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Overheating Due to Overfill of Coolant

by Jessica Cohen

Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is an essential part of maintaining optimal car function. The main ingredient in antifreeze is glycol, with most modern car engines using a mixture of glycol and water. Filling and maintaining your coolant is a relatively simple procedure. However, if it is not done properly, you can cause serious damage to the engine of your car. If you are unsure about to correctly measure the coolant for your car, have it done by a professional auto repair person, who also can show you how to refill the coolant yourself.

What is Antifreeze?

The main purpose of antifreeze is to lower the freezing point of water during the winter, and raise the boiling point during the summer. For cars, this can be a necessary part of vehicle maintenance if you live in extreme climate conditions. After being placed in the car, the antifreeze circulates through the engine system. The coolant runs through the internal combustion system, preventing the different sections of the vehicles engine from becoming too hot.

Overheating: Too much Coolant

Using straight antifreeze in your car can be just as, if not more detrimental, than no antifreeze at all. Antifreeze must first be mixed with water to produce the desired effects for your engine. Simply running antifreeze through your system alone can cause extremely high temperatures in your engine, resulting in overheating. If you have mistakenly filled your car with only antifreeze without pre-mixing the substance, loosen the bottom radiator hose and drain about half of the coolant. Add water to make about a 50/50 antifreeze water mixture.

Lack of Coolant

A refractometer is the best method for measuring how much antifreeze you have in your car. Too much coolant can cause significant problems to your vehicle. Overheating, as previously described, corrosion, water pump failure and increased engine wear. Too much water however, results in a mixture that will not produce the desired effects of using coolant in the first place. In some instances, for example in very moist and hot temperatures, lack of coolant can also cause your engine to overheat. Without enough coolant, there is no substance to absorb and remove the excessive heat in the engine. Unless you are clear on how to properly refill the coolant in your car, it may be worth the expense and trouble of having a professional do it for you.

Coolant Types

Different types of coolant are available, depending on the climate in which you live and your specific needs. Coolants usually are made of either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. It is recommended that you do not mix different kinds of coolants, but flush your system before adding a different type. A new type of coolant available is referred to as "long life" coolant. This type of coolant contains organic acid inhibitors and is thought to last longer than other kinds of coolant.

The Cooling System

The cooling system of an engine is a sealed system. As the pressure in your engine system increases, the temperature will increase. As the water in your engine increases past the boiling point, the water will turn into steam, which is not as effective as liquid at keeping your engine cool. By adding coolant to your engine system, you increase the boiling point of the water, allowing your engine to stay properly cooled. Otherwise, you will experience overheating of the engine.

About the Author

Jessica Cohen is a professional freelance writer who graduated with honors from the New School University in New York City, earning her bachelor's degree in liberal arts. Cohen specializes in writing music reviews and related articles, and most recently worked as a grant/technical writer for a nonprofit music organization in New York City.

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