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How-To: 2011-2016 Cruze Antifreeze/Coolant Flush


Overview:
The DexCool antifreeze/coolant in the Cruze is rated for 5 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first. At the end of that service interval, it needs to be flushed out and replaced with new antifreeze. You can do this easily in your garage with some basic tools and a bucket.


Tools Required:
- 13mm socket & ratchet
- A clean 1+ gallon bucket
- Flathead screwdriver & needle nose pliers, or a plastic fastener removal tool (Available on amazon.com)
- A T-20 Torx bit and driver
- 2 feet of 5/16" or 1/4" hose (I used 5/16" since I had some old transmission cooler line laying around)


Parts Required:
- 4 gallons distilled water (No, you cannot use tap water. Water quality is critical with cooling systems. Distilled water is just $1 a gallon at any grocery store.)
- 1 gallon 100% concentrate antifreeze

Note: Everything I've read and experienced has noted that DexCool, when used according to its intended service life, is a reliable coolant to use. You can use whatever antifreeze you'd like for this, just pay close attention to its rated service life and make sure to flush it out when it has reached the end of that service life.

For my Cruze, I decided to use AMSOIL's Low Toxicity Propylene Glycol antifreeze, which is rated for 150,000 miles or 5 years (whichever comes first), just like DexCool. This antifreeze is compatible with DexCool and will not cause problems if they are mixed. The reason I chose this was due to its low toxicity (I have kids and a dog and this means I have to store one less toxic product), its excellent corrosion, scaling, and cavitation/pitting resistance, and the fact that it's biodegradable. You can purchase this here: AMSOIL Low Toxicity Antifreeze and Engine Coolant.




Procedure:
First, we will need to remove the under-body shield that sits directly underneath the radiator. Using the T-20 torx bit, remove the six screws holding it on (two are toward the outer edges)


Next, remove the fasteners by lifting the centers out first, then removing the body. I used to do this with a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers, but discovered that a plastic fastener removal tool is much quicker.


Slide the shield backward, and you'll be able to see the A/C condenser, intercooler, and radiator.


Take off the radiator cap. If the engine is hot, wait for it to cool down first.


The drain valve is located on the passenger side of the vehicle, to the side of the radiator. It will look like this:


Fit a hose over the barbed fitting, place a bucket underneath the hose, and open the valve. It should loosen by hand. You don't need to take the valve completely out, just loosen it enough to allow the coolant to start pouring. Make sure the hose is secure, and make sure it isn't kinked at the initial outlet.




Next is the flushing process. It is really up to you how many times you want to flush the cooling system. I did it 5 times because I had 4 gallons of distilled water and that allowed me to use it all up. The more times you flush the system, the more of the old coolant you are able to replace. The system holds 5.8 quarts of coolant for the 1.4L. Draining the system using the valve will drain almost exactly 3 quarts (give or take depending on how your vehicle is angled).

To flush the system:
1. Close the valve on the bottom of the radiator
2. Wait 15 minutes for the engine to cool a bit so you don't cause a thermal shock when adding the cold water.
3. Fill up the reservoir with water and keep filling until the level stabilizes, being sure not to go higher than the seam of the reservoir
4. Turn on the car and let it heat up to operating temp. The idea here is to get the engine hot enough to open the thermostat so you can mix what's in the radiator with what's in the rest of the engine.
5. Once you've reached operating temp, turn the car off.
6. Wait 5 minutes for any hot spots in the engine to the normalize.
7. Open the drain valve and allow the mixture to drain.
8. Repeat for as many flushes as you want to perform.

Here's how much of the old fluid you will have remaining after each flush:

Flush 1: 2.8 quarts (48%)
Flush 2: 1.4 quarts (24%)
Flush 3: 0.75 quarts (13%)
Flush 4: 0.39 quarts (7%)
Flush 5: 0.20 quarts (3.4%)

After the 5th flush, you'll have replaced ~96.5% of the old fluid.



Once you've performed all your flushes, you should have the radiator empty with the drain valve closed. Since the system holds 5.8 quarts of fluid and opening the valve only drains 3 quarts, you should have 2.8 quarts remaining. Proceed to refill the cooling system with 100% concentrate coolant. It should only take about 3 quarts to get you to the correct level on the reservoir. This will get you to an almost exact 50/50 mix ratio.

To bleed the system, there is a valve on the passenger top of the radiator facing the rear of the car. You can use a large flathead screwdriver or a 13mm socket to open this valve. Open it and allow air to escape. Once coolant starts flowing out of it, close the valve, being sure not to over-tighten it (it's plastic after all).



Screw the cap back onto the reservoir, and go out for a drive. Once you get back, check the level to make sure it is still good, and if it hasn't gone down too much, you're all set. The system will continue to "burp" air bubbles, so check on the level every now and then for the first couple of weeks and top off as needed.
 

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Subbed! Great write up, I will be doing this soon on mine as mine is a 2011 with 80K on it, so time wise I am over due.

But dang $40/gallon, ouch.I bet even CAT ELC isn't that much.
 

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I didn't mean Cat ELC is correct to use as it is not compatible, but I meant to compare price as $40 is so steep.
 

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Subbed! Great write up, I will be doing this soon on mine as mine is a 2011 with 80K on it, so time wise I am over due.

