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Old 09-02-2008, 04:58 AM   #1
Ackpacket
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Default a PROPER coolant flush at home

Will someone please tell me how to do a coolant flush at hom?

It seems like EVERYWHERE I go, whoever I ask, I am told to just open the radiator petcock, open the top of the radiator and stick a garden hose in. Allow the coolant to circulate until clear water runs out of the bottom.

Won't this method leave coolant in the heater? And how would cold water from a hose open the thermostat?

I was wondering if there is a more proper way to to flush the coolant, like say, maybe I use the above method but I remove the thermostat first and replace it when i'm done.


Also, in the interest of learning, where can I find out the exact routing and direction of flow of coolant for my car?

Thanks for any help you can offer guys



P.S. i'm referring to a 2002 sl2 automatic. Any pictures would be a HUGE help.

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Old 09-02-2008, 05:54 AM   #2
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

If you are just talking about maintenance and you aren't doing something like cleaning up an engine that's had a cracked head or something. Just draining and filling is fine. However, that's not what you're asking about. Here's how to do it.

  • Drain the coolant as you normally would.
  • Remove the thermostat and replace the housing.
  • Remove the return hose going to the top of the coolant reservoir and run it to something to catch coolant.
  • Get a bucket of hot water mixed with automatic dish washing detergent and fill the coolant system from the bucket.
  • Have someone start the car and as the coolant system drains into the container, keep filling it from the bucket.
  • Do this till it runs clear.
  • Next run clear water through the system until it's clear of detergent.
  • Run a couple gallons of distilled water though.
  • Replace the thermostat.
  • Reattach the return hose at the top of the coolant reservoir.
  • Fill with 50/50 mix of ant-freeze and distilled water.

...
There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.

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Old 09-02-2008, 06:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
If you are just talking about maintenance and you aren't doing something like cleaning up an engine that's had a cracked head or something. Just draining and filling is fine. However, that's not what you're asking about. Here's how to do it.

  • Drain the coolant as you normally would.
  • Remove the thermostat and replace the housing.
  • Remove the return hose going to the top of the coolant reservoir and run it to something to catch coolant.
  • Get a bucket of hot water mixed with automatic dish washing detergent and fill the coolant system from the bucket.
  • Have someone start the car and as the coolant system drains into the container, keep filling it from the bucket.
  • Do this till it runs clear.
  • Next run clear water through the system until it's clear of detergent.
  • Run a couple gallons of distilled water though.
  • Replace the thermostat.
  • Reattach the return hose at the top of the coolant reservoir.
  • Fill with 50/50 mix of ant-freeze and distilled water.
Thanks BarnOwl. It's funny I was just speaking highly of you today to someone before posting this and now here you are.

Further research on my part has turned this up:

"Some owners seem to think that "flusing" consists of nothing more than opening the petcock or drain valve on the bottom of the radiator and the one or two drain cocks on the engine block, sticking a garden hose into the radiator and turning on the water. Unfortunately, this kind of flush does little.

Normally, outside faucets are only connected to cold water, so sticking the hose into the radiator filler opening and running cold water through the system until the water comming our of the drain cock turns clear flushes the radiator - but nothing else. Cold water won't open the thermostat, so the engine cooling passages remain closed off. Because the engine drains are open, some of the coolant in the block is drained off, but because there is no circulation, residue from old dirty coolant remains in the engine. And it is this stuff that we are primarily concerned with removing, because it eventually finds it's way into the radiator, the heater hoses, the heater control valve, and the heater core.

The following procedure has been designed to ensure that the entire cooling and heating systems are cleaned out.

1. Set the heater temperature controls to high.
2. If the vehicle is equipped with a vacuum-operated heater control valve (used on many vehicles with air conditioning), run the engine at idle during the following flushing procedure. The valve will only stay open with the engine running.
3. Open the radiator drain cock and drain the coolant. Do not open the engine drain cocks.
4. Remove the radiator cap.
5. Place a container under the heater supply fitting at the block. Detach the hose from the fitting, point the hose downward and drain it into the container. Make sure that the container is big enough to catch the water that will drain from this hose when the water is turned on.
6. Connect the water supply hose to the heater hose fitting on the engine block. If you're using a piece of hose with the right diameter, simply push it onto the fitting and hose clamp it on. If you're using a garden hose, you'll have to hold the nozzle against the fitting.
7. Turn on the water and flush for 3 to 5 minutes without the engine running (unless you have a vacuum actuated heater control valve). Spmetimes, it helps to squeeze the outlet or upper radiator hose during the last minute of flushing to remove any trapped liquid.
8. Turn off the water and close the radiator petcock."

