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When To Change Antifreeze

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:) Hello out there.

When is the best time/mileage to change the antifreeze. Since I have not changed my Coolant Fluid, I have put around 10K miles on the last couple of trips. The coolant looks and feels clean. The tank has never gone below the fill line. The overflow has required 1/2-quart or so over the last two years.

The engine is a C-12 Cat Diesel, Class A pusher. The temperature in the motorhome always runs right on 185 to 190 degrees, no matter whether going up or down hills. Speed has not affected the temperature, either. :rolleyes:

P.S. Also, is they're a special antifreeze that needs to be used on this kind of engine?

Country Coach Magna

2009 Saturn Vue toad

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Very good question.

First, this applies to all diesel engine makers because Caterpillar, Cummins and Detroit Diesel all have the same coolant requirements.

The chassis/coach maker determines what coolant originally went in your coach.

There are two basic kinds:

The less expensive, so more commonly used, is a "Low silicate coolant for diesel with added SCA's." Though Prestone does make a coolant fitting these requirements, it is NOT, repeat NOT, the Prestone you would normally find at Walmart, etc.

This type of coolant has a normal life of three years IF PROPERLY CARED FOR. Proper care mostly involves maintaining the correct SCA concentration. SCA (Supplemental Cooling Additive) is a sacrificial component of the coolant. In other words, it is used up in the normal functioning of the coolant. Too little or too much SCA is harmful to the engine.

Inexpensive coolant test strips (similar to testing swimming pool chemicals) are available where HD diesels are serviced/parts sold. A typical test strip test for pH, freeze point and SCA concentration -- takes about two minutes. Instructions on the test strips give recommended quantities of SCA to be added based on the test results. SCA can be added as a liquid, or if fit by your chassis maker by changing the coolant filter. Yes, the coolant filters function as both filters AND contain different quantities of SCA.

The more expensive kind of coolant are the OAT-based (Organic Acid Technology) coolants such as Caterpillar ELC (Extended Life Coolant). With a single "booster" after three years, they are good for six years. And, they are basically no-maintenance, as there is no need to test or add SCA's. Because of the longer life and lower maintenance, many (including myself) have switched over to the ELC coolant.

With any linered diesel engine such as your Caterpillar C12, just as with any Cummins engine larger than the B engine, coolant and coolant chemistry is CRITICAL. It is the coolant that keeps the cylinder liners from being eroded.

When working on the cooling system be sure to check and service other components. Caterpillar recommends changing thermostats (called regulators) every three years. Checking belts, belt tension, etc is also a good idea.

And on all, but particularly on rear radiator coaches, keep the CAC (Charge Air Cooler -- also known as an after-cooler and inter-cooler) and radiator clean. This requires an annual cleaning from the front (engine side) with a garden hose and perhaps some detergent as well.

Brett

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:) Hello out there.

When is the best time/mileage to change the antifreeze. Since I have not changed my Coolant Fluid, I have put around 10K miles on the last couple of trips. The coolant looks and feels clean. The tank has never gone below the fill line. The overflow has required 1/2-quart or so over the last two years.

The engine is a C-12 Cat Diesel, Class A pusher. The temperature in the motorhome always runs right on 185 to 190 degrees, no matter whether going up or down hills. Speed has not affected the temperature, either. :rolleyes:

P.S. Also, is they're a special antifreeze that needs to be used on this kind of engine?

Country Coach Magna

2009 Saturn Vue toad

Caterpillar's preferred coolant is their CAT ELC, an extended life OAT (organic acid technology) coolant. Caterpillar has published a fluids guide (available from their dealers) that also shows any coolant meeting ASTM D6210 is acceptable for use in Caterpillar engines. Their preferred coolant plus Fleet Charge, Fleetguard ES Compleat EG or PG antifreeze, as well as several products from Shell are all compliant with the ASTM designation. The CAT ELC coolant is available from Caterpillar dealers and most HD truck dealerships carry that as well. The Old World Fleet Charge and ES Compleat are also available form HD truck dealers and some truck stops.

