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Technical Distilled or tap water for your radiator ?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by blazedogs, May 17, 2019.

  1. blazedogs
    Joined: Sep 22, 2014
    Posts: 345


    Here in our community there are a lot of chemicals added to your tap water to make it drinkable. Maybe a odd question but would one be better off to use distilled water in the radiator when adding all fresh. It seems like there is a lot of scale build up when using tap water?? Gene
  2. Truckdoctor Andy
    Joined: Jan 13, 2017
    Posts: 697

    Truckdoctor Andy

    Interesting question, I live on a well, never thought about what to mix coolant with. At work we use the 50/50 ELC stuff, so no mixing there either. It seems like if municipal water mixes that much extra stuff into water, it would be better to use distilled water.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  3. 1953 chevy
    Joined: Sep 30, 2011
    Posts: 62

    1953 chevy
    from tucson

    63savoy and jimmy six like this.
    Joined: Dec 14, 2009
    Posts: 1,717



    Here in the GTA ( Greater Toronto Area) tap water is relatively soft and ok for use in batteries ( coming from battery companies) cleaning etc.

    I know going north or west of the GTA you get hard water which causes havoc on every thing between mineral buildup, corrosion etc.

    Distilled would be best, as it’s “ clean” water, but my thinking is asking as it’s not hard or full of iron or minerals it’s ok.
    Jet96, Chavezk21 and 1934coupe like this.
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  5. 1934coupe
    Joined: Feb 22, 2007
    Posts: 3,291


    Vandenplas when I read your cartoon I laughed, we all need some humor daily. In my race car w/aluminum radiator I run distilled water. It only takes 10 quarts.

    VANDENPLAS likes this.
  6. My take on the water, If it's good enough for me to take interenally it's good enough for my cars, ever read the ingredients in antifreeze?

    ethylene glycol or propylene glycol so I wouldn't worry about any added chemicals to make the water potable, your radiator should be safe. HRP
    FlatJan, nochop, texasred and 4 others like this.
  7. buford36
    Joined: Feb 7, 2007
    Posts: 205

    from Maine

    When I was in the AF, radiators in ground equipment used plain tap water and anti freeze. They would scale up and clog and have to be cleaned out periodically. We were mandated to use only distilled water and anti freeze and had no more problems. I use only distilled water in my cars . Tom...
  8. Inked Monkey
    Joined: Apr 19, 2011
    Posts: 1,512

    Inked Monkey

    That's one of the reasons I buy the premixed crap.
    XXL__ and VANDENPLAS like this.
  9. partsdawg
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 2,312

    from Minnesota

    Distilled only.
  10. i.rant
    Joined: Nov 23, 2009
    Posts: 2,484

    from Illinois
    1. 1940 Ford

    Lots of lime in our community well water along with a good helping of iron which makes using a water softener mandatory. Distilled only for me.
    Hnstray likes this.
  11. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,958

    Rusty O'Toole

    For years I used tap water and antifreeze. Cars with sealed cooling systems don't use much coolant. Last time I changed coolant in my (late model) with aluminum rad, I used reverse osmosis water. I buy this purified water for $3 a self fill, 5 gallon jug and use it in my home for drinking and cooking. Don't know if it makes any difference but what the hell, I'm already paying $15 a gallon for antifreeze why not blow another 60 cents on pure water to mix with it.
  12. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 3,042


    Distilled for me but don't drink the leaches all you minerals out of your body!
    Chuck roast and pitman like this.
  13. leon bee
    Joined: Mar 15, 2017
    Posts: 286

    leon bee
    from Arkansas!

    If it's something I care about, I go to the dollar store and get the "purified drinking water". I read once around here somewhere that distilled water is: "water in search of an ion". No idea what that means, but it stuck with me.
    pitman, sidevalve8ba and chevyfordman like this.
  14. Make sure your radiator is grounded.....
  15. Rich S.
    Joined: Jul 22, 2016
    Posts: 273

    Rich S.

    In my town, if you use copper and brass floats and valves in your toilet they will disintegrate within a year. So distilled water is the way to go.

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  16. chevyfordman
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 755


    I heard that purified drinking water was better than distilled so I use it.
    leon bee likes this.
  17. Crocodile
    Joined: Jun 16, 2016
    Posts: 118


    With the Minnesota "bipolar" climate, my concrete floor sweats badly and makes the shop humid for a couple of months. I use a dehumidifier in there, and save a lot of the water from it to use in radiators and batteries. Should be really pure, and free.
    milwscruffy, Algoma56 and Texas Webb like this.
  18. Our water is soft here, so I have no hesitation with using tap water. I remember when I was stationed in Laredo Tx, the water was so hard, that it was cheaper to throw the sprinkler away at the end of the watering season and buy a new one in the spring. I was also stationed in Moose Groin Sask, and the water there was also hard. If I lived in an area with hard water like either of those places, I would use distilled water.
    Deuces likes this.
  19. no55mad
    Joined: Dec 15, 2006
    Posts: 1,787

    from nipomo, ca

    Drive magazine had an article some years back saying that distilled water is not the best. As mentioned in posts above, distilled is missing certain certain components and will take them from the cooling system; ie cause corrosion. Oldsmobiles used to like to eat holes in the plate behind the water pump. Behind that plate is the motor oil. Water from a good filtration system is better.
  20. dsiddons
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 1,320

    from Indiana

    For me to seal up a newly built flathead good ole Indiana hard well water was the best. Never put a thought into the radiator. I did find myself buying original head bolts on eBay and dumping the cheap Chinese studs from Speedway.

