Coolant, Transmission Fluid and Fuel System Cleaning FAQs

Know your coolant cap and know your fluid flush and exchange schedule

Coolant Fluid Exchange

What is the job of coolant fluid?

It’s the working fluid for the cooling system, which controls the operational condition of the engine. Because the engine is a controlled explosion, it needs to be kept between a specific temperature range for optimal performance. Whether it’s cold or hot outside, the cooling fluid allows the cooling system (including the radiator) to keep the engine and radiator at just the right temperature. Think of this way: coolant fluid is a warm blanket in the winter and a misting fan in the summer.

How does coolant fluid flow through the system?

A car’s coolant system operates on a loop, pumping a mix of water and antifreeze to your radiator to regulate engine temperature. Because coolant absorbs the heat generated by the engine and transports it to the radiator to cool down, it stands to reason that low or weak coolant levels mean its job performance is compromised and your car can overheat.

Why is a coolant fluid exchange so important?

Coolant breaks down like any other engine fluid. Just as motor oil has vital engine performance additives, your coolant has additives that prevent boiling, freezing and corrosion. When these additives are depleted, contaminants and debris can begin to build up on your radiator, affecting its performance. It’s essential to have your coolant fluid exchanged every so often. And by the way, coolant spelled backward is tnalooc – a word that makes absolutely no sense.

How often should a coolant exchange be performed on my vehicle?

Surprise, surprise: vehicles don’t need new coolant over the same time periods. Some vehicles have long-life fluids pre-installed on the assembly line and don’t require servicing as often. So, go ahead and jump up and down if you’re one of the lucky ones with longer life fluids. You win.

For all the non-long-life fluid vehicle owners out there, you may require a coolant exchange as frequently as every 15,000 miles. You can find coolant information – and learn when it needs to be replaced – in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

What is the benefit of having a coolant fluid exchange performed?

Pun intended: it all boils down to your vehicle operating at an ideal temperature. Old coolant can cause overheating. No coolant or low coolant levels can lead to ugly things, such as blown gaskets, warped cylinder heads and damage to your water pump and radiator. If the temperature gauge creeps upward, don’t ignore the warnings – have your coolant checked out before your system reaches its boiling point.

For coolant exchange or replacement, schedule an appointment today.

How does coolant/antifreeze break down?

Time and miles – it’s a simple equation. When they’re at the top of their game, the additives in coolant/antifreeze provide protection, inhibiting corrosion (rust) and scale formation in your car’s radiator and engine. Over time, these additives get depleted, and the solution becomes less alkaline, leaving your car vulnerable to costly repairs and even engine failure.

Conventional coolant/antifreeze has the shortest life, but it’s important to remember not all vehicles are compatible with “long life” or “extended life” antifreezes. All coolants, through normal operation, eventually become dirtied and contaminated with debris from your engine’s cooling system. When this happens, the coolant fails to reduce higher temps during hot weather and increase temps during freezing weather. It can also lead to a rust-clogged radiator and heater. What’s more: the inability to regulate temperature in your engine badly affects other car parts, such as head gaskets, cylinder blocks and o-rings.

Quick Fact: Both the American Automobile Association and U.S. Department of Transportation note the majority of roadside breakdowns can be attributed to cooling system failures.

Schedule a coolant exchange. Right now.

Can bad things happen if my ride has low or weak coolant?

If your engine overheats due to inefficient coolant, dangerous conditions can ensue. Your engine can seize up, crack and stop while your car is in motion. The same holds true during colder weather, when your engine is subject to freeze damage. Scary stuff. This is not an area you want to neglect.

What might indicate that my engine’s coolant needs exchanging or inspection?

Significant coolant problem indicators:

  • Low coolant levels: If your coolant is low, you could have a leak in your cooling system. You may be able to see the leak under your vehicle, and you may be able to smell it as well. If you notice this, get your coolant inspected at the soonest opportunity. Other potential leak culprits include a bad radiator cap, blocked radiator or damaged sensor.
  • Discolored coolant: Coolant color should never change, but it can when coolant gets contaminated with debris or it’s been in your car so long that the additives in it deplete. When coolant color changes or gets cloudy, bring it to us to see if it needs to be changed.
  • Engine overheats: Worst-case scenario: your engine can overheat, seize-up and crack, causing your car to stop completely. If this has happened, it’s probably too late for a fluid exchange — you may need a whole engine exchange.

