The problem with tap water, other than the widely varying quality level, is that it often contains minerals, flouride and other particulates, which can corrode the aluminum in your radiator. Both John and Bobby Clark, driver of our Project Dirt Late Model Team use distilled water in their radiators because it's pure, doesn't have any unwanted chemicals, and will ensure optimal performance of your cooling system. Both teams also use a glycol-free additive in that distilled water. Products such as VP's Cool Down, Water Wetter, or 40 Below will reduce cooling system operating temperatures.
Maintenance One of the smartest things you can do after each race is pull the radiator out of the car and inspect it even if you weren't in an accident. Check all of the lines, hoses and fins. If any of the fins are bent or closed off, air won't pass through them. Take a pair of needle-nose pliers and carefully straighten them out. Hoses that are cracked or in danger of cracking should be replaced immediately. Also pay close attention to the welds for any small cracks or potential breaks. Don't forget to crawl under the car and look on the shop floor. You just might find a small puddle of water that will lead you to a bigger problem.
Choosing the right cooling system for your application and then keeping a close eye on it throughout the season will allow you to avoid problems that would keep you out of Victory Lane.
Radiator ProtectorsRadiator protectors are a good way to add an extra layer of protection for your cooling system. These protectors mount in front of the radiator and absorb the impact from debris, rocks, and dirt instead of those aluminum cooling fins. The one pictured above, the Tru-Kool Radiator Protector, is from Speedway Motors. Its Nomex honeycomb construction is very strong and extremely lightweight offering excellent protection.
The protector is disposable and is designed to be replaced as it absorbs various amounts of damage. Naturally, how often you race, the type of track you race on, and other factors will determine how often you have to replace the protector, but some racers have reported running an entire season on just one honeycomb. The Tru-Kool Radiator Protector comes in four different sized sheets that can be easily trimmed to fit any radiator.