Did anyone else cringe when they heard the words ‘Polar Vortex’ uttered by weathermen? For me, they might as well have been announcing Ebola’ had infiltrated my hometown. I had hoped the polar dues we paid last winter would have kept this kind of cold-temp bite away for another … say, 20 years. Not so lucky.

The snowy forecast was bad news for trucks on the road and as winter temperatures drop around the nation, critical preventative maintenance (PM) requires checking and topping off antifreeze/coolant (AF/C) levels on heavy-duty vehicles.

While AF/C maintenance may appear on the surface to be as simple as pouring in new concentrate, modern technologies and formulations can make decisions regarding PM very serious matters that can potentially affect the bottom line of any fleet.

According to Colin Dilley, vice-president of technology for Prestone Products Corporation, when it comes to winter’s freezing temperatures, “Fleets are not thinking so much about corrosion protection as they are trying to make sure the necessary percentage of glycol is correct in their formula.”

While recognizing glycol levels in AF/C is essential to maintaining a properly operating heavy-duty vehicle, it is by no means less of a concern than corrosion within the engine.

A solid practice for PM would be to take the opportunity to check the overall effectiveness of coolant while checking for seasonal freezing protection. Corrosion protection is a daily concern for the heavy-duty engine and freezing concerns tend to be seasonal.

Winter is the perfect time to do testing on glycol percentages, which shows you what your freeze-point will be, and how much of the inhibitors you actually have in your system. This will tell you whether or not it is time to do a more significant change, he said.

Coolant inspection is a three-step process:

1)    Test your glycol for freeze-point.

2)    Test it for inhibitors to make sure you’re still getting the correct corrosion protection.

3)    Make sure you’ve got the right volume in your cooling system so you’re not getting air pockets.

Air entrapment in the engine is a serious problem for any engine and any type of coolant. Seasonal cold-weather testing is the ideal time to make sure your engine is full and topped-off. These steps should be in your regular maintenance schedules.

Unless routine testing reveals a change is needed earlier, following engine-manufacturer guidelines is the best practice for ensuring appropriate AF/C protection.

Water is the only ingredient in antifreeze that is capable of freezing, (it determines the freeze-point, but everything can freeze, even glycol) so focusing on keeping levels of water at the correct percentage is crucial. A quality coolant will pay for itself by keeping the fleet operating and on the road. It all comes down to maximizing a fleet’s bottom line.