It’s a cool time for a coolant exchange. Schedule an appointment.

Are there different types of coolant, and is one “better” than another?

There are currently three popular coolant types. But most every coolant on the market today contains the same main active cooling ingredient: ethylene glycol. Water and dye are other common ingredients that are consistent among coolant types. The main differences are in the specially formulated additives.

  • Conventional green coolant/antifreeze. The most basic coolant also has the shortest life span. These conventional formulas typically have anti-corrosion additives that provide extra corrosion protection. However, these additives deplete over time, requiring coolant to be replaced about every two years, 24,000 miles or as recommended by your manufacturer. Read your owner’s manual since some manufacturers even set 15,000-mile intervals.
  • Dexcool™ coolants provide extended coolant life. There are a variety of Dexcool™ formulas, but they all contain long life organic acid technology (OAT) additives that protect your system from corrosion longer. Dexcool™ will also be able to remain in your system over a longer period of time, sometimes for as far as 150,000 miles. See your owner’s manual for more information regarding the coolant type in your vehicle.
  • Hybrid OAT antifreezes and coolants. We’re talking about the newer hybrid coolants not hybrid cars. These hybrid coolants go in regular cars and can give your ride a fast-acting formula that may last for an epoch (up to 150,000 miles). If your vehicle manufacturer specifies that your vehicle is not OAT compatible, a hybrid OAT may be the solution to this problem. Hybrid OAT coolants and antifreezes were designed to solve this coolant compatibility issue. Before using this coolant type, read the label to verify it meets your manufacturer’s standard.

What is included in a coolant fluid exchange?

Our coolant fluid exchange service provides everything your engine needs to stay cool. With this service we will:

  • Inspect the system and perform a pressure test to detect any leaks
  • Add flush chemicals to the radiator
  • Power flush the coolant system with our flush machine
  • Refill the system with the proper amount and type of recycled antifreeze designed for your vehicle
  • Add sealant/lubricant to the coolant system to preserve the system seals for extra protection from leaks
  • Provide a 12-month/12,000-mile limited warranty*

*See your auto advisor for complete terms and conditions of written, limited warranties.

Also included: While we’re going to town on a coolant fluid exchange, our expert technicians will perform a thorough under-hood inspection to make sure all parts are in shape, including the radiator, radiator cap, radiator hoses, radiator fan/fan clutch, water pump, thermostat, fan belts, serpentine belt, cooling sensor, heater core, heater hoses and temperature sensor.

We’ll let you know if we see any key parts that need to be repaired or replaced and offer up a solution.

Give your coolant system the ultimate clean. Schedule a coolant fluid exchange.

How can we differ from a “drain and fill” coolant service?

We offer a “drain and fill” solution if that is the service you ask for. While drain and fills can work well, they can also leave a considerable amount of old, dirty fluid in the system. This can rob your coolant system of the vital cleaning that’s necessary for optimal performance. A more comprehensive coolant system cleaning is the old-to-new coolant fluid exchange, where we flush out the old coolant with our flush machine and then put new coolant in.

Transmission Fluid Exchange

What is the best day to get a fluid exchange?

So, you want to know the industry’s best kept secret, eh? Well, from our experience, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the best days to stop into Firestone Complete Auto Care. Now that we’ve said that, we can’t guarantee those will not become the most popular days as a result. But you asked. And now the cat is out of the bag. See you Tuesday or Wednesday.

We even have extended evening hours and most stores are open Sundays. Schedule an oil change for any day of the week.

What is transmission fluid?

It’s your transmission’s lifeline, enabling your vehicle to seamlessly shift gears without tearing them to shreds. Transmission fluid is a unique, hydraulic-powered liquid that’s designed to cool and lubricate your transmission’s internal parts so each gear shift feels silky smooth. This fluid ultimately helps preserve the life of the transmission system. Yeah, it’s that crucial.

Do you service transmission fluid exchanges for both automatic and manual transmission, and what’s the difference?

We perform fluid exchanges for both types of transmissions.

The main thing you need to know: automatic transmissions usually require more frequent fluid exchanges because their systems generate more friction than manual transmissions. Manual transmissions can go a while longer before a fluid exchange because they have fewer moving parts and aren’t designed as intricately as automatics. Automatics feature a more complex design.

Of course, it’s always wise to check your owner’s manual for interval information. Or check your make and model interval here, on our scheduled maintenance page.