I take it that the MH only has the 10K+ miles on the original coolant. If your chassis manufacturer used any coolant meeting the ASTM or CAT designations, there is no need to consider changing coolant for another 300,000 miles. Be sure to refill low coolant levels with an approved coolant, one that meets the ASTM D6210 designation. If the coolant jug states that it only meets ASTM D3306, it is LD auto coolant. If it is DEXCOOL, it is LD auto coolant. If it states that it meets ASTM D4985, it is an HD coolant BUT needs to have the required chemical precharge added.....avoid this coolant as well.

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Reviving an old thread.

Brett, interesting detail on Coolant for a Diesel. Can you provide similar info for a gas engine. My coach is a 2006 Ford E450 V10 and the Owner's Manual seems to indicate it may have one of 2 different types. The original coolant or a "long life" coolant. Unfortunately, it does not give an easy way to tell which. I know your not supposed to mix the green/orange types. I plan to get some out of the overflow bottle and put it in a clear glass to see the coloration. It looks slightly orange, through the overflow bottle, but looking into the bottle it seems sort of clear.

Of course, I could drain it and then refill with either type, but most likely, if I do this at home, I will not get all the coolant out of the system, just from the radiator, the overflow and a small amount out of the hoses and engine. So when I add whichever, if it is not the same, there would be some mixing.

Also, I did a lot of reading on the internet, (most hits were from other RV forums), and I see a big difference of opinions. Some people recommend coolant drain/refill often. Others say you can go many, many years, just make sure it is giving the proper freeze/overheat protection. I saw on one post where you mentioned the coolant turning acidic, and that is what started me looking into this. I was hoping the Owner's Manual was going to say "use this type and no other", but no such luck. Are there any test strips that would also tell you the type.

Thanks!

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I would take that sample along with your Ford chassis VIN to a Ford dealer-- suspect they can tell you exactly what you have.

And you can do a good job at home-- after draining the radiator, fill with tap water. Put dash heater on full hot (fan on lowest speed). Run until it reaches operating temperature. Let cool. Drain. Repeat until what comes out is clear/clean. Use distilled water for last rinse. Drain. Add 50% of cooling system capacity in (I recommend) the Ford long life coolant CONCENTRATE. This way, if you ever need service and are in a Ford dealership, they will have the proper coolant. Top off with distilled water.

I contact our local city vehicle maintenance department to recycle the old coolant-- no problem.

Brett

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Well I drew that sample and in a clear container it is definitely greenish. So it must be the "standard" type of anti-freeze, not the "long-life".

I used a water test kit and the ph is 7.2. I will pick up some of the test strips from the auto parts store, so I can see the protection levels, as well.

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Reviving an old thread.

Brett, interesting detail on Coolant for a Diesel. Can you provide similar info for a gas engine. My coach is a 2006 Ford E450 V10 and the Owner's Manual seems to indicate it may have one of 2 different types. The original coolant or a "long life" coolant. Unfortunately, it does not give an easy way to tell which. I know your not supposed to mix the green/orange types. I plan to get some out of the overflow bottle and put it in a clear glass to see the coloration. It looks slightly orange, through the overflow bottle, but looking into the bottle it seems sort of clear.

Of course, I could drain it and then refill with either type, but most likely, if I do this at home, I will not get all the coolant out of the system, just from the radiator, the overflow and a small amount out of the hoses and engine. So when I add whichever, if it is not the same, there would be some mixing.

Also, I did a lot of reading on the internet, (most hits were from other RV forums), and I see a big difference of opinions. Some people recommend coolant drain/refill often. Others say you can go many, many years, just make sure it is giving the proper freeze/overheat protection. I saw on one post where you mentioned the coolant turning acidic, and that is what started me looking into this. I was hoping the Owner's Manual was going to say "use this type and no other", but no such luck. Are there any test strips that would also tell you the type.

Thanks!

At that time, Ford factory fill coolant was Motorcraft Premium Gold. It was (is) a hybrid organic coolant. The color was close to that of ginger ale. Ford's original service recommendation was to go five years. But I think that Brett's advice in this matter is just change it out. Since it is not a diesel engine, most any light duty automobile antifreeze coolant will work very well. You may elect to use a HD product intended for diesel engines. You will never need to add any chemical additive to those coolants due to your engine being non-diesel. I would recommend that you do not use Dexcool.

