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Mark Polk, motorhome  and motor coach maintenance expert

By Mark Polk
RV Education 101 

Normally I would be discussing the RV antifreeze used to protect the water system in your RV during periods of freezing temperatures. Today I want to talk briefly about flushing and replacing the automotive antifreeze in your motorhome.

The average consumer is aware of the long-term benefits of changing engine oil on a regular basis, but many are not aware of the benefits of changing the antifreeze in their motorhome at recommended intervals.

The cooling system of any vehicle performs an important job -- to prevent the heat-producing engine from overheating and, quite possibly, seizing up. When you don’t flush and replace the antifreeze periodically, rust, scale and corrosion build up in the radiator and engine coolant passages. Eventually, this buildup could result in an overheated engine.

Let’s talk a minute about what a vehicle coolant system is intended to do. First, if an engine did not have methods for transferring the heat that is produced through combustion and friction, the hot metal parts would melt down and seize up. Heat from the engine is basically removed through the exhaust system and through the cooling system. All heat-producing sections of an internal combustion engine need to be cooled, including the combustion chamber, heads, cylinder walls and the engine block itself. This is accomplished by circulating coolant around these heat-producing areas of the engine. The coolant picks the heat up and releases much of it as it circulates through the vehicle’s radiator.

Water does a good job helping to cool an engine, but it has drawbacks. Most importantly, it freezes quickly during cold winter temperatures. Water also can cause certain metals to rust and corrode over time. This is why the water in a vehicle cooling system is mixed with what we refer to as antifreeze.

Here are my top 7 reasons for flushing and replacing your antifreeze at recommended intervals:

1) New antifreeze provides maximum protection against freezing.

2) Flushing the cooling system helps remove old scale and rust, and the corrosion inhibitors in new antifreeze help prevent scale and rust buildup in the cooling system.

3) New antifreeze helps keep the engine operating at its most efficient temperature regardless of operating conditions and outside temperatures.

4) When you don’t flush and replace the antifreeze at recommended intervals, chemicals start to break down and cannot perform the job as effectively as new antifreeze can. Like used engine oil, antifreeze breaks down and needs to be replaced for maximum lubrication and cooling performance.

5) Often, the cause of a cooling system component failure can be attributed to not flushing and replacing the antifreeze. Rust and scale buildup can lead to radiator hose, water pump or thermostat failure -- and your RV broken down on the side of the road.

6) If the coolant system hasn’t been flushed and the antifreeze hasn't been replaced for several years beyond the recommended interval, the result could be an overheated engine. I have seen coolant passages in vehicle engines completely blocked because of this.

7) Flushing and replacing antifreeze adds to the longevity of the engine and engine components.

The bottom line is periodic inspections of the motorhome coolant system components, and flushing and replacing antifreeze at recommended intervals, will add years of life to the motorhome engine and prevent breakdowns.

Keep in mind that glycol antifreeze is poisonous to humans and pets and that it needs to be disposed of properly. Follow the guidelines in your vehicle owner’s manual for flushing and replacing antifreeze, and make sure you are using the proper type of antifreeze recommended for your particular vehicle.

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