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Draft—DEX-COOL 2007, Part 2:
Revising Continues, But What's 2-EHA?

by John R. Hess with additions from Mole Snoopster

To appear in July 2007 Cool Profit$ Magazine
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

New! Would you like to respond or add to something mentioned in this article? You can do so now by using our new "Comment" section at the bottom. Feel free to use it, but please keep your remarks relative to the subject. (Vulgarities, spam or libelous, denigrating comments will be deleted.)

Review of GM Video
Immediately following my review of the MACS 2001 presentation, we included a specific review of GM’s DEX video by John Brunner. John started with the basics, that DEX was first installed in some 1995 vehicles, and in all 1996 models less the Saturn. For the first two years, DEX was to be changed at 100,000 miles or 5 years. Starting in with 1997 models, the mileage was upped to 150,000. We also learned that the video was built by data extracted from about two thousand 2, 3 and 4 year old returned GM lease vehicles.
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It was from those vehicles that GM determined that low coolant levels were beachheading the rust off the iron components, especially the heads as they are the hottest. They also found contaminated coolant, but only in a limited number of vehicles. The contaminants they did find were claimed to be composed of three components: rust, sealer pellets (which are no longer installed) and hose material. John then covered the list of affected vehicle types and explained the related problems and the Tech Service Bulletin procedures that were called out.

Sure looks like a lot of rust in that mud. Is it primarily from "beachheading" the iron block? I wonder what the makeup of the material actually is. If anyone KNOWS, please contact the author at 800-883-8929, or Click to email imcool.com.

John’s closing sentence was good advice for all vehicle owners: “Keep the system cleaned and pressurized and any vehicle can achieve that level of performance.” Looking back, however, do we, or can we, really expect the original owners of these brand new vehicles to start servicing their cooling systems within the first 20,000 miles? How were they to know that they had to take the cap off the radiator to determine the true coolant level in the system? Why would they expect to have to change the pressure cap? (Well, it actually wasn’t the wrong cap…if the coolant hadn’t become so severely contaminated.) I realize that overheating the engine and coolant can cause degradation of just about all the connected parts, but what’s with the gelled up hose material?

Not an accurate picture
As returned lease vehicles, GM’s test fleet was not an accurate representation of the average user’s DEX-COOL related problems. Fleet owners are more likely to use a service professional to perform preventative maintenance. A pro-tech will be more apt to check beneath the radiator cap than will an individual owner. In any case, the most important component overlooked by the video was probably the intake manifold gasket (on purpose for sure).

It Gets Worse
In Cool Profit$ Magazine #52, May/June 2003, I again ignored some obvious signs of trouble with DEX-charged systems. In the article, “GM Under Legal Fire For DEX-COOL Related Problems,” I included a few statements that I’d also like to retract. What changed my mind is the data that has been drawn out by the lawsuits. I tend to believe the results of the non-GM lab tests that have been run.

In Issue #52, I was also “caught” by two readers who weren’t hoodwinked by the smoke of my report. I’m reprinting their “Letters To The Editor” (Write Side Up) below. Besides adding content to this story, it's a credit to them and a painful reminder to me of what can happen when you do research with your eyes semi-shut.

Letter 1: "I.M. Cool, idiot or one of GM’s suckers?
To I.M. Cool, What did GM pay you to write that article? Everything you state in the article is directed to technicians after the dex-cool problem is found. Where is GM telling the consumer that he has to keep the dex-cool level in the reservoir above what it originally was suppose to be? There are no statements in the manuals that require such crap that they told you in that presentation. Suckers are born everyday and your (sic) one. Are you an idiot or what? My guess is that you don't have a vehicle like we do that has this problem or you wouldn't be talking like GM never created this problem." Name withheld.

CPM: Being paid for writing an article, ouch! The letter writer was referring to “MACS 2001: GM and Texaco ‘Bare All’ about DEX-COOL®” which appeared in the Jan/Feb 2001 edition of Cool profit$ (and which we referred to in Part 1). It’s available on the imcool.com website, or click here.

