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Thread: Cooland questions, Dexcool, etc.

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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Cooland questions, Dexcool, etc.

    I just changed the water pump in my 1996 Saturn SL2. I drained the green coolant, but when it was time to add some, I realized I screwed up and bought some O'Reillys 50-50 mix of Dexcool and water, which is orange in color. It was the only stuff I had here, so I poured it in, so I could complete the job. This might have been a mistake.

    After some internet searching, I see tons of opinions on both sides, about how harmful this is, but few facts. Some claim Dexcool blows head gaskets and all kinds of things, even in the cars that were designed for Dexcool. Millions of people have flushed their radiators that came with Dexcool and put in the old green stuff. There is no real evidence that Dexcool lasts longer, but there are such claims from GM. What is known is when Dexcool goes bad, it really goes bad and must be flushed right away, even though there is a claim (that has NO warranty from GM) that the Dexcool will last twice as long as the green stuff.

    What are the opinions here? Should I drain this orange junk out or leave it in for a while?

    -Don- SSF, CA

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    I bought a gallon of 50-50 mix of coolant, thinking it was the green coolant for my 76 Chevy (no way to check the contents in the store) and to my surprise, it was orange-colored, so I checked with my mechanic and was told NOT to use it, and that the only ones to be used for my Chevy was the green one that I've been using since day one I bought 36 years ago. Lucky for me I also had a 5 qt bottle of the 100 % coolant. Apparently, DexCool is used in modern-era cars only.

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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    But what are the reasons to not use it? So far, the orange stuff seems to be working fine, but if it harms something later, well, it's my junkiest car anyway.

    But what's the difference between the cars that are designed for Dexcool compared to the cars that are designed for the green stuff, other than age of the vehicle?

    But one thing I did hear is that the Dexcool is for aluminum radiators & engines only. Unlike your 76, my 96 Saturn is an aluminum engine as well as radiator.

    This is the stuff I put in there.

    Notice it says:


    "May be used in all other cars and light duty trucks with aluminum radiators."

    I just noticed that, so I guess I should be okay as is.

    -Don-
    Last edited by DonTom; 04-11-2013 at 05:07 AM.

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    But what are the reasons to not use it? So far, the orange stuff seems to be working fine, but if it harms something later, well, it's my junkiest car anyway.

    But what's the difference between the cars that are designed for Dexcool compared to the cars that are designed for the green stuff, other than age of the vehicle?

    But one thing I did hear is that the Dexcool is for aluminum radiators & engines only. Unlike your 76, my 96 Saturn is an aluminum engine as well as radiator.

    This is the stuff I put in there.

    Notice it says:


    "May be used in all other cars and light duty trucks with aluminum radiators."

    I just noticed that, so I guess I should be okay as is.

    -Don-
    You can use either one but not both. The two coolants do NOT mix well. The end result is a sort of muddy compound. I've seen component failures in high mileage engines from internal corrosion. Dexcool is supposed to have an extended anti-corrosion package.

    Green and red coolant are both what used to be called "permanent" antifreeze. As long as you don't lose any and add water, the anti-freeze portion will never go away. However, the anti-corrosion part breaks down after 24-36 months. That;s why I change my coolant every 2-3 years. Dexcool is supposed to have anti-corrosion good for 5 years.

    A '76 Chevy has a steel engine. A Saturn has a bimetal engine with steel and aluminum parts. The two metals cause dielectric corrosion when water flows over them. GM has a long history of introducing things before the bugs are out. The Vega engine had a good design but they "forgot" to put steel sleeves in an aluminum engine like Chrysler did 10 years previously and the engines wore out quick. People bought Cadillacs that didn't require tune ups for 100,000 miles and then found out that you DID have to change the plugs or they would weld themselves into the heads. The tune up every 100K was for things like timing belts.

    I just buy Peak or Prestone anti-freeze with a label on the front that says "Mixes with all color coolant". I use it on several vehicles and it works just fine.
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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Do I get enough of the green coolant out when I drain the radiator for the change to the orange stuff? AFAIK, there is no bolt to drain the coolant left in the engine.

