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Cooling Systems Hate Your Favorite Drinking Water!
By Ed Eaton
From September/December 2001 edition of  Cool Profit$ Magazine
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

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ecently, an article reported the results of a poll taken where a number of people who were asked to compare the taste of purified water with that of New York City water. Of course they were not told which was which. A large majority preferred the taste of the city water! Its minerals and flavor gave it character and appeal; the pure water was tasteless.

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Mountain Purified spring water is tasty too
The minerals and chemicals in city or well water accumulate and contribute to vehicular cooling system problems. Worst on the list: often, well water. This cherished benefit of country living is a joy to drink, and the calcium and magnesium collected from the Earth as it passes through the planet’s natural recycling system are probably good for you! Of course, this has to include the trendy spring waters that are now so popular. But if you’ve ever used this type of water for cooking, you’ve probably seen white deposits left on pots and pans. These deposits are surprisingly hard to clean, and require a “no-compromise“ acid cleaner to remove the stains. In a cooling system, these minerals coat the hottest surfaces of the engine. Their insulating effect will eventually cause overheating, and possibly, metal to crack. Of course, they are also very hard to remove.

Above: Check the label when buying cooling system makeup water, they’re not all the same. This bottle of supermarket Distilled Water provides the best makeup water as it contains the least amount of hardness and dissolved solids. Next on the list would be Purified Water. Spring Water should be avoided as it may be just as “contaminated” as your tap water.

Water hardness
Tap water varies a lot from region to region. It is a lot like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you’re goin’ to get! For that reason, don’t use it as a cooling system fluids if you haven’t had it tested. It may include hard water chemicals and chlorine that can be corrosive in very small concentrations. Tap water, or any water, is suitable for cars and trucks if tests show that Total Solids are less than 340 ppm. Total hardness (sum of magnesium and calcium concentrations) must be less than 170 ppm and chlorides less than 40 ppm.

Acceptable waters
Distilled water is recommended for steam irons because it won’t leave minerals behind to block up the steam holes. Similarly, you need pure water for your cooling system. If you buy premixed (‘ready to use’) coolant you will be getting antifreeze and very clean water. For concentrated antifreeze, you can use distilled, deionized or water processed by reverse osmosis as makeup water.

Above: Below: Distilled water; consider it to be low cost coolant insurance.

This purified water will extend the useful life of any coolant and insure optimum protection regardless of the type of antifreeze that you use. Antifreeze companies may say you don’t need it, but few would disagree that there isn’t a benefit to it. As a comparison, I may not need an 18 year old Scotch aged in sherry casks, but I sure can tell the difference between it and a $10 brand!

Note: Never use water from a home water softener, its salt level is too high!

Obtaining pure water may take a little effort, but I have seen it marketed by Prestone in gallon containers. If your local water shop (we have a lot of those in Phoenix) has a reverse osmosis or commercial deionization system, that water is fine and probably costs about $0.30 a gallon. Distilled water at the grocery store might be $1.50 to 1.75, and that is also a good choice. If you’re in the radiator business or have fleet maintenance responsibilities, it is probably easiest to buy ready to use coolant. Most of the major suppliers offer it today.

Don’t ruin good antifreeze with bad water!
Water should normally be about half of the fluid in your cooling system. The water quality, therefore, is just as important as the quality of the antifreeze you buy. Technically speaking, using pure water prevents damage resulting from hot surface scale, and, from corrosion caused by chlorides and sulfates that are common in tap water. Remember: drink well water, bathe in it, but don’t put it in your radiator.      $$$

Ed Eaton is President and Chief Engineer at Amalgatech, a division of Amalgamated Laboratories, Inc., Phoenix, AZ. Amalgatech (formerly Amalgamated Technologies, Inc.) is a well-known research, development and testing laboratory serving the coolant system and diesel fuel industry.

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DEX-COOL 2007, Part 1
DEX-COOL 2007, Part 2
DEX-COOL 2007, Part 3
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

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