Extended life versus regular coolants

When it comes to coolants for your trucks and construction equipment you can choose regular coolant or extended-life coolant. Since extended-life coolants cost more, we asked Carmen Ulabarro, business development specialist at ChevronTexaco, and Gary Karl, Caterpillar technical communications lead, to tell us what justifies the use of the premium product.

EXTENDED-LIFE COOLANT: PROS
· Less maintenance. Extended-life coolants use inhibitor packages that deplete much slower than regular coolants, and are usually good for up to 600,000 miles with an extender added at 300,000 miles, Ulabarro says. Caterpillar uses a six-year/ 12,000-hour/600,000-mile (with a 300,000 miles inhibitor additive) period, whichever comes first, for Cat extended life coolants or coolants that meet Cat’s EC-1 specs, Karl says. Conventional coolants have to be flushed from the system and new coolant added every one to three years 3,000 hours or 150,000 miles. Plus with regular coolants you have to test for and add supplemental coolant additives (SCAs) every 15,000 to 25,000 miles.

The reduced maintenance dovetails with the growing popularity of extended service intervals for engine oil and hydraulic fluid changes. “When service technicians do preventive maintenance. They don’t want to have to do a separate PM for the cooling system,” Ulabarro says. “With some oil changes being stretched out to 40,000 or 50,000 miles, a cooling system with conventional coolants and SCA requirements might get neglected.”

· Keeps radiator cleaner, more efficient. The additives in conventional coolants plate out on the inside surfaces of your cooling system to protect it, but decrease heat-transfer efficiency. “There is a considerable advantage with extended-life coolants,” Ulabarro says. “We’ve seen a 15-percent improvement in heat transfer because extended life coolants don’t plate out on the cooling system surfaces.”

The absence of solids also reduces water pump seal failures. Flushing conventional coolant often requires cooling system cleaners, whereas extended life coolants can be flushed with just water, Karl says.

EXTENDED-LIFE COOLANT: CONS
Price. Expect to pay 50 percent more per gallon of extended-life coolant.

REGULAR COOLANTS: PROS
Price. If you have a machine that doesn’t get a lot of utilization and you have to change the coolant in it once a year, a low-cost, conventional coolant may be your best bet. But don’t just compare product costs. Remember with regular coolants you have to add in the cost any SCAs used.

REGULAR COOLANTS: CONS
Cavitation danger. Depending on usage an engine can cavitate a liner in as little as 50,000 miles/1,000 hours. So you could lose an engine due to pitted liners if the low-cost coolant along with the SCAs does not provide a high level of protection.

VERDICT:
The fact that many of the biggest OEMs are putting extended-life coolants in their new machines as the standard factor fill pretty much says it all. And while extended-life coolants cost more per gallon, using conventional coolants over a 600,000-mile period may cost you three times as much when the extra service intervals and SCAs are added in. Unless you have a compelling reason to change your coolant seasonally, extended-life coolants will improve your productivity and profitability by reducing your service costs, shop inventory and downtime.