    I would simply change it back to the green stuff, but the cheap plastic radiator drain valve broke and I don't think I can open it up again without a big risk that I won't be able to close it up again.

    And even if I did change it back, I would still have the orange stuff mixed in with the new green stuff.

    -Don-

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    Do I get enough of the green coolant out when I drain the radiator for the change to the orange stuff? AFAIK, there is no bolt to drain the coolant left in the engine.

    I would simply change it back to the green stuff, but the cheap plastic radiator drain valve broke and I don't think I can open it up again without a big risk that I won't be able to close it up again.

    And even if I did change it back, I would still have the orange stuff mixed in with the new green stuff.

    -Don-


    It depends on which part of the valve you broke. If you broke the spout, you're gouged. If you messed up the screw in plug that stoppers it, check with a parts store like AutoZone and see if they have a new one. It would be in the Dorman "Help" section if they have it. On an older car, like Chevyman's, I'd say just drain it with the heater control set to hot. Once the water quits draining, you start to wiggle the car sideways to break suction in the heater core. You'll know when you do as it will gurgle and a slug of water will come out.

    Now, if you can get a new stopper and want to drain your car, I would start by removing the lower radiator hose. This will let nearly all the coolant out. With the heater control set to hot, take one heater hose off and shoot water from a hose into it. If you use the hose that isn't attached near the water pump, you'll be back flushing and any crud in the heater core may come out too. Keep flushing until the water runs clear. Shhot some water into the radiator and maybe the upper hose too. Let it sit for a bit and just dribble and then hook everything back up. If any of the hoses are hard or REALLY soft, now would be a good time to change them. Hook everything back up and refill it.
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    One small caution:
    Never flush/ rinse/ refill the coolant system of an engine that's not stone cold.
    ... unless you like replacing head gaskets.

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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    It depends on which part of the valve you broke.
    I think I only broke the center thingie, but I will have to take another look to be sure. It is not leaking or anything.

    Anyway, how harmful is it to leave only as much old green coolant left as stays in the engine / heater core, etc., with a simple radiator drain, when I change to refill with the orange stuff, as I just did? Less than two gallons of coolant fills it all the way up. Somewhere around 6 quarts or so fills it.

    I am trying to convince myself that the job is done well enough as is, so I don't have to bother with it for a while. Perhaps I would be more likely to redo the job correctly if it wasn't such an old car that I don't care much about. But it's just an old 96 Saturn with 135,000 miles.

    -Don- SF, CA

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    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    I am trying to convince myself that the job is done well enough as is, so I don't have to bother with it for a while. Perhaps I would be more likely to redo the job correctly if it wasn't such an old car that I don't care much about. But it's just an old 96 Saturn with 135,000 miles.

    Damn, Don, only 135K miles - that's darn near run in, now you can gradually start using it up to full performance over the next 100k or so.

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    One small caution:
    Never flush/ rinse/ refill the coolant system of an engine that's not stone cold.
    ... unless you like replacing head gaskets.


    That goes without saying. I never work on a hot engine unless I'm tuning it. Something about hot metal, scalding steam and so on makes me uncomfortable.
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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    I think I only broke the center thingie, but I will have to take another look to be sure. It is not leaking or anything.

    Anyway, how harmful is it to leave only as much old green coolant left as stays in the engine / heater core, etc., with a simple radiator drain, when I change to refill with the orange stuff, as I just did? Less than two gallons of coolant fills it all the way up. Somewhere around 6 quarts or so fills it.

    I am trying to convince myself that the job is done well enough as is, so I don't have to bother with it for a while. Perhaps I would be more likely to redo the job correctly if it wasn't such an old car that I don't care much about. But it's just an old 96 Saturn with 135,000 miles.