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Here is the info from the owners manual. It says Premium Gold, as original factory coolant.. It mentions not mixing with Specialty Orange, but seems to indicate one could switch to Specialty Orange, if a full flush was done. Also on capacity, it lists 30.4 quarts (or 7.5 gallons), does that sound right?

• Add Motorcraft Premium Gold Engine Coolant or equivalent
meeting Ford specification WSS-M97B51-A1. Refer to Lubricant
specifications in this chapter.

• Do not add/mix an orange-colored, extended life coolant such
as Motorcraft Specialty Orange Engine Coolant, meeting Ford
specification WSS-M97B44-D, with the factory-filled coolant.
Mixing Motorcraft Specialty Orange Engine Coolant or any
orange-colored extended life product with your factory filled coolant
can result in degraded corrosion protection.

I do not have a problem with using Motorcraft. Would the Specialty Orange give me a lot longer time between change outs? Apparently, the Premium Gold was a step up from the older green and is supposed to be a yellowish color. Since mine seems more greenish, (a very pale light green), perhaps the prior owner used the green type, either doing a full flush or just when adding makeup. My Owner Manual does not list a time period or mileage recommendation for changing the engine coolant, with the Premium Gold.

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Here is the info from the owners manual. It says Premium Gold, as original factory coolant.. It mentions not mixing with Specialty Orange, but seems to indicate one could switch to Specialty Orange, if a full flush was done. Also on capacity, it lists 30.4 quarts (or 7.5 gallons), does that sound right?

• Add Motorcraft Premium Gold Engine Coolant or equivalent

meeting Ford specification WSS-M97B51-A1. Refer to Lubricant

specifications in this chapter.

• Do not add/mix an orange-colored, extended life coolant such

as Motorcraft Specialty Orange Engine Coolant, meeting Ford

specification WSS-M97B44-D, with the factory-filled coolant.

Mixing Motorcraft Specialty Orange Engine Coolant or any

orange-colored extended life product with your factory filled coolant

can result in degraded corrosion protection.

I do not have a problem with using Motorcraft. Would the Specialty Orange give me a lot longer time between change outs? Apparently, the Premium Gold was a step up from the older green and is supposed to be a yellowish color. Since mine seems more greenish, (a very pale light green), perhaps the prior owner used the green type, either doing a full flush or just when adding makeup. My Owner Manual does not list a time period or mileage recommendation for changing the engine coolant, with the Premium Gold.

Instead of the Motorcraft, check with an autoparts store for Valvoline G-05. Valvoline made the Premium Gold for Ford Motorcraft. I would very much agree that mixing Ford's Specialty Orange is not good. It is actually Dexcool. Dexcool is a very skimpy formulation as coolants go but especially so when compared to G-05/Premium Gold. Yes, the volume sounds about right for a V10 and a rather large radiator. Originally Ford specified that factory fill of the Premium Gold would have an operating life of 5 years BUT when changed out, the operating life was reduced to 3 years. The G-05 / PG formula is suitable for the Ford PowerStroke diesel. But as a gasoline engine, the additive package will not degrade as it would with a diesel. Should be no problem running it for the 5 years. Use only the Premium Gold or G-05 to refill low coolant levels. In your gas engine there will be no need to test or re-inhibit this coolant.

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I read about Zerex G05. Is the Valvoline the same or just as good? I'm leaning towards going with either Zerex or now Valvoline, depending on what I can get in my area and at what costs. I will flush as good as I can, then put in the coolant and then distilled water. One thing I read said when you put in the flush water, or the final coolant, run the engine and the heater, but leave the pressure cap off, to facilitate any burping and keep the system from building up pressure. How long should the engine be off for sufficient cooling before draining again?

