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Technical Distilled or tap water for your radiator ?

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

  1. Moose groin sack ?
    VANDENPLAS, Jet96 and Deuces like this.
  2. hennmann
    Joined: Jul 24, 2017
    Posts: 10


    Our water in my location is extremely hard and scale buildup is reality. I use RO water in the radiator/cooling system and distilled if possible or RO in batteries. A radiator that is restricted internally is most likely scaled up and using soft water will slowly dissolve scale as well(hopefully). One thing to keep in mind is changing coolant at regular intervals as well as it becomes acidic as it gets old and causes corrosion and needless rusting. Even if I lived in a location where it never froze I would still use coolant as it raises boiling point and has rust inhibitors.
    Hnstray and Deuces like this.
  3. Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. It was the location of an air force base on the prairies. Having grown up in the mountains, the flat land, bad water, and miserably cold winters, were enough to crush the soul. That is why I always mispronounce the name.
    The people were great, but the climate sucked.
    VANDENPLAS, Jet96 and Deuces like this.
  4. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 3,536

    from So Cal

    I work in the industry and get lot's of technical info on this topic. The company I work for sells coolants and I am tasked with training customers on proper cooling system maintenance and best practices for heavy equipment. This is a subject I know something about.

    The hardness level of water around the US is mostly too hard for use in cooling systems. Check the map for your area:
    For all the non-blue areas you really need to use softened water. Minerals in the water will plate out on the interior surfaces of the cooling system, and the scale that is formed is a really great insulator that prevents heat transfer between the cooling system passages and the coolant. This ruins the efficiency of the cooling system, and is a contributor to over heating conditions. You know all those threads we see from people fighting with over heating conditions? How many of them are dealing with engine blocks full of scale? Well, we've all seen it on many engines, I think the condition is very common.

    Coolant manufacturers tell us to use deionized water. Most people have never heard of and don't know where to get it. The easiest place to get it is from tropical fish stores. Many of them use it for their tanks, and sell if to customers for their own tanks. It's not expensive. Check it out in your area.

    After deionized water, the next best thing to use is Reverse osmosis, or RO, water.

    Some folks worry that either of these will cause problems in the cooling system by stripping the surfaces of minerals. That's why you use coolants that contain additives that protect the interior surfaces of coolant passages.

    Never run straight water, it's a fools game, always use a 50/50 water/antifreeze mix. It's best to buy the pre-mix stuff, cause they use deionized water in the mix, you don't have to worry about where to buy it.

    The best coolant is nitrite free OAT type, aka extended life, or long life antifreeze, premixed with deionized water. You know you're getting the right coolant, the right water, and the right percentages.
    Hnstray, pitman, juan motime and 4 others like this.
  5. Truckdoctor Andy
    Joined: Jan 13, 2017
    Posts: 706

    Truckdoctor Andy

    Once again, Blues4U has said all we need to know about this. Just because some folks have gotten by using the incorrect water, doesn’t make it correct. Thank you Blues for setting the record straight.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    tomic, Deuces and Blues4U like this.
  6. If your really concerned, a gallon of distilled water is less than a dollar, in NC it's $1.01 with tax , I just bought a gallon to use at work .
    Deuces likes this.
  7. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 16,015


    Meh. I will go to my grave using the garden hose.
  8. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,177

    from Ioway

    ^^^ Well it is traditional!
  9. hemihotrod66
    Joined: May 5, 2019
    Posts: 29


    I ran steam plants for years and we never ran distilled water....That is a natural solvent and will cause corrosion...If you use distilled or deionized water always run some kind of corrosion protection...The best water to use is soft water which doesn't have calcium or magnesium in it which causes scale in radiators and engine blocks...It is best to use the premixed stuff unless you have soft water available..
  10. tomic
    Joined: Jan 8, 2008
    Posts: 114


    Blues4U has nailed it down solid. after reading his post i did more looking at the distilled water thing, and i for one had it wrong. i think now, that using distilled water in a clean system is "better" than using hard tap water, probably, and the anti-corrosive additive solves most of the rest of that.

    but i am convinced that a clean system filled with a pre-mixed OAT coolant is the best choice. lots of us now have iron block/alum rad.

    the difference between deionized and distilled water is interesting. its easy to forget how reactive plain old water is.
  11. chiro
    Joined: Jun 23, 2008
    Posts: 709


    Distilled. It's purified by definition.
  12. Always use the premix 50/50 distilled. Walmart sells it cheap. My well water is a bit hard.
  13. Bert Kollar
    Joined: Jan 10, 2007
    Posts: 898

    Bert Kollar

    I have to believe whatever water you use will leach minerals out of the iron, lead, copper rubber that it comes in contact with so it really shouldn't matter.
  14. Anybody remember when they used alcohol for antifreeze? :confused::D
  15. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,551


    Where do you live, over a vat of acid?:eek:
    Irish Mike, gimpyshotrods and Truck64 like this.
  16. spanners
    Joined: Feb 24, 2009
    Posts: 758


    I use rainwater out of my household tanks.
  17. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,777


    Everybody's water supply is different, but distilled water is all the same. Just H2O.
    My local water tends to be acidic with a high iron content and a lot of other dissolved solids. It tastes great, but I'd never use it as engine coolant.