    -Don- SF, CA


    You may have just broke that little tab that holds it in the radiator when it's unscrewed. Not seeing it I have to guess but I've broken them like that before. As for a little green mixed in, I would drain and flush it. However, a lot of the major antifreeze makers have been compounding coolant that will mix with all colors lately. It will usually say "mixes with all color coolant" on the jug. If that's what you put in, don't worry about it. As for an old car, it's newer than what I usually drive and my cars often have over 200K.
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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    This is the stuff I put in. Unfortunately, it says nothing about mixing with anything else, but I decided not to worry about it. I doubt if enough green stuff is left in to be harmful. I would probably be more concerned if it were a newer vehicle that I cared more about.

    Along with the broken drain thingie, I doubt it's worth the trouble to drain.

    But if I ever have to add any for any reason, I will just continue with the orange stuff.

    If it ever seems to cause a possible problem, I will post a message here.

    -Don- SSF, CA

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    This is the stuff I put in. Unfortunately, it says nothing about mixing with anything else, but I decided not to worry about it. I doubt if enough green stuff is left in to be harmful. I would probably be more concerned if it were a newer vehicle that I cared more about.

    Along with the broken drain thingie, I doubt it's worth the trouble to drain.

    But if I ever have to add any for any reason, I will just continue with the orange stuff.

    If it ever seems to cause a possible problem, I will post a message here.

    -Don- SSF, CA


    The key phrase at the listing is "COMPATIBLE WITH". I don't think you'll have any problems. Now, if it said it was a refill for dexcool, you might have problems. However, by making it compatible with all coolants they can sell more of one formulation. It's low silica so your aluminum radiator and water pump won't have any issues. I've replaced aluminum water pumps with impeller erosion from silica scouring it out.
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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    The key phrase at the listing is "COMPATIBLE WITH". I don't think you'll have any problems. Now, if it said it was a refill for dexcool, you might have problems. However, by making it compatible with all coolants they can sell more of one formulation. It's low silica so your aluminum radiator and water pump won't have any issues. I've replaced aluminum water pumps with impeller erosion from silica scouring it out.
    I saw where it said "Meets the silicate free requirements of Japanese OEMs and meets the phosphate -free of Europen OEMs." But I didn't see where it said it would be compatible with other colors of coolant. But since they do sell stuff that is, I wondered if this stuff is too, but they don't seem to be saying it directly.

    BTW, the stuff they sell that mixes with any color coolant--what color is that stuff?

    -Don- SSF, CA

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    I saw where it said "Meets the silicate free requirements of Japanese OEMs and meets the phosphate -free of Europen OEMs." But I didn't see where it said it would be compatible with other colors of coolant. But since they do sell stuff that is, I wondered if this stuff is too, but they don't seem to be saying it directly.

    BTW, the stuff they sell that mixes with any color coolant--what color is that stuff?

    -Don- SSF, CA


    In the jug it's fairly clear. Once poured in it's green, sort of. Just not as blatantly green as the old stuff.
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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    In the jug it's fairly clear. Once poured in it's green, sort of. Just not as blatantly green as the old stuff.
    I guess that means if it's poured in to the orange stuff, it becomes orange, just not as orange as the orange stuff.

    I assume the green and orange is just added coloring to the coolants anyway. Having no color was a good idea for the stuff that mixes with either.

    Anyway, the stuff I put in my car is pure orange. But I would NOT be surprised to find it's the same stuff they sell that "mixes with any color coolant" but with orange coloring added to it.

    -Don- SSF, CA

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    I guess that means if it's poured in to the orange stuff, it becomes orange, just not as orange as the orange stuff.

    I assume the green and orange is just added coloring to the coolants anyway. Having no color was a good idea for the stuff that mixes with either.

    Anyway, the stuff I put in my car is pure orange. But I would NOT be surprised to find it's the same stuff they sell that "mixes with any color coolant" but with orange coloring added to it.

