Motorcycle Coolant Buying Guide And FAQ
Buying motorcycle products of any kind can be overwhelming. Shopping around for motorcycle coolant is no different. Unlike hunting for a replacement battery or upgrading your existing drive chain, buying a new motorcycle coolant isn’t particularly straightforward. There are plenty of products that can do the job, but there are also a lot of variables out there. Do you need a coolant that doubles up as an antifreeze? Can your engine handle silicates? Do you live in a really hot environment? Are you looking for coolant to cool a low revving Harley Davidson, or for a high revving sports machine? You should consider things like this before buying the first coolant that you see. Here are a few key things to take into account before making a purchase.
Important Things To Look Out For
First things first, check your motorcycle’s service manual and read up on what kind of coolant will offer the best results for your ride. If you don’t have a user manual for your motorcycle, check online and trawl through the forums related to your model. You’ll quickly find out what coolant types are recommended. The right motorcycle coolant will help your engine perform the best it can, and it will seriously improve the life span of many of your engine’s components by protecting them from corrosion, rust, and cavitation. While you’ve got the manual, check out your coolant’s tank capacity. If you buy too little coolant, the cooling system won’t function correctly.
Pre-Mixed Or Mix Your Own?
You can purchase motorcycle coolant in a couple of ways: premixed, or as a concentrate. It should go without saying that premixed coolants are just way more convenient and make your life much easier. Water-based coolants are generally premixed for your convenience with de-ionized water, which is a very pure form of water that won’t cause any corrosion, or cause scaling in your cooling system, due to the fact that it doesn’t have any harmful minerals in it. Concentrated motorcycle coolants come in different forms and mainly require you to add your own water. We recommend ready-to-use premixed coolants for easier motorcycle maintenance.
Note: de-ionized water and distilled water aren’t the same thing. They’re similar, but not the same.
A motorcycle coolant with a long life is arguably the best kind of coolant for the average motorcyclist. A coolant with a long service life is easier on the wallet, sure, but more importantly, a coolant that has been formulated to have a long life will be a seriously high-quality coolant. A quality coolant with a long life expectancy will improve your motorcycle’s fuel efficiency, prevent important mechanical parts from developing problems, and will save you money in the long run. Money that can be spent on motorcycle accessories and things generally more exciting than coolant.
The chemical make-up of a motorcycle coolant may influence your decision on whether to buy it or not. Some coolants are made of harmful materials that are toxic and irritating to the skin, and very harmful to the environment. If you’re looking for a solution that’s easy to handle and won’t hurt you or the environment, take extra care reading the manufacturer’s ingredients and descriptions to insure that you’re not putting yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily. Any coolant that contains silicates and phosphates can be harmful to the environment and parts of your motorcycle, especially if they’re manufacture red from aluminum or magnesium.
High Boiling Point
It’s important to find a coolant that has a high boiling point. The higher a coolant’s boiling point, the more efficient it is at cooling an engine. Coolant’s that have a higher boiling point, of at least 250 degrees Fahrenheit, are essential if you want the best performance out of your engine. If you live in an area which has hot outdoor temperatures, it’s twice as important to get a coolant with a high boiling point. If you ride a high-revving motorcycle, it’s also worth investing in the highest boiling point rated coolant you can to help prevent overheating.
Not all coolants have antifreeze properties in them. The vast majority of modern formulas do, but don’t count on it. Always make sure that you check the product description. A good antifreeze solution will protect your engine at cooler temperatures and allow it to operate down to temperatures as low as – 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, if you live in a region where temperatures regularly fall down to freezing temperatures, you’re going to want an antifreeze additive in your coolant. If you live in an area where freezing temperatures never happen, it’s not so important. Some coolants can be mixed with other antifreeze products without a fuss – just follow the manufacturer’s instructions before doing so!