    Another reason you want distilled water is so it can mix well with the antifreeze. They call water the universal solvent because it has a big appetite for absorbing other elements, up to a point of saturation. Distilled water is like "empty water", it will mix with almost anything it contacts, which might even help clean out your cooling passages. Tap or well water is already semi-saturated full of other stuff and will do the opposite, leaving the deposits behind.
    Hnstray and pitman like this.
  18. quicksilverart46
    Joined: Dec 7, 2016
    Posts: 428


    Agreed!! I have switched all my cars and convinced all my buddies to switch to distilled water . We live in So. Cal. So all of us have SHIT CANNED the anti freeze and only add a bottle of Red Line Water Wetter to the distilled . Most do not know that 50/50 antifreeze produces more heat ! It’s NOT a liquid that helps cooling rather it’s simply ANTIFREEZE made for freezing climate! For summer use in freezing states all hot Rodders should drain that green shit out and replace with distilled water and water wetter. That red liquid prevents hot spots and acts as a pump lubricant. Water is still the best heat transfer fluid but must have a good new pressure cap to prevent boiling. Also the toxic heavy metals that are in the green antifreeze help to create corrosive electrolysis due to the dissimilar metals touching each other .... Iron block and Aluminum heads combined with that green slime creates a corrosive brew.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
    Montana1 likes this.
  19. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,177

    from Ioway

    When you get a chance take a look at the temperature chart, it's printed right on the jug.

    It's called coolant because it raises the boiling point, coupled with a pressurized system it helps prevent cooling system boilovers. You're right, water has a better transfer, but the optimum temperature for most engines is right around 210° F or so and the coolant + pressure keeps hot spots or steam from forming even at higher altitudes. A 50/50 mixture raises the boiling point to 223° F.
    Hnstray, Blues4U and dirty old man like this.
  20. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,777


    Everything needs to be in balance. There is such a thing as too cool for an engine. Oil temps need to reach nearly the boiling point of water to completely vaporize crankcase water condensation, so if your engine needs to get that hot, there's a risk in boiling over the coolant if you're running straight water. Therefore, the best coolant is one that boils at a temp higher than water, regardless of its freezing point and whether or not you need antifreeze.
    Hnstray and dirty old man like this.
  21. MikeRose
    Joined: Oct 7, 2004
    Posts: 1,525


    The tap water here is very hard water. Full of minerals and sediment. I would never put that into a radiator. I imagine other places have much better water.
  22. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 4,358

    jimmy six

    We are not allowed to use any additive other than water wetter, which we don't use, in our dirt race car. When we started with a new Dart block and iron heads we only used distilled water. After 4 years there is no rust in any of it or in the aluminum intake manifolds.
    Montana1 likes this.
  23. quicksilverart46
    Joined: Dec 7, 2016
    Posts: 428


    Yup that’s what I have been saying people are sometimes stubborn but the fact is tap water will rust and distilled is pure with no minerals . Also the ethylene glycol green antifreeze contains heavy metals and will cause Electrolysis corrosion especially with Aluminum heads . That green shit kills dogs too if they lick it!!

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  24. Elcohaulic
    Joined: Dec 27, 2017
    Posts: 368


    I use the water from my humidifier..
    milwscruffy likes this.
  25. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 25,018


    THERE is the reason for using distilled water. a lot of well or tap water will leave scale on what ever you heated it in.
    We have an old aluminum pot kind of like a dutch oven that the lid has been long lost on that we set on top of the wood stove in winter to give off some humidity in the room. That thing has a ring of scale in it from the tap water. Where I used to live I would have to clean out the water heater about once a year as it made it's own white gravel out of the minerals in the water. At under 2 bucks a gallon distilled water is cheap insurance.
  26. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 3,536

    from So Cal

    Sorry, but this is just flat wrong. There are different types of antifreeze on the market, and there is no standard for color, so you really can't go too much by color, but by the type of antifreeze, and the type of additives. Some antifreeze doesn't have much for additives, it's mostly just ethylene glycol with a green dye, but most contain at least some corrosion inhibitors to prevent against scale and rust formation, additives to condition seals, and some to prevent cavitation erosion of wet cylinder liners and water pump impellers. But none contain heavy metals that cause electrolysis, that's just not true. You're spreading misinformation that adds confusion to a topic that is already confusing enough.
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  27. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 867


    Hard water around here. I've seen radiators pulled off irrigation pumps where the farmer would do a temporary fix on a cooling problem by squirting water straight from the canal to the radiator core. It would work because the evaporation would knock the heat down but the radiator fins would plug up solid on the outside from all the lime in the water. For this reason, hard water can't be doing the insides of your radiator any good either so I would use distilled water; it's cheap insurance.
  28. Beanscoot
    Joined: May 14, 2008
    Posts: 941


    Where I live the water is extremely low in dissolved solids, so I use it for radiators (with antifreeze) and even batteries.

    I checked out our municipality's website which has water supply information including the regular quantitative chemical analysis results. Tap water here is okay for many industrial purposes.
    Wells can vary tremendously, even when they are fairly close together.

    I imagine most water suppliers also have this information available online.
  29. flux capacitor
    Joined: Sep 18, 2014
    Posts: 655

    flux capacitor

    Been using Distilled with 50/50 mix for decades in lots of our old cars .way way too much lime locally in our water , water softeners are a must in these ark hills. recently replaced all hoses, flushed, cleaned & refilled our 55 & it was still in great shape same mixture since 1991 & off we go for another 30. Flux
  30. Odies dad
    Joined: Oct 3, 2017
    Posts: 1

    Odies dad

    There was an old guy around here years ago that would use river water in his radiator in the winter because unlike lake water, river water didn't freeze.
    INVISIBLEKID and Beanscoot like this.

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