And then on the side notes it says

"The easiest way to find the heater hoses is to locate them where they come out of the firewall, then trace them forward and detatch them from the water pump and intake manifold (or block) - as a rule of thumb, you should force clean water through the heater hoses and the heater core in the direction opposite normal flow (the hose attatched to the water pump carries coolant back to the engine, so that's the one you want to use)"

how much stock would anyone put into this second method, using the heater hoses? Is either method more effective than the other? I would prefer the second method, if it is just as effective, because It would not involve messing with the thermostat and for some reason I fear i will leave a leak if I remove it and put it back later.

Where do the hoses from my heater go? One goes to the engine, but I don't see any hose running into the water pump.

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Old 09-02-2008, 09:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Those instructions are general. Mine are Saturn specific, though I did neglect to say that you need to replace the drain plugs for the flush. Turning on the heater wont' do anything on these cars though it will on some others. These cars circulate coolant through the heater core whether the heater is on or off. If you really want to pull the heater hose you can. The one you need to disconnect would be the passenger side one on the firewall. Good luck getting that loose. You'll miss a portion of the cooling system though. On these cars, the end of the cooling system is the return hose on the reservoir. Most cars don't have one. However, if you want to flush a Saturn, that's the most accessible hose to do it.

...
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Old 09-02-2008, 11:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

I would use BarnOwl's method. You will find pulling the thermostat is easy compared with fiddling with heater hoses. The thermostat housing is sealed with a rubber O-ring so don't worry about leaks. If you're replacing the thermostat, the new one will come with a new O-ring and a short 1 inch diameter cardboard tube. The tube is the thermostat removal tool. If you plan on re-using the thermostat, you'll need to find a similar device to push and turn the retainer to remove and reinstall. A short piece of 3/4 or 1 inch plastic pipe would probably work well.

You can also leave the thermostat in place if you use a drain-fill cycle instead of a constant flush. Just make sure you get the engine up to operating temperature between drainings and remember there are two drains - one on the radiator and one on the engine block underneath the thermostat housing. You could do one drain and fill a day for a week or so, so long as you aren't going to get any sub-freezing weather. Fill with dishwasher detergent solution once or twice (3x or 4x if you're trying to remove oil contamination), then 4x or 5x with water. Use distilled water for the last flush if possible.

In my experience, only about 6 L of the 7 L cooling system capacity actually drains, leaving about a liter of water behind when you're done flushing. If you refill with 50:50 premixed antifreeze, it will get diluted a bit. This won't be a problem if you're not expecting temperatures below -30C. If it might get colder, add a full 3.78 L jug of straight antifreeze and top it off with water (preferably distilled). That will give you a 55:45 mix that will be good to about -45C.

Last edited by Titanium48; 09-02-2008 at 11:30 AM..

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Old 09-02-2008, 11:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

I would definitely do the Barnowl method, its easier than the heater hose method on a Saturn.

They key is to make sure the fluid runs clear. Clear water=clean system.

When I bought my Saturn, the coolant looked ok. I couldnt believe how much gunk/dirt/gunk/stop leak goo was in the system when I flushed it!!

...
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95 White Bonneville w/190k

Soon Ill be back in Saturnland.....

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Old 09-02-2008, 05:27 PM   #7
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
Those instructions are general. Mine are Saturn specific, though I did neglect to say that you need to replace the drain plugs for the flush. Turning on the heater wont' do anything on these cars though it will on some others. These cars circulate coolant through the heater core whether the heater is on or off. If you really want to pull the heater hose you can. The one you need to disconnect would be the passenger side one on the firewall. Good luck getting that loose. You'll miss a portion of the cooling system though. On these cars, the end of the cooling system is the return hose on the reservoir. Most cars don't have one. However, if you want to flush a Saturn, that's the most accessible hose to do it.
Thx barnowl, I think I will go with you're method. Yeah I figured they must circulate coolant through the core even when it's off, since i can still feel a slight heat coming from the vents if all the controls are off. Where can I find information like that? If i wanted to know where coolant is flowing in and around my engine, and in what direction, how would I find out?

