Maintaining Light & Medium Duty Truck Cooling Systems

Most light and medium duty truck owners are not aware that their trucks may need different coolant maintenance than the family car!

Trucks are used both for personal transportation and for work. They are heavier and built tougher than cars.

In 2003 Ford began filling all Ford pickups with fully-formulated hybrid coolant. Since 1996 GM has been using heavy-duty style extended life coolant in GMC trucks with diesel engines. In 2004 Dodge will convert to fully formulated coolant too. Why?

Pickups are available with more powerful gasoline, diesel and gaseous fuel engines than has ever been the case. GM has always used heavy-duty style Nalcool and later Pencool SCAs in their medium duty trucks, right from the factory!

After Ford saw block corrosion in diesel engines, they adopted Cummins' Fleetguard DCA-4 SCA and still recommend that it be used once a year. Caring for a pickup system is different from the family car in many cases.

In most cases, the cooling system needs to be checked visually about once a month to be sure that the coolant level in the overflow bottle is adequate. It is not necessary to open the bottle or radiator to do this! If it is low, add enough of the correct coolant type to bring it to the "full" line. In addition, some coolants need an annual pint of additive to prevent problems.

Here is a general guide as to what is the "correct" type for you truck, but check your owner's manual to be sure.

By the way, it is best not to stray from the type of coolant that came in the truck from the factory.

General Applications:

Check your user's manual

Conventional "green" coolants alone: (i.e. Prestone II, Peak, Zerex): Dodge trucks except diesels.

Conventional "green" coolants with SCA: Dodge trucks with diesels, Ford with diesels before 2003, GM with diesels before 1996.

Nitrited carboxylate "red-orange" coolants  diesel GMC and Chevy trucks 1996 and newer.

Carboxylate "orange" coolants  GMC and Chevy gasoline trucks 1996 and newer.

Hybrid coolants, some are orange some are yellow such as Ford / Zerex G-05: Ford 2003 and newer.

Service Periods:

GM 1996 and newer, Ford 2003 and newer, can operate up to 5 years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles between coolant changes.

All others: Change coolant every 2 to 3 years.

Change coolant if coolants have been mixed, or if any discoloration or problems are suspected. Its cheap insurance! Maintain SCA levels in diesels as specified.