    -Don- SSF, CA


    You're probably right there. I run heavy equipment from Toyota and it has the GM industrial 4.3 engine in it. The coolant comes orange but is chemically the same as the green. It gets that muddy color when green is mixed but we drive that equipment HARD and haven't ever had a failure because of the coolant. We have hour meters and not odometers but if you figure the hours at 60 mph, we run around 300,000 miles in a three year lease. I have guys who can bust an anvil with a rubber mallet but the equipment holds up.
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    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    You're probably right there. I run heavy equipment from Toyota and it has the GM industrial 4.3 engine in it. The coolant comes orange but is chemically the same as the green. It gets that muddy color when green is mixed but we drive that equipment HARD and haven't ever had a failure because of the coolant. We have hour meters and not odometers but if you figure the hours at 60 mph, we run around 300,000 miles in a three year lease. I have guys who can bust an anvil with a rubber mallet but the equipment holds up.
    Today, I discovered my overflow tank going down in level. I am losing coolant at around one third as fast as I was before I changed the water pump.

    So I checked things out and discovered a small crack down the plastic of the radiator on the driver's side (far left side of radiator). I see the leak at this crack. So now I have to change the radiator. Since I have to do that, it's a good time to replace both radiator hoses as well as the thermostat.

    I assume the orange stuff is NOT harmful to plastic, but I noticed no leaks there until after the water pump change and changed to the orange stuff. Perhaps there's more pressure now with the new non-leaking water pump.

    Anyway, I will dump the new coolant and continue with the orange stuff. Or do you think I would be better off to go back to the green stuff?

    I figure after I dump the orange stuff now, there won't be any green stuff left to be concerned with no matter what the orange stuff is, or is not, compatible with and I will just use the orange from now on. Unless I find out it eats plastics or whatever.

    A new radiator is cheap (less than a hundred bucks) and looks easy to change.

    BTW, I am curious about something. This radiator has no fill cap. Caps is what holds the pressure to 6 psi or whatever it is. If there's no cap, what holds the pressure and can it fail much like the caps do?

    These radiators can only be filled at the overflow tank.


    -Don- SF, CA

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    The pressure cap may be on the overflow tank. It's amazing what they can do with plastics nowadays.

    Since you are now doing a complete dump and refill, use what the owners manual says.

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    Today, I discovered my overflow tank going down in level. I am losing coolant at around one third as fast as I was before I changed the water pump.

    So I checked things out and discovered a small crack down the plastic of the radiator on the driver's side (far left side of radiator). I see the leak at this crack. So now I have to change the radiator. Since I have to do that, it's a good time to replace both radiator hoses as well as the thermostat.

    I assume the orange stuff is NOT harmful to plastic, but I noticed no leaks there until after the water pump change and changed to the orange stuff. Perhaps there's more pressure now with the new non-leaking water pump.

    Anyway, I will dump the new coolant and continue with the orange stuff. Or do you think I would be better off to go back to the green stuff?

    I figure after I dump the orange stuff now, there won't be any green stuff left to be concerned with no matter what the orange stuff is, or is not, compatible with and I will just use the orange from now on. Unless I find out it eats plastics or whatever.

    A new radiator is cheap (less than a hundred bucks) and looks easy to change.

    BTW, I am curious about something. This radiator has no fill cap. Caps is what holds the pressure to 6 psi or whatever it is. If there's no cap, what holds the pressure and can it fail much like the caps do?

    These radiators can only be filled at the overflow tank.


    -Don- SF, CA

    Go with whatever seems to be in plentiful supply. I generally go with green as it's been around for decades. If you get the premiced stuff, it's also decalcified water. I'm of two minds about distilled water. It doesn't have any calcium to build up on radiator internal cores but it's also deionized and that can sometimes cause erosion. Not much but a chemist would call it "hungry" water.

    You overflow cap is your radiator cap. They can fail and I replace them when I replace a thermostat. One caveat on thermostats, never, never, NEVER use a "fail safe" thermostat. Every single one I have put in has stuck open, sometimes in a few days. Just get a good quality OEW temperature thermostat and go with that. If the heater hoses are reasonbly old, you might want to replace them too. They can be stinkers at times and are usually where a leak occurs on the road.
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