But dang $40/gallon, ouch.I bet even CAT ELC isn't that much.
Yeah without a preferred customer account, the propylene glycol antifreeze costs a bit. Still, even then, it's only an extra ~$35 for 5 years to use a low-toxicity, environmentally safe product. Cheap peace of mind for me since I have a dog and kids.
 

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Thanks again XR. Great write up.

I happened to notice in the pic of the drain valve that your intercooler charge pipe at the intercooler seemed a little oily. Any ideas of a flush for the intercooler/charge pipes?
 

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Thanks again XR. Great write up.

I happened to notice in the pic of the drain valve that your intercooler charge pipe at the intercooler seemed a little oily. Any ideas of a flush for the intercooler/charge pipes?
I haven't yet seen a justifiable need for that, so I'll probably leave that one alone and trust that the little oil vapor that goes through there will not stick around very long. Unless there's a blockage or a significant flow restriction, I just don't see the benefit to cleaning it out.
 

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I remember when I had my front bumper off I removed the discharge side pipe off the intercooler and found it to be a oily milky mess inside. I wondering if this should be a routine check.
 

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Mine will be 5 years in December of this year. Guess I know what I am doing this summer beside swapping my oil to Amsoil. lol
 

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3. Turn on the car and let it heat up to operating temp. The idea here is to get the engine hot enough to open the thermostat so you can mix what's in the radiator with what's in the rest of the engine.
4. Once you've reached operating temp, turn the car off.
5. Open the drain valve and allow the mixture to drain.
6. Repeat for as many flushes as you want to perform.
Are you re-filling a hot engine with cold water, or are you missing a cool-down step?
 

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Are you re-filling a hot engine with cold water, or are you missing a cool-down step?
You know, I didn't intentionally perform a cool-down step, but I did wait about 5 minutes between turning the engine off and draining the coolant (should be enough to dissipate any hot spots in the engine), and another 15 minutes between draining the old coolant and adding the new, which actually went in very slowly. I'll add these intervals to the tutorial.

Sent from my BlackBerry PRIV using Tapatalk
 

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Great write up. I had to change my upper radiator hose and I lost a decent amount of coolant in the process. Do you see any additional steps for my coolant flush? Only thing i can think of is maybe just doing an extra cycle or two combined with bleeding, just to make sure i have a full 5.8 qts of distilled water in my system before draining the 3qt radiator and adding back 3qts coolant concentrate.

Thanks,
Phil
 

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I use to have Amsoil coolant in mine. Swapped it out after the first five years but since i am on my fourth water pump I gave up. Do have the coolant in my other cars though since we don't have to change water pumps ever other year.
 

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I use to have Amsoil coolant in mine. Swapped it out after the first five years but since i am on my fourth water pump I gave up. Do have the coolant in my other cars though since we don't have to change water pumps ever other year.
Fortunately, I'm on my original water pump, 5 years and 66,500 miles later.
 

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so reviewing this thread, since I had to replace the water inlet on my 2011 it appears you don't have to warm up the car and bleed the system? I recall my 01 Firebird was a big PIA bleeding all the air from the system, so once you fill the radiator, with the bleeder open, and nothing but antifreeze comes out, no gurgle, you're good to go?
thanks great write up
 

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Here are some additions to the thread after having done the coolant flush/fill myself.

It took one hour for my engine to cool from operating temp with the engine fan running down to barely registering on the temp meter. This was during 50 degree weather with the hood open. You may not need to wait this long before draining and filling, but I did to avoid burning myself and thermally shocking the engine with cold water.

After each fill when you're running the car to operating temp, also turn the cabin air system to max heat and max fan. This should open the heater core and circulate the flush water or final coolant through it.
 

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Does anyone know if this is similar on our diesel Cruze? As in the drain location and amount of fluid? Thanks You Tube didn't give me any info.
 

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So my experience is there is no need to remove the undercover to drain the radiator. Unless the 2013 undercover is different than other years, there are two ways to drain without removing the cover. Right next to the petcock on the bottom of the radiator there is a "grill" type hole in the cover. You can either place a drain tube on the fitting and route through one of the holes or if you are very fast at unscrewing the petcock, undo it all the way and actually pull it out of the radiator, the water will actually drain through that grille opening in the undercover. You can easily reach the petcock as well from under the hood and don't need to remove the cover to access it.
 

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I just did my 2014 Cruze. The system holds 9.5 qts. I flushed it just like Xtreme did and basically flushed it with 6 gallons of distilled water. That is what it took to get the fluid coming out of the radiator to have a clear color to it and no longer pink. I then drained the water out and filled the system up with straight AMSOIL coolant like Xtreme.

Took it out for a drive and got it all mixed well. Came back and sucked out the reservoir and added more straight coolant. I did this enough that I went through a gallon and a half of coolant. I used my coolant tester with the floating balls and it is showing that I'm good down to -25°F.
 

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Does ethylene glycol-based coolant have a shelf life?

I have a gallon container of Prestone Dex-Cool approved 50/50 prediluted coolant (purchased late 2014). I've been using this 1-2 times per year to top-off the coolant in my 2014 Cruze. (I'm guessing I haven't used more than 16 oz. total.) Later on this year I'll be having the cooling system flushed.

Is it okay to continue using my existing Prestone coolant or should I buy a new gallon?
 
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