Avoid VW Cooling System Problems – Replace Your Lifetime “Antifreeze”

by | Jan 27, 2014 | Car Problems & Repairs, Industry-Wide Topics

Last week I noticed that a VW had been in our workshop for a number of days. I knew it was having heater issues so I asked Ben, the technician working on the car, what he had found.

Ben took me over to the bench and there, laid out in a row, were many of the main engine cooling system components and the heart of the cars interior heater, the heater core.

This was a complex job because we had to remove the dash just to get to the heater core.

Removing the dash board to get to the heater core

These photos really show the extent of the problem.

VW cooling system parts with rusted antifreeze

Looking closely I could see the heater core and radiator were in terrible condition. The tiny passages where the coolant flows were blocked with brown sludge. I asked how many miles were on the VW, and there were only 120,000 miles. That is not a lot for a car that typically gets at least 200,000 with good preventive maintenance and care.

So what had happened???    Not enough coolant changes!

Some VW owners add “lifetime” antifreeze when their car breaks down or it’s added when the car is new. In our experience, “lifetime” antifreeze really doesn’t last a lifetime. We’ve found that “lifetime” antifreeze should be replaced every three to four years or at around 40,000 mile intervals.

Long life antifreeze or “lifetime” anti freeze rust inhibitor additives begin to break down in a short period of time. Once that happens the interior of the cooling system begins to rust. In the case of the VW that had been sitting in our shop, the coolant had not been changed for a very long time, if at all, so it caused a lot of damage.

The moral of this story: Change your car’s antifreeze and save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs!


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.