Automotive Tool Review

Amazon Coolant Leak Tester/Refill Kits Versus Tool Truck?

What is a Coolant Refill and Leak Tester Kit?

Before we get into the meat and potato’s of this argument for or against a tool truck version, let’s first talk about what a coolant leak tester and refill kit actually does. Coolant leak testers have been available for years, but vacuum refill kits are a fairly new concept and for that reason I think it’s important that we take a look at what you as a technician would use one of these kits for.

Refill the Coolant System

As the name of the tool suggests, a coolant vacuum refill kit is used as a way to add coolant back into the engine or any other cooling system without introducing air pockets. The reason using air to fill the cooling system is effective is because the vacuum effect pushes antifreeze throughout the system, eliminating any air pockets that would normally develop. Here’s a picture of what a vacuum refill and leak test kit would look like, from Amazon.


Antifreeze/coolant vacuum refill and leak tester with all different color coded options for radiator and reservoir caps in a hard plastic black case with latches
This specific leak tester/vacuum refill kit from BiliTools is one of the lower priced options on the market, but it serves the same purpose of a Snap-On or Matco Kit.

At first glance, this coolant kit may look a bit overwhelming with the pressure gauges and plethora of different options for radiator and reservoir caps but once you learn how to use it after the first time, you will never go back to manually filling a cooling system.

Checking the Cooling System for Leaks

Aside from being the easiest and most effective way to refill a cooling system, one of these kits also serves as a tool to check the system for leaks. Also known as a pressure tester, this method of testing a cooling system for leaks is the most popular and the most effective. The reason mechanics use a pressure tester to find leaks in the system is because we can easily replicate the conditions that a leak may present itself without actually running the engine.

With most coolant pressure testers, it’s as simple as finding the right cap attachment, screwing it on the radiator or the coolant reservoir and pumping pressure into the system the same way the water pump normally would under operating conditions.

Once the cooling system has been pressurized, antifreeze leaks will usually present themselves. Instead of having to run the engine and let it warm up to operating temperature, we can diagnose problems in the cooling system easier. Sometimes adding air to the cooling system can even expose areas of concern that might start to leak in the near future.

Do You Need a Vacuum Refill and Leak Tester?

There’s no question a vacuum refill kit is infinitely useful in an auto repair shop, but do you need one for DIY projects or side work in the home garage? In order to answer that question, you should look at the price of a leak tester and refill kit versus the time or money that you can save by using one. How many times do you have to use the tool before it pays for itself?

If you plan on changing thermostats, radiators, water pumps or any other job that require draining the antifreeze, it’s likely one of these kits- especially one of the cheaper versions on Amazon would be a good investment and a way to save time and money.

Another thing to consider is the fact that these kits require air pressure to use the vacuum refill function. If you don’t have access to an air compressor, the refill kit won’t be quite as useful to you. In this case, you can either pick up a small air compressor or buy a separate pressure tester to use for finding leaks in the cooling system. The unfortunate thing is, you can buy a whole kit for the price of a decent pump style pressure tester without all of the attachments.

Which Coolant System Refill Kit Should You Buy?

The first time I saw one of these cooling system vacuum refill kits was off the Snap-On truck. It was my dealer that introduced me to the tool, but it was up to me to do the research and find out if the tool truck version was worth the money or if I could buy one on Amazon for a big discount. I wasn’t surprised when I started to look around and find that there were dozens of cheaper, high-quality brand coolant refill and leak test kits on Amazon. The next task I had was figuring out which one was going to be the best value for the money I was spending. Here are the best three options I found based on quality, price and options.

Mastercool 43306 Heavy Duty Cooling System Tester
Mastercool 43306 heavy duty cooling system vacuum refill and test kit with attachments in black hard shell case
The Mastercool 43306 Cooling System Tester is the original kit that most of the cheaper versions were molded by.

Mastercool has developed several well-known specialty tools like the hydraulic brake line flaring tool and the cooling system fill and leak test kit for professional technicians to make some of the big jobs easier.

Although it’s the highest priced option on this list, the Mastercool version of cooling system refill and test kit is the only one designed specifically for heavy duty applications. In the product description, it says for use with Peterbilt, Kenworth, Volvo, Mac and other heavy equipment brands. If you are a heavy duty tech, the Mastercool kit is definitely the best option for you.

Astro 78585 Pressure Tester and Vacuum Refill Kit
Astro Pneumatic 78585 universal radiator pressure tester and vacuum refill kit in blue hard case with colorful attachments, adapters gauges
On the higher end in terms of price at around $250, the Astro 78585 cooling system kit is loaded and comes with everything you need.

When you decide to avert the tool truck and buy a tool online instead, one of the goals should be to find the best alternative at a reasonable enough price to warrant a purchase. Just because we’re skipping the tool truck payment doesn’t mean we are looking to buy junk tools. We still want the best in terms of quality, just not the exorbitant price that usually comes with the Snap-On and Matco logo.

With that goal in mind, the Astro 78585 cooling system kit is a perfect balance of quality, features, brand recognition and a much more reasonable price than the tool truck equivalent.

Sacrificing nothing in terms of durability and features, the Astro Pneumatic vacuum refill and pressure tester kit comes with 14 different test caps made to fit everything from Kia and Toyota to Mercedes and BMW radiator caps.

Also included in the kit is all of the vacuum components, the pressure tester with gauges and all of the quick couplers and adapters needed to test and service just about any cooling system on the planet. In fact, most of the off-brand cooling system refill kits are based on the Astro version and some of the tool trucks even rebrand it as their own.

OEM 24444 Cooling System Test and Refill Kit
Oem tools 24444 cooling system tester with 5 adapters vacuum style in bright green hard case for cooling systems
As you can see, the OEM 24444 is a different style of vacuum fill and leak tester.

On the cheaper end of the non-tool truck spectrum, there is the OEM Tools 24444 cooling system vacuum style refill and leak testing kit. Along with the cheaper price, the OEM version also features a lot less in terms of adapters and functionality. Although the title states it is universal, with only 5 adapters, there may be limited applications for the OEM coolant system tester.

At a fraction of the price of even the Astro brand, the OEM tools cooling system refill kit is a little bit cheesy in terms of durability. Many of the OEM branded tools I have used lack the high-quality features that are needed in a repair shop setting for professional technicians.

What the OEM 24444 cooling system tester would be good for is someone’s home shop or a few DIY repairs. At a low price under $100, this option should be considered heavily for a DIY or bsckyard mechanic due to the low cost and relatively high functionality.

JIFETOR Cooling System Vacuum Fill Kit

Last on this list of universal cooling system refill and leak testing tools is an “Amazon brand”, the JIFETOR 28 piece radiator test and refill kit. When I say Amazon brand, I don’t mean to say that the company actually makes the product, just that it’s one of those brands that is sold pretty much exclusively on Amazon.

I have no problem with these brands and in a lot of situations, I would actually recommend them. A lot of the tools are identical to the higher priced alternatives. The key to buying these on Amazon is to pay close attention to the reviews and ratings.

By John Green

I’m John Green. I’m a 33 year old auto technician from Upstate New York. I have 18 years of experience as an automotive light duty and heavy duty truck mechanic. Cars, trucks and anything with moving parts are my passion in my professional life.

Aside from my life as a technician, I am also a seasoned investor and consider myself very financially literate. I use this other passion combined with my passion for cars, trucks and tools to look for ways to save money for my technician friends.

Raising my three girls and teaching them the proper way of life is my personal passion in life. If you want to know more, just ask! I’m on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well!