Quick Tip: Many manual transmissions use the same fluid as automatics, while other use gear oil. See us or refer to your owner’s manual to learn about which fluid is right for your ride.

How are manual and automatic transmissions built differently?

Each transmission is built differently and requires different maintenance intervals, generally speaking.

Automatic and manual transmissions differ in terms of how they transfer power from the engine: manual transmissions use a clutch, while automatic transmissions employ a torque converter, a device that uses oil flow to transfer power. Manual transmissions involve the meshing and un-meshing of gears with each manual gear shift, while automatic transmissions are a controlled changing of gears that happens automatically without a human operator.

Generally speaking, automatic transmission fluid needs to be replaced more frequently than manual transmission fluid. This is because the system is more intricate and depends more on fluid to help change gears automatically.

Why is a transmission fluid exchange so important?

Your system requires a transmission fluid exchange to avoid the damaging effects old fluid can have on your transmission.

Transmission fluid contains important additives, and those additives wear out over time. The additives provide the transmission and its gears with proper lubrication, keeping harmful debris out, while ensuring the system stays cool. Once the additives deplete, debris is free to float around and wreak havoc. Debris, compromises lubrication and cooling, and that has the potential to destroy your transmission.

Don’t delay a transmission fluid exchange – especially if you don’t remember the last time you had one.

Protect your gears. Schedule a transmission fluid exchange today.

How often should I have a transmission fluid exchange?

The good news is you don’t have to change transmission fluid as often as motor oil. Change intervals vary by make and model and whether you have automatic or manual transmission. It’s generally recommended you get your transmission fluid exchanged every 24,000 to 36,000 miles or every two-to-three years – whichever comes first. It’s important to note, though, that some new car manufacturers recommend exchanging transmission fluid every 15,000 or even 100,000 miles. Some systems even feature sealed systems, which require no transmission exchange at all.

At Firestone Complete Auto Care, we follow your vehicle manufacturers’ recommended service intervals when performing a transmission fluid exchange service. You can find the recommended maintenance intervals for fluid replacement in your owner’s manual or right here on our website.

Discover your vehicle’s recommended maintenance intervals.

What is the benefit of having a transmission fluid exchange performed?

An exchange prevents your transmission from slipping due to wear and tear – and it helps prevent your vehicle from not moving at all.

By having your old transmission fluid exchanged with new fluid, you’ll be back to driving with a clean, smooth-shifting and replenished transmission system. You may experience what feels like a night-and-day change, since replenishing your system with friction-modifying additives means gears shift more smoothly.

Discover the power a transmission fluid exchange can have on your driving experience. Schedule an appointment today.

Should I get a transmission fluid exchange on a car with high miles?

There are two schools of thought regarding a transmission fluid exchange on a high-mileage vehicle. Some experts believe that it is not a good idea to exchange transmission fluid when a vehicle’s transmission is operating properly on a car with high miles. This thinking stems from the idea that the fresh additive package in new fluid removes varnish and deposits that “hold things together.” Other experts feel new fluid with fresh additives may be all the transmission needs to return to a properly operational state when the transmission in a high-mileage vehicle is not shifting or operating correctly.

Given a transmission fluid exchange costs far less than it does to replace or rebuild a car’s transmission, we believe servicing your transmission at the intervals specified in your owner’s manual is a prudent investment, one that can prevent significant, costly damage down the line. Exchanging transmission fluid does not cause problems that don’t already exist.

How does transmission fluid break down, and what happens when it does?

Just like motor oil, transmission fluid experiences breakdown from normal wear and tear.

When a car’s transmission shifts gears, it causes friction. This, in turn, generates heat, and that heat must be carried away by the fluid. The heftier the load on the transmission, the more heat it generates and the hotter the fluid becomes. The hotter the fluid runs, the more quickly it experiences breakdown and the shorter its lifespan. When this happens, the fluid’s ability to lubricate vital parts is diminished.

Adding insult to injury, heat generated from the transmission’s mechanics causes debris from the gears, bearings and friction plates inside the transmission to compromise the quality of the fluid.

Transmission fluid contains additives to produce oxidation stability, reduce foaming and inhibit corrosion; these, too, can take a turn for the worse over time.

Changing the fluid at regular intervals is the only way to remove the impurities, boost the benefits of additives and keep your car running smoothly. Properly maintained transmission fluid cools and lubricates the moving parts, enabling hydraulics and gears to transfer power from your engine to your wheels. Now, that’s an important job.