Does anyone see any problem flushing right after installing a new water pump? The pump has a lifetime warranty so i'm not too worried about damaging it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Titanium48 View Post
In my experience, only about 6 L of the 7 L cooling system capacity actually drains, leaving about a liter of water behind when you're done flushing. If you refill with 50:50 premixed antifreeze, it will get diluted a bit. This won't be a problem if you're not expecting temperatures below -30C. If it might get colder, add a full 3.78 L jug of straight antifreeze and top it off with water (preferably distilled). That will give you a 55:45 mix that will be good to about -45C.
I live in southern california. Nuff said :-P

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Old 09-03-2008, 09:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
If you are just talking about maintenance and you aren't doing something like cleaning up an engine that's had a cracked head or something. Just draining and filling is fine. However, that's not what you're asking about. Here's how to do it.

  • Drain the coolant as you normally would.
  • Remove the thermostat and replace the housing.
  • Remove the return hose going to the top of the coolant reservoir and run it to something to catch coolant.
  • Get a bucket of hot water mixed with automatic dish washing detergent and fill the coolant system from the bucket.
  • Have someone start the car and as the coolant system drains into the container, keep filling it from the bucket.
  • Do this till it runs clear.
  • Next run clear water through the system until it's clear of detergent.
  • Run a couple gallons of distilled water though.
  • Replace the thermostat.
  • Reattach the return hose at the top of the coolant reservoir.
  • Fill with 50/50 mix of ant-freeze and distilled water.
BarnOwl, I have a question. The return hose you are referring to, is that the 3/8 hose from the intake side of the engine routed along the firewall and to the coolant reservoir? Does the coolant flow through this tube when the engine is running, or is this just an overflow tube? Hope this isn't a silly question.

Ackpacket, thanks for posting this thread. I'm also ready to do this. Just trying to picture how the coolant flows through the system. Sure would like to know the exact flow pattern through this system, kind of hard to figure out when your looking at it.

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Old 09-03-2008, 09:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

The return hose is the smallest hose attached to the top of the coolant bottle. Its about 3/8" diameter.

generic cooling diagram.

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Old 09-03-2008, 10:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Thank you OldNuc. Very helpful.

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Old 09-03-2008, 10:44 PM   #11
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Gaaawd I'm feeling old!

Back when there were such thing as points, condensers, brushes and such we had a coolant system flushing tool that had both a water and compressed air attachment. The procedure was stick it in the hoses (reverse to normal flow), start the water and then hit the air trigger to blast the gunk out with the air/water mix. Gone with the dinosaurs?

...
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Purchased 114k 10/07
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Old 09-03-2008, 11:35 PM   #12
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by Titanium48 View Post
In my experience, only about 6 L of the 7 L cooling system capacity actually drains, leaving about a liter of water behind when you're done flushing.
The cooling system is 7 quarts, = 6.6L So if you're draining 6L, you're leaving behind only .6L, a little over a pint. But as you say, best/cheapest insurance is simply using a full gallon of antifreeze. That, followed by DISTILLED (ESSENTIAL, not preferred) water, yields a 57:43 mix (4/7 antifreeze, 3/7 water).

Distilled water idea (opinions wanted): run your basement dehumidifier into the bucket rather than the drain, and save off the water, which is, in effect, cold-distilled water. At the very least, it would be good to use in BarnOwl's "rinse cycle". What do you think of using it in the final mix?

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Old 09-03-2008, 11:49 PM   #13
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Distilled water idea (opinions wanted): run your basement dehumidifier into the bucket rather than the drain, and save off the water, which is, in effect, cold-distilled water. At the very least, it would be good to use in BarnOwl's "rinse cycle". What do you think of using it in the final mix?
Well, if the grocery store ran out you can use it if you run it through a filter to get the bugs and/or dog/cat hair out of it. Its not quite distilled but its close enough. rain water will not work, air is too dirty.

you can make a filter out of a couple of cloth towels as you are only after big stuff.

The last gallon I bought was about $1.00 and you only need 1 gallon.

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Old 03-24-2009, 04:20 AM   #14
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Wrench Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Thought I'd post an update on my car... Well, after all the flushing questions, I drained the coolant, to find it pretty clean looking. I kind of doubt that it never has been changed in the 13 years I've owned it, must have forgotten..
At any rate, I wimped out and just decided to replace the T-stat and new coolant.