This is more of a summary of many of the other points listed above. Coolants need anti-corrosion additives to make sure that your cooling system works properly. Cooling systems can be made from a variety of materials, including aluminum, magnesium, bronze, cast iron, and brass. Different coolants can have different effects on different metals, so it’s imperative that you make sure you buy a coolant that won’t cause your system harm. Silicates, borates, phosphates and even carboxylates can reduce corrosion, but they can cause harmful effects elsewhere on your motorcycle if you don’t do your homework and double check. Seals, hoses, and gaskets can also deteriorate if exposed to harmful ingredients, so make sure you check everything before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
Different Types Of Motorcycle Coolant Available
If it wasn’t enough that you had to worry about the chemical make-up of your coolant, the operating temperatures, the materials your system is made out of, and whether you mix your own coolant or buy a premixed product, you also have to know about the two different types of coolant available too. These two main coolant types are water-based or water-free. Here are the differences between the two.
Water-Based Motorcycle Coolants
Water-based motorcycle coolants are coolants that are primarily made out of water. Generally water comprises about 50% of the overall ingredients. Many of the water-based coolants on the market today are premixed, but there are some that require you to dilute them with water yourself. Most coolants on the market are water-based, and they’re easily the most popular because they’re cheap to manufacture and easy to use. They’re more cost-effective, but they’re not always the most efficient, since they tend to have a lower boiling point than waterless solutions. With that in mind, if you need a coolant for a racing motorcycle in a hot climate, a water-based solution might not be the best motorcycle coolant for you. Water-based coolants can also cause corrosion to your motorcycle components.
Water Free Motorcycle Coolants
As the name suggests, water-free motorcycle coolants are formulated without water as an ingredient. The lack of water makes these coolants far more expensive, but without water as a main ingredient there’s almost a zero percent chance of any corrosion happening in your motorcycle’s cooling system. The constituent chemicals in a water-free motorcycle coolant are generally better at channeling heat away from your engine, have a higher boiling point, and have a better heat capacity in general. These coolants are excellent for racing applications since they can endure more punishment. They also have a longer life than traditional water-based coolants too – which is a nice compromise with the higher price tag.
How To Change Your Coolant
Changing your motorcycle coolant is relatively easy providing that you have the appropriate tools and take your safety seriously. Before you get started, make sure you have all the correct items and tools. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Enough motorcycle coolant to fill your tank
- A flushing solution (like EVANS Prep Fluid) to purge your system properly
- Screwdrivers or Hex keys appropriate for your motorcycle
- A drip tray to collect old coolant
- A funnel
- Old rags to absorb any spillages
Once you’re armed with the right tools for the job, make sure your motorcycle is cold, and wheel it somewhere where you can safely work. It’s important that your motorcycle hasn’t been running before you attempt this. If you try and open the main drain bolt after the engine has been running, you could hurt yourself since the pressurised coolant could erupt and shoot out. This isn’t ideal at all! Now that you’re aware of the risk, here’s how to change your motorcycle coolant.
#01. Put your motorcycle up on its center stand or on a paddock stand, and remove any parts of the fairing necessary to gain access to your radiator cap, header tank, and the all-important drain bolt. If your drain bolt is placed near your side stand, it can be better to place your bike on its side stand to make the draining process easier. If your motorcycle doesn’t have a drain bolt, then you must remove the lowest hose to drain the system. It’s essential that you make sure the coolant is cold before attempting this.
#02. Position a drip tray underneath your drain bolt and loosen the radiator cap to decrease the pressure in your system. This will also allow your old coolant to drain smoothly. Don’t remove the radiator cap completely or you’ll have a jet of coolant shooting out of your system when you remove the drain bolt! With a drip tray in place, carefully remove your drain bolt and any sealing washers, and allow the old coolant to drain.
#03. Now is a good time to clean your system. This isn’t essential, but it’s worth it. Re-attach your drain bolt and fill your radiator and overflow with a special flushing fluid, or a homemade mixture of distilled water and vinegar at a 50:50 ratio (use a funnel for this) and refit the radiator cap and overflow cap. Wait for the fluid to reach every part of the cooling system, and then start your bike and let it run for about 10 minutes or until it reaches its normal operating temperature.
#04. When your motorcycle has completely cooled down again, remove the flushing fluid in the same way that you removed the old coolant, and rinse it through with distilled water until the fluid that flows out of your drain bolt hole is clean.
#05. Now it’s time to add your new coolant. Refit your drain bolt, ideally with a new washer, and place a funnel into your radiator top and carefully fill it with coolant. Don’t rush this, and make sure you wait for the coolant to spread into all the parts of your system. Fill up your expansion tank too. Remove trapped air by gently squeezing the hoses, purging it from the system.
