A phrase I learned some 20 years from one of my mentors, Bruce Ryder, was “oil is cheaper than metal”. Sounds simple, even trite perhaps, but the point is right on, its less expensive to replace fluids, than replace engine parts.

The photos are of a classic Mercedes SL being serviced in our workshop. The engine, M104 24-valve 3.0 inline-6 with relativity low miles, has suffered a catastrophic cylinder head gasket failure. You can see from the photos how the clear gasket failure, allowing compression to leak into the cooling system, and preventing the engine from running. Head gaskets rarely fail without a reason on these cars, and if you look carefully at the cylinder head sealing surface, you’ll note extensive pitting and metal erosion. The sad fact is is that such damage is easily preventable, by a simple service that usually costs less than $100, a proper and complete engine coolant flush. That’s right, just changing your antifreeze.

Sounds simple,  yet one of the most neglected task on many newer cars is the maintenance of the cooling system. Today’s high tech cars often come with so-called “lifetime” coolant, promising extremely extended coolant intervals. The problem is, these intervals come at a cost, expensive engine damage down the road. In general, it’s recommended that you flush and clean out your cooling system once every 36 months, or every three years. The best way to protect your engine, and ultimately, your wallet or pocketbook, is to make certain your car’s coolant has been changed in the last 3 years, shorter if it is a vehicle that sits for an extended time.

Fall time is ideal to ask your service facility about your vehicle’s coolant. An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of care, or to quote my friend Bruce R. “Oil is cheaper than metal.” Our mission at AMC is simple, prevent, rather than just repair problems.

– Bruce