I replied, telling him: "First, Cool Profit$ IS directed toward technicians; they (you) are our focus.” Then I asked: “If DEX-COOL is that bad, why are millions of engine cooling systems on the road today using it with no problems at all?” I've asked it several times; I've yet to receive an answer.

Letter 2: "Service shops and Cool Profit$ can now retire 
First of all, this problem with dex-cool doesn't happen overnight. It takes sometimes years for it to be noticed and by then it 's to late. The benefits of dex-cool do not outweigh the problems it creates. It may be a gold mine for service shops because it means more money for them and in reality they are not to blame. GM is. But why should the shop care it's only the consumers who lose? Let's not tell anyone about this until we make enough money off this. Remember we all can make enough to retire on this one. Happy retirement John! May your car never have this problem." Name also withheld.

CPM: So there you have it; I’ve now retired thanks to the GM payola for writing a favorable review of a 2001 MACS presentation. What a country! But if that’s true, why are Ellen and I still working?

My somewhat curt answers above are not meant to make light of the suffering felt by consumers affected by this cooling system corrosion, contamination problem; we take it very seriously. Readers should check out “GM Under Legal Fire For DEX-COOL Related Problems” mentioned above. We’ve attempted to present as much of a balanced article as possible. But of course, reader opinions and are always welcome.

Paul Weissler Clears Up Many DEX Issues
In his August 2004 Motor magazine article, my friend and venerable automotive tech writer, Paul Weissler, brought us all up-to-date on many of the DEX issues. With the title, "Coolant Confusion: It's Not Easy Being Green…or Yellow or Orange or…,” Paul's focus was less on the negative sides of DEX-COOL and more toward helping his readers make the right choice when servicing cooling systems and replacing OEM coolant (given the multitude of coolant colors today). He was careful, however, to advise that GM is the only manufacturer to currently specify DEX as a factory fill, and that Honda and Toyota, proponents of OAT longlife coolant themselves, were adamant against the DEX product. The difference, Paul says, is that DEX uses 2-EHA (2-ethylhexanoic acid) as one of its corrosion-inhibiting organic acids, which turns out to be a known "plasticizer" (softens plastic). Honda and Toyota do not. (Bonus info: Japanese manufacturers also require phosphate in their inhibitor chemistry, which neither DEX-COOL nor Zerex G-05 use.)

Ford had problems with DEX's 2-EHA
Questioning linkage to the cause of GM's V6 intake manifold gasket problems, Paul went on to document that Ford had used a formula similar to DEX in the '99 Cougar Duratec V6 (DEX is still the coolant of record). However, after noticing gasket distortion and leakage problems in tests for their V8 engines, they dropped DEX-COOL from consideration for additional applications. Supposedly, DaimlerChrysler questioned the viability of DEX as well. We'll have more on gasket problems later.

Inside of deteriorating hose from a '96 Chevrolet Blazer S-10 with a 4.3 V6 engine. Customer requested the coolant be changed over to "green" after the repairs and cleanup were done.

Bob Freudenberger adds more details
More recently, seasoned automotive author and editor, Bob Freudenberger, carried the 2-EHA-chemistry lesson a little further (and was a little more critical of GM’s usage of it in the process). Writing in “Daily Decisions: Choosing the Right Antifreeze” for Master Technician, Bob adds this thought-provoking comment: “With all due respect to GM and Texaco, sometimes companies get so entrenched in a policy that it's just about impossible for them to back down, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.” With the DEX lawsuits lined up against GM, this sure seems to be right on. Bob also advises that late model VWs and Audis use DEX, too, so be careful when servicing those that are still in warranty.

Close-up of hose above.

Note that like Paul’s, Bob’s article is also more into defining which manufacturer has chosen what color dye to add to their coolant, and why. I recommend that cooling system specialists and coolant-enthusiast readers grab a copy of these articles.

By the way, click below to see Paul and Bob "working" at SEMA 2006 in Las Vegas. (We can't do "this" in a print magazine.)

Now we’re ready to delve more deeply into the specific problems General Motors is facing, as called out by the Class Action lawyers. Don't miss Part 3: Class Action Lawsuits. $$$

End of Part 2.
Click for Part 3.
Click for Part 1.
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

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