Industry Insights | Ft. Evans Waterless Coolant

Evans Waterless Coolant's Powersports Director John Light discusses the origins of the product, why it works, and more.

In this installment of Industry Insights we talk to Evans Waterless Coolant's Powersports Director, John Light, about his father starting the company and what makes it special. He also tells us about growing up in Pennsylvania and his start as a two-wheeled enthusiast. 

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. There's a lot more conversation in the audio version, btw. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.


Jamie Guida – Vital MX: Let’s start with where you grew up and how you got into motorsports and motorcycles.

John Light: I grew up in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. I like to tell people that nobody ends up there by accident. The surrounding towns have about 3000 people and there isn’t much going on. I grew up next to the Lime Rock racetrack which is a paved road course where they raced cars and I’ve been near racing all my life. Both my parents rode motorcycles as well as my grandparents. They got me started when I was eight, but I didn’t start racing until I was around 19 or 20. I have had an interest in racing from being around it my whole life. 

Vital MX: In our pre-interview, you told me about them having Honda XL500s and how many miles your mom’s had. Tell us about your parents' riding and how it affected you.

John: They started long before the XL500s. My dad got his first motorcycle, a BMW, and had it shipped to France in the 60s. The first time he rode a motorcycle was on the city streets of Paris. My mom’s parents both rode motorcycles, also. My parents loved the old twin-shock XL500s with the crazy 23” front wheel because they were lightweight and simple. They love them. My mom had over 65,000 miles on hers when I finally took it away. I didn’t just take it away. I had built another ’81 XL500, the same year as hers, with some parts from a Honda Ascot. So, it had an electric start and a twelve-volt charging system. It’s a good bike for her now and in her older years, she doesn’t have to kick-start it anymore.

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Evans Waterless Coolant

Vital MX: That is so cool. You told me you raced a little bit of off-road, moto, flat track, and some road racing. Tell us what you loved about racing and what was your favorite thing to do.

John: I always thought it would be a great idea to go racing, but I didn’t start until I was 19 or 20. I thought I would start road racing right away, but my cousin said, “You need a motocross bike.” So, I got that and realized how little I knew about riding, but we would go race whatever. One weekend it would be, “Let’s go race motocross. Let’s do a hare scramble this weekend. There’s a road race coming up. Flat track, T.T., and even a little Trials. Looking back, I probably could have done decently if I had picked one and focused on it, but as it was I did a bit of everything and I think I had more fun. I did a lot of road racing. I went to Daytona several times as well as Pocono when they raced there, Mid-Ohio, New Hampshire, and then Summit Point was our home track. Road racing was fun, but I’m probably best as a woods racer simply because I grew up in the woods of Connecticut. 

Vital MX: Variety is the spice of life as they say. I bet you had a lot more fun than the average guy who only rides one discipline. 

John: I would hesitate to say I had more fun than someone who does a single discipline, but it was certainly a lot of fun. 

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Thomas Light

Vital MX: Let’s talk about Evans Waterless Coolant. Back in the 1980s, your dad Thomas, decided to look into developing a better coolant. I have no idea how you would even start to do this. Tell us the story.

John: It’s interesting how anyone ends up in the place where they are thriving. It’s usually not a direct line. My father is an electrical engineer and I think having an engineering mind, having a handle on the math, and knowing how to look things up is what is important. There was a fellow who had a race team and developed his own line of products called Jack Evans. He was looking into cooling systems and trying to make them work better, but more on the physical property and layout side. My father looked at it and he backed up a bit. He didn’t take other people’s work and their final answer as the starting point. He realized that the coolant itself is a component and that any component can be upgraded. He asked the question, “Is water the best item to base your coolant around?” The low boiling point of water is well within the range of operating temperature for coolant, and the great expansion rate of water when it turns to vapor it expanse over twelve hundred times in size. This is the power that runs a steam engine and it’s also the power that screws up the internals of your cooling system because vapor doesn’t conduct heat. When you get boiling that vapor expansion pushes the liquid away from the metal in that location and the water can go a different route. The hottest part is going to be on the exhaust valve side and if you’re boiling there it’s easy for the coolant to go up on the intake side where it’s cooler and it flows easily. This also means that the head temperature can be very different between the exhaust and intake side which causes warping and losing your head gasket. A lot of the issues of a coolant system and where it fails have to do with the properties of water. So, he searched for another fluid that could go into the system and he discovered propylene glycol which had a very low freeze point and a high boiling point. It also wasn’t expensive. So, he was the first to use propylene glycol as a coolant and that’s where all the non-toxic coolants are based from. 

