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vinegar radiator flush?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by chappys4life, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. chappys4life
    Joined: Sep 10, 2008
    Posts: 462


    I wanted to flush my cooling system on my flathead and I see to run a vinegar mix through it to clean it. My question what is the mix? Is it water and vinegar and how much? Also I read someone said use baking soda to neutralize it.
  2. Although I have heard of it, I wouldn't try it. Having the radiator and system properly flushed at a shop would be better and safer.
    Its a snake oil remedy.
    Like saw dust in the diff.
  3. Awesome, I was thinking about this just yesterday. You saved me having to ask.
  4. Something smells FISHY here but I have heard of this flushing practice before !! >>>>.
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  5. bobj49f2
    Joined: Jun 1, 2008
    Posts: 1,739


    I ran pure vinegar through my system. Vinegar is a very mild acid and won't hurt anything. Before I used the vinegar I flushed both sides of the cooling system out with clean water and air by rigging up a pipe to the top thermostat housing on each side.


    The air is used to agitate the water inside the engine make the gunk in the engine move around. The first clear water flush got a lot of gunk out. I ran this until the water ran clear. I then filled the entire system with vinegar and ran it for a while. I was told to run it for a 1000 miles but I wasn't able to, I ran it maybe 200-300 miles, drained the system and then hooked up the air and water again. This time I go more gunk out.

    I don't think you have to neutralize it afterward because the vinegar is a very mild acid and by flushing the system and refilling it with the proper anti-freeze, which has anti-rust agents in it, the very little amount of vinegar left will be taken care of.
  6. MBog
    Joined: May 2, 2006
    Posts: 547


    Definately use the baking soda. Radiators tend to build their own acid (corrosion, electrolisis) which leads to blown gaskets etc. On a regular basis I test cooling systems for electrolisis with a digital volt meter. Find a good ground and drop the positive lead into the coolant on the 2volt scale. A reading of .150 or lower is OK. What I have found is if you get a reading around .500 (1/2 volt) something is about to blow if it hasn't already. The vinegar might help clean but use the baking soda after for $0.02
  7. jonny o
    Joined: Oct 26, 2007
    Posts: 836

    jonny o

    The last time I wanted to do this on my daily I was surprised with how many types of vinegar were there...
  8. bobj49f2
    Joined: Jun 1, 2008
    Posts: 1,739


    Not a bad idea, and like the vinegar, its cheap. Cheap is usually good, sometimes, well maybe not all of the time, but.....
  9. chappys4life
    Joined: Sep 10, 2008
    Posts: 462


    so baking soda after doing it or while its in the radiator?
  10. r8odecay
    Joined: Nov 8, 2006
    Posts: 787


    I would drain the vinegar, then rinse. Then add baking soda to water, and flush. Then drain that crap out, and rinse. Then fill with coolant. That's just me.

    Also, adding baking soda direct to vinegar can be pretty reactive.

    Vinegar is 'mild' acid, but strong shit when given time. It attacks aluminum as well.
    Good luck.
  11. budhaboy
    Joined: Feb 6, 2007
    Posts: 157


    definately rinse with a Baking Soda/Water solution after - the vinegar will dislove the water scale, Muriatic Acid, diluted, will work also(20 parts water to 1 part acid), and faster(remember add Muriatc Acid to water to dilute, no water to acid!)
    I use it to remove water scale and calcium deposits on my Reef tanks(aquariums) - most of that equipment is Acrylic and PVC(much softer materials than your radiator and block), and gets similar scale on it over time.
  12. I've used Cascade (automatic dishwashing detergent) to clean dirty cooling systems. Cleans radiators down to the copper. Didn't seem to bother the hoses.
  13. Would any of these methods attack the seals in the water pump bearings? The cascade sounds interesting. So does the muriatic acid, I've used that stuff for years to clean lots of stuff.
  14. Moonglow2
    Joined: Feb 4, 2007
    Posts: 656


    I have never heard of this method and I wonder if it would address some problems associated with fouled heat exchange surfaces such as scale buildup from poor water quality. I'd suggest before doing this you look in the phone book and find an industrial water treatment company and ask to be put in touch with a field technician. Their bread and butter is keeping industrial boilers and heat exchangers clean. I know that acid treatment is often used to clean badly fouled boiler tubes. Whether it's vinegar or some other proprietary solution I don't know.

    But if you go ahead with this here are some tips. I am an old lab guy. Vinegar is 5% acetic acid and 95% water. It's already diluted. And yes, the cheapest best neutralizer is baking soda which is a mild alkalai. On the rare occasions when I get heartburn 1/4 teaspoon in a glass of water neutralizes stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) followed in 5 miinutes by a satisfying burp. (Since baking soda has sodium in it don't try this on a regular basis.)

    If you do this, add the vinegar preferably to a warm system, let stand a few hours and then drain the vinegar out, flush it with fresh water twice, and then flush with a couple tablespoons baking soda per gallon of water followed by two more flushes with ordinary water. You want to end up with a pH neutral (7.0) system but depending on your location tap water may vary in pH from 6.5 (acidic) to 7.2 (alkaline). Any pet store can sell you a pH kit for about $5 to test for neutrality before you add back your anti-freeze.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009

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