Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2008   by Auto Service World

Promote Cooling System Health

While many of us will struggle with our health this winter, it is important to have a plan in place to help your clients ensure that their customers’ cars don’t catch a cold. There are a number of resources and strategies that will help you do this.

Most often the focus on cooling systems is on the hoses and the coolant. Pressure testing of a system is generally taken as a sign that the system is in good order. However, as veterans of the aftermarket know, a good pressure test today does not guarantee proper functioning tomorrow.

Hidden Weak Points

While not a newly discovered phenomenon, electrolytic degradation is the result of a galvanic reaction with the metal attachment points at the engine and radiator. Over time, this can cause cracks in the interior surface of the hose, allowing coolant to migrate into the reinforcing layers of the hose.

The weak points that result can burst under normal pressure, but as the damage is from the inside, they are invisible until a failure results. This is why manufacturers have been recommending that hoses be replaced every two to four years.

Timing Belt Service

There are few service items that are as cost-effective as timing belt replacement, certainly considering the potential damage that can result from a failure.

Timing belts should be regularly inspected for sheared teeth, worn teeth, damage to the edge of the belt, cracks or wear on the back of the belt, and grease or oil contamination.

Training Resources

Online resources for improving your and your customers’ knowledge base are plentiful.

For example, Gates has a series of seven “Professional Development Series” training publications, available online at While these focus on the technician, much of the information is also important for the professional counterperson to know, even if just to remind your technician clients of some of the basics they may have overlooked.

The series includes:

“Introduction to Front-End Accessory and V-Belt Drive Systems”

“Introduction to Automotive Fluid Systems” “Introduction to Power Steering”

“Guide to Using the Gates Hydraulics Catalogue” “Introduction to Hydraulics” “Introduction to Fleet & Heavy-Duty” “Selling the Fleet Market”

Dayco also has a series of training tools, including video training modules on CD.

Covering automotive as well as industrial topics, the modules include titles such as “Replacement Tensioners,” “Belt and Hose Clinic; Multi-Rib Belt Clinic,” “DIY Belt & Hose Inspec-tion/Installation,” and “Service Technician Sales Training.”

ATV/Snowmobile Parts

Major belt and hose suppliers have a significant ATV/snowmobile offering, with accompanying cataloguing and information resources. Counterpeople should familiarize themselves with these offerings for the coming winter season, and note any changes to their key suppliers’ programs. In addition, counter staff not familiar with the specific parts and requirements of this market should consider studying publications such as Dayco’s Troubleshooting Guide for ATV and Snowmobile Drive Belts.

Having the Right Inventory

As much as the right preventative maintenance approach may be proven to be effective, there will be many consumers who only pay attention to their car’s cooling system when steam is rising from a burst hose. For these occasions you need to have the right inventory on hand to serve your trade customer well. Use the resources available from your supplier to hone your inventory, and consult with your customers about parts that may be difficult to source so that you can be prepared to fill the void.

Coolant Function and Maintenance: 10 Things You Should Remember

1. Most consumers have only a passing understanding of the need for antifreeze/coolant. The issue of coolant maintenance may not be clearly understood by the consumer.

2. The coolant’s job is to protect the engine, not just cool it. Coolants can only work for so long: two years for standard coolants, perhaps as long as five or more for special long-life types. Coolant becomes contaminated by other engine fluids and combustion gases, which happens in even the best engines over time.

3. Additives in the coolant help to protect the engine’s metal and rubber components from the erosion that the circulating coolant can cause. Additives keep coolant at the right pH level, fighting the formation of acids and alkaline compounds that can eat away at components.

4. Topping up with undiluted coolant or water alone can cause severe problems. Coolant must be kept in the proper proportion with distilled water, about 50/50. More or less can compromise cooling and antifreeze abilities, as well as their ability to protect engine components.

5. Every car should receive a coolant check regularly to ensure it remains free of contaminants and at the right pH level.

6. Low coolant level means that coolant is leaking out, or the system has lost pressure. Either could be early signs of a component failure and should be checked out.

7 Leaking coolant contaminates the environment with coolant additives as well as metals and other toxic substances it picks up from the engine.

8. Low coolant can also cause increased emissions because sensors don’t get the right information.

9. Coolant recycling and replacement, where available, is a viable, environmentally responsible option that provides proper vehicle protection while keeping contaminant out of the environment.

10. Proper coolant condition helps keep the engine running better longer.

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