idea, so that damage to the radiator, thermostat or water pump, as well as clogging the heater core, can be avoided. In most cases, automotive manufacturers recommend a radiator flush every two years for common coolants, or as many as five for newer, premium synthetics.

Radiator tip No. 5 – You better keep ’em separated

Make sure you only have coolant of one color in your radiator at any given time. Try not to mix pink with green, or yellow. This can cause the solution to thicken and not work at an optimum level. Consult your car’s owner’s manual for the best kind of engine coolant to use.

Basic maintenance tips: Power steering

The convenience of power steering in modern vehicles can only be appreciated once you’ve driven a vehicle without it. Notice how much more difficult it is to steer? It’s not impossible, but it requires noticeably more effort. With power steering, you can corner with relative ease, but fluid in the system must be maintained.

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Power steering tip No. 1 – Check the fluid

Once per month, warm up the car’s engine, then check the power steering fluid. If the fluid level is in need of replenishment, you’ll want to have the hoses and pump inspected in order to ascertain whether there’s a leak. If there is no discernible leak, fill to the proper level with the type of power steering fluid recommended for your car. Just don’t ignore the problem if it’s low, as this not only makes the car more difficult to steer, but damage to the power steering pump can occur.


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