Yep, my old T-stat wouldn't fully close at room temp. (to test... press the end into the housing, does it seat hard or can it spin around?)

Had a worry when my Stant "195F 90C" thermostat (on the package) ended up having "87C" stamped on the part. That's the only one Kragen had, they all were the same. First two digits didn't match on the Stant website, last three did. Website said "some parts have slightly different part numbers due to different packaging". Was a 35279, Stant website said 14279 was for Saturn. Pic showed a box, I had a bubble pack card. I said, it's 188F, a bit low but what the heck. I put it in.

End result, fully warmed up under normal driving, the indicated temp went from 150-160F to 200F on the OBDII reader. Hmmm... so much for a cooler than normal T-stat. Regulates nice and solid just a few degrees above and below. Gauge just a needle or two below the 1/2 mark.

Car drives... different. Overall, more consistent, improved, but still feels boggy under some conditions. Should give it a few days to relearn (I pulled the memory fuse to reset it) before I finalize opinion. Also going to try to check out the MAP and TPS sensors for "wellness". We'll see what the gas mileage does, too...

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Old 01-07-2010, 10:40 AM   #15
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Question: should i run the soapy water through the system with all hoses attached for 10 minutes to clean it out? and then drain and repeat. Also, its 15 degrees out is it ok to do this in these temps or will i damage the engine block?

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Old 01-07-2010, 11:13 AM   #16
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Be sure that you use dishwasher soap, the stuff that goes into an automatic dishwasher. Not regular soap.

You can do this when its cold outside but you do not wan the fan coming on as that will freeze your radiator. So run your engine until the temperature is up to about normal and then shut it of and let it sit till it starts to cool off then start it up and warm it back up. The of time will be something like 15 minutes. With the engine off don't let the cold air blow into the radiator. A couple of warmup cool down cycles will get it cleaned out. The method in the madness is to keep it reasonably warm and circulated without having the engine get warm enough to have the fan come on. Feel the top and lower radiator hoses to know when the water circulates and that the thermostat did open. When the lower hose is warm its circulating and about time to shut the engine off and let it sit.

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Old 01-08-2010, 02:03 AM   #17
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Can I just disconnect the fan? and what about cold water in a warm engine or hot water in a cold engine...just afraid of cracking something.

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Old 01-08-2010, 02:18 AM   #18
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

You can disconnect the fan but watch the temperature carefully. You will be feeding water into a system full of water as you drain it so take it easy so they mix properly. Let it cool to where you can put your hand on the head before draining and you will be OK with the cold flush and refill. If you remove the old thermostat and then put the housing back on with the old seal and reconnect the radiator hose you can get a good flush quicker as the water will circulate through both the block and radiator. You do not need to clamp the hose or put the cap on just warm it up and let is slosh around then let it cool and drain. Refill with clean water only and repeat 2 or 3 times.

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Old 01-09-2010, 06:07 PM   #19
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

May sound like a hijacking - but if I open up another thread it most likely bare the same name.
I just finished the "Head Gasket Repair" bu Bars Leaks attempt to fix my leaking head gasket. Since it a was a leaking gasket and not just a regular flush, should I follow the same procedure with dishwasher soap? I am just concerned with the acidity in that stuff eating at my repair. I do want to replace the radiator though because it looks quite calcified inside where I can see the cooling tubes and i doubt I was able to flush out all Bars out of it with my garden house. So should I do the dishwasher... before replacing the radiator or after I install a new one?
Thanks!

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Old 01-09-2010, 06:22 PM   #20
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Default Re: a PROPER coolant flush at home

Quote:
Originally Posted by nmikmik View Post
May sound like a hijacking - but if I open up another thread it most likely bare the same name.
I just finished the "Head Gasket Repair" bu Bars Leaks attempt to fix my leaking head gasket. Since it a was a leaking gasket and not just a regular flush, should I follow the same procedure with dishwasher soap? I am just concerned with the acidity in that stuff eating at my repair. I do want to replace the radiator though because it looks quite calcified inside where I can see the cooling tubes and i doubt I was able to flush out all Bars out of it with my garden house. So should I do the dishwasher... before replacing the radiator or after I install a new one?
Thanks!
Do the flush w/ automatic dishwasher detergent AFTER replacing a cooling system component. FWIW you should flush after replacing a cooling system component.

THEN use the Bar's Leaks w/ Ginger root when you fill the system with antifreeze (preferably yellow or green).

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

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