FAQ – Coolant Analysis

What is coolant analysis?

Coolant analysis testing will determine the equipment health and fluid properties to help maintain your equipment. Maintaining the fluid properties will protect the cooling system for corrosion. Coolant analysis testing can catch cooling system problems early, such as combustion gas leaks, electrical ground problems, localized overheating issues and air leaks. Testing will provide recommendation for correction of identified problems before failure occurs when a set testing interval is being maintained.

Why should I test my coolant?

It is a fact that over 40% of all engine failures can be attributed to cooling system problems. If inhibitors, pH, Nitrites, SCA (Supplemental Coolant Additive), % Antifreeze, Freeze Point and pH are not maintained at the proper levels, coolants can wreak havoc on an engine.

How often should I test my coolant?

Engine coolants should be tested at least twice a year, once before winter sets in and again right before summer. POLARIS Laboratories® recommends every 500 hours or 3 months for Level II or Level III analysis and every 1000 hours or 6 months for Level IV or Level V analysis. Education and training are key to understanding cooling system preventive maintenance and coolant analysis.

What are the most common coolant analysis tests? (need to develop definitions for some of these)

Antifreeze %

Antifreeze percent is the concentration of glycol present in the antifreeze. The levels should range between 45% and 62% to ensure proper freeze protection and boil point control. High glycol concentration can result in loss of heat transfer. Low concentrations can result in internal boiling and/or freezing. Internal boiling can cause severe metal corrosion and degradation acid formation. Freezing can result in a cracked block.

Boil Point

Boil Point is calculated from antifreeze percent and indicates at what temperature a coolant will boil at sea level. Boil Point is dependent upon the concentration of antifreeze in an engine coolant. Internal boiling can cause severe metal corrosion and degradation acid formation.

Freeze Point

Freeze Point is the temperature at which a coolant solidifies. Freeze point is dependent upon the concentration of antifreeze in an engine coolant. Coolant freezing can result in system damage as severe as a cracked engine block.

Elemental Analysis by ICP

Inductively Coupled Plasma, detects dirt in samples, ICP reports on 15 metals: Elemental Analysis by ICP-OES (Inductively-Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometry), detects many elements that can be present in used coolant due to cavitation, corrosion, erosion, contamination or inhibitors.

HPLC: HPLC detects carboxylic organic acid inhibitors and azoles in parts per million to identify additional inhibitors that may be included in the formulation. The inhibitors will be used in the coolant formulation for corrosion protection. Our testing will detect Benzotriazole, Tolyltriazole, Mercaptobenzothiazole, Benzoic Acid, Sebacic Acid, 2- Ethylhexanoic Acid, Octanoic Acid, P-Toluic Acid, Adipic Acid, and 4-Tert-Butylbenzoic Acid. Coolant formulations will determine the type of inhibitor used for proper corrosion protection.

Ion Chromatography: IC detects anions for contamination (Chloride and Sulfate), inhibitors (Nitrite and Nitrate), and degradation acids (Glycolate, Acetate, Formate, Oxalate). A portion of the sample is diluted and is then pumped through the column and suppressor into a conductivity detector. The suppressor aids in increasing the sensitivity of the response by converting the eluent and the analytes in the sample to the corresponding hydrogen form of the acids. The anions are separated in the column based on the affinity and interaction with the column’s resin and the eluent used to carry the sample. These anion forms are quantitated by integration and compared to a calibration curve.

Nitrite: Nitrite is an inorganic corrosion inhibitor used for cast iron, steel and liner cavitation protection. Nitrite content requirement is based on coolant formulation used and can be detected with Ion Chromatography (IC) or by a Strip Method.

Nitrate: Nitrate is an inorganic corrosion inhibitor used for aluminum and solder protection. Nitrate content requirement is based on coolant formulation used and can be detected with Ion Chromatography (IC).

pH Waters: pH is a measure of aqueous solutions acidity or alkalinity levels. Pure water is neutral, at pH 7, being neither an acid nor base. The lower the pH number is would indicate how acidic the fluid is. The higher the pH number is would indicate a more alkaline based fluid. Coolant pH range is dependent on the coolant formulation and type of coolant inhibitors present.

SCA Number: SCA Number (Supplement Coolant Additive) represents the level of coolant additive required for adequate protection against corrosion and scaling. In some cases SCA also helps with pH balance in a diesel engine conventional coolant. SCA can be in the complete coolant formulation, a liquid inhibitor package or a pre-charged coolant filter. SCA Number is calculated from Molybdate and Nitrite concentrations.

Visuals: This tests the coolant for clarity, color, oil contamination, fuel contamination, foaming, magnetic precipitate, non-magnetic precipitate and odor

For more test methods performed at POLARIS Laboratories®, download our complete test list.

Should I test the source water that I use to mix with my antifreeze?

Yes, water in all parts of the country is different. The reaction of water to heat in an engine will be determined by the contaminants that the Antifreeze and Supplemental Coolant Additives can correct in the source water.

POLARIS Laboratories® recommends every 500 hours or 3 months for Level I or Level II analysis and every 1000 hours or 6 months for Level III analysis. Education and training are key to understanding cooling system preventive maintenance and coolant analysis.

Why spend the money on coolant analysis if I change my coolant every couple of years anyway?

Simply changing your coolant may not solve and rarely identifies the cause of a cooling system problem. If not properly identified and corrected, many cooling system problems can escalate, causing even more damage to other components. A quality coolant analysis program can identify electrical ground problems, combustion gas leaks, air leaks, localized overheating, etc. which could cost the owner thousands of dollars in repairs, equipment downtime, and/or replacement. Coolant analysis is more than just testing the coolant. It monitors the system’s overall health and allows users to take action before further damage or engine failure occurs.

Can coolant analysis determine if coolant formulations have been mixed?

Yes, if we know what the original product is supposed to be. Organic acid coolants don’t have the typical inhibitors found in conventional products, such as silicates, phosphates and borates. However, hybrids – or conversion coolants – do. This makes it difficult to determine when mixing has occurred unless the original product is known.

What are conversion coolants?

Testing the coolant before conversion is recommended so that the condition of both the coolant and the cooling system is known. pH alone is not going to identify all problems. If analysis does not identify any problems, conversion can be done safely. The new formulation becomes a hybrid until fully converted to the new formulation.

TAKING AND SUBMITTING SAMPLES

How Often Should I Sample My Equipment?

Although the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations provide a good starting point for developing preventative maintenance practices, sampling intervals can easily vary. How critical a piece of equipment is to production is a major consideration for determining sampling frequency, as are environmental factors such as hot, dirty operating conditions, short trips with heavy loads and excessive idle times.

How Do I Take a Sample?

Consult our list of sampling equipmentand supplies to determine what sampling system and procedure will work best for the type of equipment you want to test. For step-by-step instructions by sampling equipment type, click on How to Take a Sample.

How Do I Submit Sample Information?

There are three ways to submit sample information accurately and efficiently, including:

  1. Use the HORIZON® app to find the component being sampled and fill out the sample information.
  2. Use HORIZON® to find the sampled component and fill out the sample information.
  3. When internet access is not available, then use the EZ Label to identify the component and add sample information.