Why does the price of a coolant flush vary among repair shops?


The cost of a cooling system or radiator flush can vary shop to shop, depending on how thorough the job.

Question: My car repair shop recently recommended a coolant flush. Their estimate seemed high, so I called a couple of other shops to compare prices. Every shop had a different price–by a wide margin. Why would the cost vary so much for a basic fluid flush? 


Answer: Although a cooling system flush – a.k.a. radiator flush – is a straightforward car maintenance service, the cost often varies for two main reasons:

  1. How thorough is the flush? If the auto repair shop is only draining the dirty coolant* from the radiator, it takes less time than a flush. But it also leaves half of the dirty coolant inside the engine. It’s not very thorough. At Auto Lab, we flush the cooling system using a specialized piece of equipment. This is much better for you because it pulls nearly all of the dirty coolant  from the radiator, the engine block, the water pump and the radiator hoses. This service costs more, but it so much more effective. With the first method, you’re merely diluting old contaminated coolant with new fluid.
  2. Is the shop using additives to prolong the benefit of the flush? At Auto Lab, we use three additives to clean your system better and to keep it cleaner longer. The first is a cleaner that removes scale, metal contaminants and other dirt from inside the radiator and engine block. The second additive is a conditioner that corrects the pH balance of your coolant. The metals inside the radiator cause the coolant to become acidic over time, and this acid is what eats through the radiator and causes it to leak. By adding the conditioner, we prolong the life of the new coolant. Finally, we add a lubricant to lube the water pump.

Obviously, flushing the coolant and using additives are going to cost more than a simple drain and fill. But the former is a much better value for your money. It will actually get all of the gunk and acidic coolant out of your engine and radiator, and it will last longer. The latter is buying you a little time, but not much. It would be like washing your clothes in dirty water. You may get some of the dirt out, but certainly not all.

These same principles apply to transmission fluid flushes and fuel injection cleanings. If your auto shop recommends either service, know the price can vary widely here, too.

If you have any questions about cooling system flushes or any recommended auto repair services, know that we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to call us at 847-367-4488 or stop by.

* Coolant is a 50-50 mixture of water and antifreeze.

Posted in Cooling System.