Here’s the first installment of our advice for things to thoroughly check out—before you set out on your next adventure.

The Cooling System

1. The Radiator

First, make sure that the radiator core is in good shape. In areas of the country where roads are salted, the core of the radiator can literally rot away. Even though the radiator may not be leaking now, it will be leaking soon. That means bad overheating. And when your engine isn’t cooled properly, it can easily blow a head gasket, or crack or warp a cylinder head.

2. Belts … Hoses

Visually check the hoses and belts related to the cooling system. Squeeze the hoses and look for small cracks in the rubber. Make sure the hoses are tight (grab the hose near the hose clamp and make sure it doesn’t rotate), and check to see that the belts have the proper amount of tension. To check the tension, push down on the belt. It should deflect about 1/2 inch.

3. Coolant … Thermostat

You should be using antifreeze in your radiator, even in the summer. Why? Because antifreeze contains corrosion inhibitors, and it actually has a higher boiling point than water.

4. Water Pump

Water pumps break–and when they do, they usually allow all the coolant to leak out. Luckily, a good mechanic (like us) can predict when the pump will die.

5. Cooling Fan(s)

Most modern cars have an electric cooling fan–and some have more than one. The fan is controlled by a thermostatic switch. That is, the fan comes on when the temperature of the coolant rises to a predetermined temperature.

6. Heater Core

The heater core is part of the cooling system, because the coolant runs through it. If the heater core leaks, the coolant drains out. We will put a pressure tester on the cooling system to find all the leaks–including this one.