#06. Let the bike sit for a moment or two. This allows the fluid to move through the system and settle. Check the fluid levels again, and add more if you used too little coolant. Secure your caps and bolts, and move on to the next step.
#07. Start the engine again, and let it run for a about 10 minutes, bringing the cooling system up to its operating temperature. Make sure you let the bike cool before moving on to the next step. The cooling bike will move around any trapped air, which might mean you need to add more coolant to your system if the level is too low after the air is expelled. Be sure to check the fluid levels in your radiator and expansion tank levels a final time too.
#08. Finally, clean up any coolant that might have spilled onto your motorcycle’s bodywork or other metal parts. Motorcycle coolant can be corrosive, so you don’t want that on your bike. It can be safely washed away with soapy water. After that, clean up your tools and store any remaining coolant somewhere safe. And the job is done.
Motorcycle Coolant FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What kind of coolant should I used in my motorcycle?
A: Check your owner’s manual and follow your manufacturer’s guidance for the best motorcycle coolant options for your model. If in doubt, search for a properly formulated motorcycle engine coolant and antifreeze. These are usually made from propylene glycol or ethylene glycol, with propylene glycol being the universally accepted “best choice” for motorcycle engines. It’s important that you know which type you have in your system, because you shouldn’t mix the two types together.
It’s also important to find a coolant that doesn’t contain any harmful phosphates or silicates – these compounds can harm your cooling system if you’re not regular with your maintenance. Phosphates and silicates work to insulate your system, but if left unchecked those same compounds can form thick layers that affect the heat transfer process, and eat away at seals and gaskets. Whatever coolant you decide to use, make sure it’s compatible with aluminum, since most motorcycle radiators are made from this metal.
Q: Can you use car coolant in a motorcycle?
A: While it’s always best to use a motorcycle-specific product, you can use certain types of car coolants in your motorcycle’s system. Providing that the coolant contains ethylene glycol antifreezing properties, it should be fine to use in both your car and motorcycle. Do check the manufacturer’s instructions before doing this though, and make sure you flush out any old coolant before trying a new brand or chemical formula.
Q: How to flush motorcycle coolant?
A: You can use special flushing formulas to flush any old coolant from your radiator and tank. It’s also possible to use a 50:50 ratio of distilled water and vinegar to flush your system. Full instructions on how to do this can be found above in the “How To Change Your Coolant” section. Always make sure you drain any old coolant when your motorcycle’s engine is cold to avoid injury.
Q: Where to buy motorcycle coolant?
A: Most vehicle care products can easily be purchased in stores or online. For the best deals, using an online shopping platform can yield the best results. Many of these motorcycle coolant bottles aren’t particularly heavy so many vendors offer free shipping. If you need to get a bottle of coolant immediately, your best bet is to visit your nearest hardware store or gas station. Larger retailers like Wal-Mart also carry motorcycle coolant products. Whatever you do, make sure you do your research and buy the correct product for your motorcycle’s cooling system. Always read the ingredients and instructions, and refer to your owner’s manual in advance.
Q: How long does motorcycle coolant last?
A: Between 1 and 3 years is the general rule. However, if your cooling system was absolutely perfect, manufactured with completely compatible pieces, and no fluid ever leaked, and no seals ever broke down, your coolant should last forever. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Seals perish, fluid leaks, and air gets into the system. Air and water introduce ions and other contaminants that bring corrosion and electrolysation into the mix, which reduce the effectiveness of your coolant and cooling system in general. The best way to counter this is to regularly change your coolant and keep on top of your maintenance, cleaning the system and replacing any parts such as seals and hoses that could perish.
Q: When should I change coolant in a motorcycle?
A: For the best results, you should replace your coolant annually. Many riders don’t replace their coolants for up to 3 years. On average, it’s every 2 years. However, there’s nothing wrong with changing your coolant more regularly. A coolant’s performance degrades as time moves on. Corrosion builds up, fluid and coolant ratios change, and seals in the system perish. If you want to experience the best performance and want your cooling system to last as long as possible, check and replace your coolant once a year. It doesn’t hurt to go the extra mile when it comes to motorcycle maintenance.