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  21. tomic
    Joined: Jan 8, 2008
    Posts: 114


    i used to run tap water (and antifreeze concentrate) and assumed radiator juice crudding up in a couple years was normal. now i run distilled water and water-wetter, after a "rinse" with distilled water, and so far, a year later, still clear. very slight cloudiness but no more.
    quicksilverart46 likes this.
  22. David Chandler
    Joined: Jan 27, 2007
    Posts: 1,069

    David Chandler

    My uncle ran a radiator shop when I was younger. He regularly added "water pump oil" to every car he filled, along with tap water and antifreeze. The oil was water soluble, and turned white when mixed with water. That said, he ran straight antifreeze in his own car. He used something called Tellar, I think it was called. Dupont made it, and I've never seen it anywhere else. I too have run straight antifreeze more than once, and had no problems. But I wouldn't attempt it now. It isn't "wet" enough to work properly. As for the water, I've used whatever came out of the faucet. Which is well water where I've been living since 1980. But now they sell that 50/50 mix, I'd probably go with that, and hope they used the "good" water.
  23. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 17,208

    from California

    I've never used anything but regular old tap water. that is all I drink as well. if you drink that bottled stuff you don't get enough chemicals.

    Irish Mike and gimpyshotrods like this.
  24. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 4,255

    anthony myrick
    from al

    Mine distilled itself when it over heated
    pecker head and nochop like this.
  25. Our well is drillred 450 feet thru solid limestone into the Sparta aquifer. and that water contains lime. I have a plastic rain barrel and use it to mix with anti freeze. I once in the summer of 1980 quit a job running a D7 -17 A caterpillar because it wouldn't run cool. I got paid by the chargable hours and that overheating beast I set waiting for it to cool more than I worked it. So I ouit. The owners brother decided he would run it. and decided the temp guage was phony. Freddie boiled the antifreeze. Several years later a old guy bought it. he tried to remove the cyl liners from the block. The water jacket was packed full of lime. after he chiseled that out and installed new sleeves it ran cool on the hottest days. Well water all contains lots of minerals. and heat distills(it don't have to be boiled into steam) those minerals from the water. and they tend to stick to cast iron more than to a copper radiator.
  26. dirty old man
    Joined: Feb 2, 2008
    Posts: 8,053

    dirty old man

    In '76 I bought a '73 GMC 4X4 p'up, OT? Yeah, but after years of mudding, running up and down beaches and across the flats on roads that were underwater at high tide to get to the clam digging spots, and various other abuses, along about the mid 90's I pulled and saved the engine (actually a sbc) and junked the badly rusted out remainder. And that engine never had anything in the coolant system but a 50-50 mix of various brands of ethylene glycol antifreeze and tap water, flushed and changed every 3-4 years. The engine was stored, out of the rain, but not in a climate controlled area, in the back of an old van.
    About 12 years ago I started ,in and eventually built my Hiboy roadster. Knowing the history of that engine, ie: never run low on oil, changed often, never run hot, etc., decided to build that engine.
    So after about 20 years of driving, another 10-12 years laid up in the back of a van, I pulled it apart. There was no rust or scale build up in the water jackets when I removed the freeze plugs, and the inner surface of the freeze plugs was just as rust free and shiny as the new ones I installed when I built the engine.
    I see no need to worry about using distilled water unless your water is extremely hard, that is hard enough that you need to use a water softener system in your home because of rust stains on laundry, etc.
    gimpyshotrods likes this.
  27. 26hotrod
    Joined: Nov 28, 2009
    Posts: 785

    from landis n c

    I have run a Griffin aluminum radiator for several years using their advise to mix 50/50 mix of distilled water and coolant with no problems so far. I pull the rad every few years to clean it out using distilled water and its always clean...…...
  28. 3340
    Joined: Jun 4, 2010
    Posts: 543


    Always use distilled

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  29. Tap water is traditional :)
    VANDENPLAS, pecker head, BJR and 4 others like this.
  30. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 15,983


    Been using tap water, from right out of the garden hose, on everything with a radiator, since the 1970's.

    50/50 or 70/30 depending on the temperature range. Never saw an issue, over a fleet of cars, trucks, and farm vehicles.
    Irish Mike and Deuces like this.

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