Never wait for symptoms of transmission fluid breakdown to progress.

Protect your gears. Schedule a transmission fluid exchange today.

What symptoms may indicate my transmission fluid is breaking down?

Few signs indicate there’s a problem with your transmission fluid – until it’s too late.

Automatic transmission: A normally smooth ride may feel sluggish when shifting gears or the time it takes to shift gears may be prolonged. This is usually a sign that your transmission fluid is no longer coating your transmission parts.

Manual transmission: “Clunking,” “clashing” or waiting for your transmission to “catch” are red flags. Unfortunately, by then, damage has likely occurred.

If any of these symptoms crop up, do not ignore them. Have us inspect your ride as soon as possible in order to minimize damage to your vehicle.

Quick tip: Please check your owner’s manual for recommended transmission fluid inspections and for the location of the transmission dipstick. If your transmission has a sealed system, there won’t be a dipstick – or a way, for that matter, to inspect fluid on your own. Either way, we can check your transmission fluid levels.

Need your transmission fluid inspected or exchanged? Schedule an appointment today.

What are the other ways to tell your transmission fluid is old?

Your transmission dipstick can also tell the story about your transmission fluid condition.

  • The color: Automatic transmission fluid should be translucent and/or red in color. Meanwhile, healthy manual transmission fluid may appear red, dark green, blackened or even translucent. If your transmission fluid looks cloudy, or has a dark or brownish tinge, it might be time for a fluid exchange.
  • Burning odor: If your transmission fluid has a burned smell, it’s time for new transmission fluid.
  • Low fluid levels: Though it may help to do a transmission fluid exchange if your transmission fluid dips below a safe level, it’s really time for a transmission inspection since you shouldn’t be losing fluid.

What are the different types of transmission fluid?

There are many types of transmission fluid, and they’re designed for specific transmissions and vehicle types. Inconvenient as it may be, there isn’t a one-kind-fits-all transmission fluid for vehicles. Because using the wrong fluid can have damaging effects, take your car to us when you’re unsure. We stock most major brands of kinds of transmission fluid; if we don’t have your brand, we’ll get the fluid your car requires.

Need new transmission fluid or a transmission fluid exchange? Schedule an appointment.

What is included in our most complete transmission fluid exchange?

A transmission fluid exchange is a three-step process that cleans and revitalizes your transmission. Protect your transmission by having your transmission fluid replaced as recommended in your owner’s manual.

Included with this service:

  • Fluid service kit, a cleaner that removes debris and contaminants from your transmission system
  • Removal of old transmission fluid
  • Replacement of old fluid with new, high-quality transmission fluid
  • Installation of a new filter*

*Available with a transmission fluid exchange, plus filter service

Discover your vehicle’s recommended maintenance intervals.

Schedule a transmission fluid exchange today.

What are all my options when servicing my car’s transmission fluid?

Of course you want your transmission to shift better and last longer, but that can’t happen with dirty, deteriorating transmission fluid. Transmission fluid lubricates, cools and cleans a transmission’s internal components and helps maintain the system’s hydraulic pressure. We will work with you to provide the right service for your vehicle – and your budget.

Our most basic service, an automatic transmission drain and fill removes the drain plug or pan and disposes of any automatic transmission fluid in your car’s transmission pan. We then add new transmission fluid until it reaches the appropriate level. Want to step it up a notch? We can perform a drain and fill and replace or clean your old transmission filter.

For more comprehensive service, we recommend enlisting an automatic transmission fluid exchange. This service removes virtually all old fluid and replaces it with new fluid and anti-friction additives for a more complete service.

An automatic transmission fluid exchange with filter – the grand daddy of them all – replaces or cleans old transmission fluid, replaces the filter and adds a pan gasket. This results in optimal cleanliness and protection from premature wear.

We also offer manual transmission service. We perform a drain and fill using the manufacturer’s type and specified fluid.

Schedule a transmission fluid exchange today.

Fuel System Cleaning

What does a fuel injector do?

Talk about important. A fuel injector is crucial to making your engine and car GO. It takes fuel from the fuel pump and breaks it into incredibly small droplets that easily mix with air to allow a more complete internal combustion in the engine. Designed and calibrated for the vehicle it handles, a fuel injector makes sure the fuel can be burned more easily and completely.

What causes a fuel system to become “dirty?”

