If you’re involved in just about any form of motorsports, you’re probably aware that most sanctioning bodies and race tracks do not allow the use of glycol based coolants, such as the factory antifreeze found in your car and at most auto parts stores.
Their reasoning behind this is from purely a safety standpoint; we have all seen what happens when a car dumps engine oil or gear oil on the track. If it happens on a road course, odds are it will cause multiple cars to lose control and possibly even a major wreck immediately behind the culprit, and while a spill is likely to be spotted between passes on a drag strip, the clean up time is surely a frustration for any racer who is waiting to stage or grid.
Left: Castrol Raceway crew cleaning up a spill. (Ed Kaiser) Right: A Nascar track crew cleaning up a fluid spill.
For this reason, most racers swap out their antifreeze mix for water, and while it’s not advised to run water by itself – due to its increased surface tension (anti-wetting), cavitation sensitivity and its lacking ability to lubricate the water pump and seals, have no fear because there are proven solutions to this problem.
As seen in the video below, glycol based coolant is no different than oil when spilled on a race track, and if we can remove one less safety hazard from the equation everyone is better off.
A few brilliant chemists and engineers created an additive to combat the problems associated with running water alone, and we had the opportunity to talk to Bruce Hendel from VP Racing Fuels to ask some technical questions about their coolant additive – Cool Down.
Engine Labs: Why was Cool Down originally created, or rather what prompted its invention?
Bruce Hendel: Cool Down was originally intended for race engines. However, it now has a huge crossover to all race engines, performance street builds, tow vehicles, RV’s, motorcycles, UTV engines, etc.
Engine Labs: How long has VP Racing been working on the Cool Down formula, and when was it first introduce to the market?
Bruce Hendel: We introduced Cool Down many years ago, but then discontinued it for a while as our best chemists and engineers worked on an updated formula that would provide the best performance for even the newest engine platforms. Our team has made huge strides in our formula, and this new product is even compatible with the latest Organic Acid Technology (commonly known as Dex-Cool), which is found in many of today’s street vehicles.
Engine Labs: What are some of the more technical details you are allowed to share with us about how VP was able to achieve up to a 50 degree temperature drop with its addition?
Bruce Hendel: Our Cool Down formula contains advanced wetting agents originally developed for high-heat drilling deep in the oil fields. After heavy research, we chose to incorporate several of the best wetting agents available to provide the greatest wetting performance across a much wider temperature range.
Engine Labs: Can you elaborate on what exactly wetting is and why wetting agents are important in a coolant system?
Bruce Hendel: Wetting is the ability of a liquid to adhere to a solid surface. Better wetting of the metal walls within the cooling system provides a greater level of heat transfer, which then results in increased cooling efficiency, particularly for racing engines with extremely high cylinder head temperatures.
Most of the other coolant additive products on the market today are using just one wetting agent in their formula, which really limits the temperature range in which optimal performance occurs.
Engine Labs: How exactly do these wetting agents interact with the water or antifreeze in our cooling system to create its intended effect?
Bruce Hendel: The wetting agents used in Cool Down greatly reduce the coolant mixtures surface tension. In return, this reduces localized boiling and improves coolant to metal contact, which greatly improves thermal conductivity. Cool Down was also formulated to meet the latest ASTM standards for anti corrosion resistance as well, which is really important to prevent corrosion related overheating issues when running straight water, since it is very corrosive to most metals, especially aluminum.
Engine Labs: Why do most diesel applications require twice as much Cool Down in comparison to their gasoline counterpart?
Bruce Hendel: Due to their operation, diesel engine cooling systems typically have very larger radiators, along with greater fluid capacities in the water jackets and hoses to accommodate their heavy duty performance requirements.
Engine Labs: Are there any special concerns or conflicts when running Cool Down with a typical 50/50 water and antifreeze mixture from your local auto parts store, or should this really only used with straight water?
Bruce Hendel: Cool Down is absolutely safe and beneficial to run with with all antifreeze mixtures, although the cooling benefits are further improved when used with only water.