Vital MX: Once he has the product developed, how do you get someone to trust and test it with their race engine?

John: In the end, the best way to prove to someone they should use it is to have them try it. How do you get someone to risk putting it in their $20,000 race motor? So, maybe they put it in something else they’re working on like their hot rod or a vehicle they are having overheating issues with. Racers are looking for an edge and they are willing to experiment. They have more of an open mind and aren’t bound by the warranty or what someone else told them they should or shouldn’t do. It’s jumping from racing into other venues. That is something we experienced over the years working on heavy-duty trucks, and commercial engines, and trying to get into the OEMs.

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AmPro Yamaha

Vital MX: When it comes to marketing in the moto industry, teams like AmPro Yamaha, Phoenix Honda, and numerous others use it. Many teams who aren’t even sponsored by Evans use it. I assume that is a major marketing tool.

John: In effect at some level, sponsorship is a word of mouth. You’re saying, “You as a team are using it. Tell others.” Word of mouth through sponsorship can be a bit of a double-edged sword because we have teams with other sponsors who they are loyal to and they will say things about our coolant, but I see teams or mechanics buying coolant from us. I see a drop-ship come through and I say, “Ha, those guys.” So, marketing is challenging. Many times when you see an ad the first reaction is not to believe it. We’ve done a bunch of advertising with debatable results. Whereas when someone calls us up and says, “I need to get some coolant. I heard about it from a friend.” Or they were walking through the pits and were talking to a mechanic or some other recommendation, it’s far more effective.

Vital MX: What are some of the benefits of Evans Waterless Coolant within motocross? I read about reduced maintenance costs and helping fuel consumption. 

John: You have a high-power output engine with a small cooling system. The cooling system on a 450 takes a little more than a quart of coolant and you can’t afford to lose much before you’re in trouble. If you are constantly topping off your coolant, it’s a sign you are boiling as you’re riding even if you don’t see steam come out. It went somewhere. If you get yourself in a situation with high altitude where the pressure is lower, if it’s a mud race or a super hot day you don’t realize how close you are to a cooling failure. It’s more apparent in the off-road world. Motocross is easier for a cooling system because of fairly short races, breaks in between so things can cool down, and it’s forgiving. In off-road you can have a low 80-degree day and it’s sunny but there is some mud or a log jam at a hill climb. The cooling system is close to its failure point on a good day, so if you throw in a couple of other variables, Evans is like insurance. Also, your engine doesn’t lose power when it starts to detonate from overheating with regular anti-freeze. So, not losing power is significant. In terms of tuning for more power, anything that causes detonation, that boundary gets moved with our coolant. You can run a higher compression ratio, more spark advance, or a leaner fuel mixture. Like anything, it takes testing. 

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Phoenix Racing Honda

Vital MX: The higher price point would be the one negative that could detour people from trying it. Tell us what you would say to someone concerned about the cost.

John: On the one hand, our product is not half water, so it costs us twice as much. As far as the value, I can talk about reliability, low maintenance and not having to top up, or not having other issues that pop up from overheating. I’ve had the same fluid in some of my bikes for over twenty years. Now, if you’re looking at changing your coolant every year like the other manufacturers recommend, we’re pretty cheap. It’s going to come down to what I said earlier. The best way to convince them is for them to try it. It spreads from there. The price is no longer an issue because the benefits are there. 

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Evans Waterless Coolant

Vital MX: Is there anything else you would like Vital MX’s readers to know?

John: We have a sponsorship page on our website and I welcome people to reach out and get a discount. If you have any questions, we welcome phone calls and emails. You can email me at JLight@EvansCooling.com and I just want people to be out there on their bikes having fun and not worrying about things. 

 

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