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I read about Zerex G05. Is the Valvoline the same or just as good? I'm leaning towards going with either Zerex or now Valvoline, depending on what I can get in my area and at what costs. I will flush as good as I can, then put in the coolant and then distilled water. One thing I read said when you put in the flush water, or the final coolant, run the engine and the heater, but leave the pressure cap off, to facilitate any burping and keep the system from building up pressure. How long should the engine be off for sufficient cooling before draining again?

Zerex is the trade name for Valvoline coolant products. Yes, it is the same and just as good. Only less expensive. You may have to search to find this product at auto parts stores. As for flushing any cooling system, simple flushing with tap water is sufficient. After draining the old coolant you will have some holdback volume of the old coolant. The tap water flush will dilute that considerably leaving some water in the system. Flushing can be done without the pressure cap being installed. Auto parts stores should carry the Prestone flushing kit. It is designed to let you use the garden hose connected through your heater plumbing circuit to flush the system with water leaving almost no trace of old coolant. Some say to use only distilled water to flush with. Absolutely not necessary. For the small amount of hold back coolant the mineral content, if any, is negligible. When done flushing. add one half of the total system capacity using concentrate coolant product of your choice. Fill the remaining volume with your distilled water or water from reverse osmosis treatment. And, really, you can just use tap water. Personally, I use Fleetguard ES Compleat in my cooling systems. I use concentrate and add Tennessee tap water. Decent coolant products like the Zerex G-05, Motorcraft Premium Gold and several others use robust anti-scaling agents that isolate scale forming carbonates preventing the formation of deposits. As far as long coolant life goes, it is not the formulation of inhibitors that determines real coolant life. Aggressive marketing by several coolant manufacturers have driven the idea that it is the inhibitors that determine how long a coolant can be used. In reality, the inhibitor package determines service intervals. Coolant life is governed by chemical and physical changes that may occur. For instance, if an engine has an oil cooler that fails and releases oil into the cooling system, there is nothing you can do to keep that coolant for continued operation. In you case, this could be the transmission oil cooler within your radiator. For diesel engines, that would be the separate oil cooler within the engine. Coolant can become unusable if subjected to severe and repeated overheating conditions. Glycols degrade due to heat exposure. Eventually, a normal operating system will degrade the coolant by formation of degradation products. This is why there are recommendations on coolant life. I expect that your motorhome use will not really be a lot of miles per year. Thus, you are likely to still have a suitable coolant even after 3, 4, or five years.

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So, at least to some degree, the coolant doesn't become less effective just due to age alone, but age in combination with the kind of duty it is asked to perform. Heavier constant use would degrade it's performance earlier. Less often, shorter drives, like a MH that gets maybe 200 to 300 miles over a weekend or week, every 6 to 8 weeks, it should hold up it's ability to perform it's designed task for longer periods of time. Is that basically correct?

I will be getting Zerex G05, it's not too expensive, so my last flush, as well as the water I put in, will be distilled. Actually, we use drinking water from one of the machines at the grocery, we fill a 5 gallon jug, they use reverse osmosis and a couple filters. It is $1.75 for 5 gallons.

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I got my Zerex and plan to flush/change this weekend. My E450 V10 is a 2006 with about 40K. I know some people mention changing the hoses. I'd like to, but expense right now is an issue. But I wouldn't want a bad hose to cause me to have to buy all new coolant, it was $72 for the 4 jugs of full strength, (with tax). Also, some of the hoses are probably too difficult for me to change myself, due to the long length and where they go to on the engine. I'm wondering if I should wait and do it all again in 4 or 5 years, including the coolant and all hoses. As best as I can tell, the hoses seem OK.

I just looked again and the large Upper and Lower Radiator Hoses seem fairly simple to replace, can get to both ends easily, so I may at least change those, depending on what most folks here think.

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I wanted to thank all who gave suggestions and help on this. I finally got the coolant changed right around the end of Aug/beginning of Sept. It was over many days, as I had to flush a couple times until it was mostly clear. Apparently I did it all correct though, because we took the RV from South Florida up through GA, NC, then back down the east coast home and it never overheated or leaked coolant. I was a little concerned because, in order to get a good flush, each time I drained I had to remove the large coolant hose at the bottom of the radiator, beside opening the drain itself. But it all seems to be fine.

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