Dear Car Fix: Can you tell me if I can use distilled water in my radiator? I want to use the right fluid.
-- B.D., Depew
Dear B.D.: Whether you've heard it called coolant or antifreeze -- they both mean the same fluid that keeps your engine running cooler and keeps you off the side of the road.
Antifreeze coolant is designed to keep cooling in temperature extremes far better than H2O, and that's good news for your engine. Coolant also helps prevent the corrosion and mineral deposits associated with nature's version.
Still, it's not foolproof. Learn how to test antifreeze to winterize your car, extend its life and improve your safety.
The problem with antifreeze is, if you put too much of it in, it actually doesn't cool very well. You've got to get the mixture right with deionized water 5 0/5 0 with the proper coolant.
And don't forget to drain and replace the fluid periodically based on the owner's manual or the quality of the fluid tested with a hydrometer. You can buy a hydrometer for less than $5 at a local parts store.
Antifreeze protects the cooling system against both freezing and boiling over. When used at normal strength (50 percent antifreeze, 50 percent water), it can lower the freezing point of the coolant to 34 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) and raise its boiling temperature to 276 degrees Fahrenheit. Never use straight antifreeze in a cooling system.
Most antifreeze is 95 percent ethylene glycol (EG). The only differences between brands of antifreeze are the type and/or quantity of anti-corrosion additives used. Ethylene glycol never wears out, but the corrosion inhibitors do. That's why antifreeze should be changed every two years (except for long-life antifreezes, which have special additive packages that allow them to go up to 5 years/150,000 miles between changes). For the environmentally concerned, propylene glycol (PG) antifreeze is also available at slightly higher cost. PG antifreeze is less toxic.
Disposal of old fluids can be as simple as taking it to a repair shop or have an ASE technician flush and change the fluid for you. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure you read the directions and dispose of the old fluid properly. This is not a simple job and requires some mechanical experience.
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Dear Car Fix: I just saw my first Fiat 500 convertible. What do think of these little cars?
-- L.B., Amherst
Dear L.B.: The Fiat 500C is a small car you may remember. The tiny car was very fuel-efficient. The first car was launched July 4, 1957, and left the U.S. market 27 years ago.
The new Fiat 500C convertible (cabrio) in Italian design and style comes back to the United States at a very reasonable price. The 500 is a convertible small car that is fuel-efficient and filled with lots of great features.
The "Chinkqa-chento" or 500 cabriolet doesn't compromise any of the trunk space, which is typical of convertibles. The trunk is the same size as the hardtop version.
The power top retracts and goes up in just 15 seconds with the push of one button. The top will even go up or down while the car is driving in case you get caught in the rain.
The interior is very quiet, even with the soft top up.
There are two models offered, the POP and the Lounge. POP cabriolet -- 5 Speed, comes with an infotainment system called Blue and Me and starts at $19,500. The Lounge cabriolet with 15-inch wheels, automatic transmission, satellite radio and fog lights starts at $23,500.
The fuel economy on this little 1.4-liter engine with 101 horsepower is 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The Eco Drive system helps you with fuel costs, shows your driving patterns, and shows you your eco-index through a website to help you save on your gas bill. This is included on all 500s.
There were some disappointments from my perspective:
Tilt wheel only, should telescope as well.
Windows do not have "one touch."
Blind spot on left convex mirror.
Headliner under the top was made of jersey material.
Cheap plastic dash and headrest.
Rear screen is obtrusive to vision.
I liked these features:
Tight turning radius.
Progressive rate steering.
Steering wheel controls were easy to use.
Test drive every car in the category, check insurance rates and do your homework on the Internet before making a final decision.