Fuel injectors can experience reduced flow from accumulated varnish and fuel deposits that form after you turn your car off. Technicians call this “heat soak.” What is “heat soak,” you ask? Well, when you shut off your ride, some fuel remains by the fuel injector. The heat that’s still present can burn off the remaining fuel, leaving behind a coat of varnish and fuel deposits. Drive with a compromised fuel injector and you may notice the possible effects before long: sluggish engine performance, an improper air-fuel mix and a marked difference in rough idle and MPGs.

Separate of that, a car’s fuel system can also be impacted by gas quality. Because gas tanks are located underground at gas stations, their contents tend to pick up contaminants. These small amounts of debris add up over time, dirtying your fuel system.

Quick fact: Keeping your fuel injector clean can maximize the performance of your car and lead to improved acceleration and a reduction in harmful emissions. It also may save you some money at the pump.

Not sure if your fuel system needs a cleaning? We’d be happy to take a look.

What’s the benefit of a fuel system cleaning?

Here are a couple potential reasons you might want to get your fuel system cleaned: optimal performance and increased MPGs.

A fuel system cleaning may be crucial to remove varnish and deposit build-up in your fuel injector. These build-ups may reduce the proper flow of fuel to your engine, potentially robbing you of MPGs and driving performance. However, it’s important to note that while some vehicles benefit greatly from this service, others are not as sensitive to the problem. It depends largely on your vehicle’s system design.

Ease some pain at the pump. Get a fuel system cleaning.

What are symptoms that show my ride might need a fuel system cleaning?

Congratulations. By clicking on this question, you are on the road to better fuel economy and optimal engine performance. In order to detect a dirty fuel system, it’s important to notice the clear signs that your fuel injector needs a professional, performance-enhancing, cleanse.

Have your fuel system cleaned if you notice these symptoms:

A sputtering, sluggish engine. When you’re driving along, and you start to accelerate from one gear to the next, you may feel your car accelerating in an atypical or sporadic fashion. This could mean your fuel injector flow is reduced. It also may mean you’re burning more gas and paying more at the pump.

More frequent trips to the gas station. Just because you’ve had your car for a while doesn’t mean you should be filling up more often. A vehicle’s age may lead to a decrease in fuel efficiency and can be attributed to a dirty fuel system. If the fuel injector gets dirty, it can’t break the fuel down into the incredibly small droplets that allow complete combustion. This can make your engine burn more fuel and less power than it should.

Worst case scenario, dirt can prevent the injector from closing when it needs to, causing fuel leakage and drop in fuel economy and power.

Get your ride performing like new again with a fuel system cleaning. Schedule an appointment.

How often should I have a fuel system cleaning performed on my vehicle?

We suggest cleaning your car’s fuel system annually to prevent performance-robbing symptoms. Or, if your vehicle manufacturer recommends a specific cleaning interval in your owner’s manual, use that as the benchmark.

Clean your fuel system and get more miles from your tank of gas. Schedule an appointment.

What is included in a fuel system cleaning service?

We utilize a three-step procedure designed to maintain the entire fuel intake system and maximize your vehicle’s economy and operating performance.

During our fuel system cleaning service, we:

  1. Add a premium, high tech formula fuel system cleaner to the fuel tank, designed to clean the fuel system from the gas tank to the exhaust. This concentrated formula is used to dissolve gum, varnish and carbon deposits. Highly effective detergents and additives clean the fuel injectors or carburetor, intake valves and combustion chambers, while removing water from the fuel system. We also lubricate injectors, valves, upper cylinders and rings.
  2. Manually clean the throttle body and throttle plate using a specially formulated, triple-action cleaner for effective removal of varnish, carbon, dirt and other contaminants. This lubricates the throttle plate and all moving parts and provides double protection with a corrosion inhibitor and lubricity agent. This works in conjunction with lubricating oil to prevent scoring and deposit build.
  3. Feed in a two-stage intake deposit cleaner through the engine. This dissolves gum and varnish deposits from the intake manifold and runners, valves and combustion chambers. Residual cleaner continues to soften hard carbon deposits for more thorough, long lasting cleaning and lubrication. Also helps reduce build-up in the catalytic converter and reduce exhaust emissions.
  4. Provide a 12 month/12,000 mile limited warranty.*

* See an auto advisor for complete terms and conditions of written, limited warranties.

Need a fuel system cleaning? Make an appointment today.

Call 571-612-2127
Store # 592021
Firestone Complete Auto Care
21800 Towncenter Plz Ste 277
Sterling, VA 20164-1824

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