Radiator Fluid Facts For Florida: Engine Coolant Vs. Antifreeze
- Antifreeze helps to protect your engine from corrosion and cavitation, and it also prevents the coolant from freezing in cold weather.
- Engine coolant helps keep your engine at a consistent temperature and transfers heat away from the engine.
- Choosing the right radiator fluid for your car is important, and you should always consult your owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
- Always rely on an authorized dealership & service center for coolant flushing & radiator issues.
With summer temperatures going into the high 90s and 100s, it’s important to ensure your car’s cooling system is in good working order. As vehicles have become more complex, the difference between coolant and antifreeze has become less clear. In the most basic sense, coolant is a liquid that helps remove heat from your engine. At the same time, antifreeze is a chemical added to the coolant to lower its freezing point. This allows the coolant to remain effective in hot and cold weather conditions.
Different Types of Coolant
The most popular type is ethylene glycol, a clear, odorless liquid that is relatively non-toxic. However, it can be harmful to pets and wildlife if leaks occur, so it’s important to keep an eye on your coolant levels.
Another option is propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol but can cause corrosion in some engine parts.
Finally, there are environmentally friendly options. While they may not be as effective at cooling your engine as the other options, it’s a good choice for those conscious of their vehicle’s environmental impact.
Also, “universal” coolants are available that are compatible with both types of systems.
Whichever type of coolant you choose, check your levels regularly to ensure your engine stays healthy and running smoothly.
When adding coolant to your car, be sure to use distilled water. Regular tap water can contain minerals that can clog up your car’s radiator and cause problems down the road.
Warning Signs that You Need a New Coolant
It’s important to keep an eye on your radiator fluid levels and to know the warning signs that you may need to add more. The most obvious sign is if your engine is starting to overheat, but there are other things to look out for. If you see any of the following indications, it’s time for a coolant flush:
- Your radiator fluid is dirty or rusty-looking
- The temperature gauge on your dash reads hot or is in the red zone.
- You notice a sweet smell coming from under the hood of your car. This is usually a sign of antifreeze leaking into the engine oil.
- You’re seeing steam coming from the hood.
- Your car’s radiator is empty, or there is coolant on the ground where you parked your car.
These are signs that your cooling system is in distress and needs to be checked by a professional. If you notice these signs, pull over immediately and call roadside assistance.
What’s the Right Mix?
While keeping your car’s cooling system properly filled with coolant is important, it’s just as crucial to ensuring that the right mix of antifreeze and water is used.
The standard ratio for most cars is 50/50, but it’s always best to consult your car’s owner’s manual to be sure.
A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water will protect your engine to -34 degrees Fahrenheit, while a 70/30 mix will protect it down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Top Off Your Coolant?
If you need to add coolant to your radiator, do so with the engine off and cool. Never try to remove the coolant reservoir/radiator cap while the car’s engine is hot—serious burns can result.
Look for the fill point on the radiator—it’s usually marked with a + sign or “hot” written nearby. This indicates how much coolant should be in the radiator when it’s hot.
Once you’ve found it, unscrew the cap and slowly pour in the coolant until the radiator is full. Then screw the lid back on and start the engine to check for leaks.
How Often Should I Flush My Coolant?
Having your car’s cooling system flushed and refilled with fresh coolant every few years is a good idea to prevent corrosion and build-up of deposits. This simple maintenance procedure can help extend the life of your car’s engine and prevent expensive repairs down the road.
It’s generally recommended that you flush and replace your coolant every two years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, if you notice the warning signs, it’s a good idea to have your cooling system checked out sooner.
Read: Do I need a coolant flush?
How to Choose the Right Coolant?
Most people know that their car needs some coolant, but few know exactly what it does or how to choose the right one.
When choosing a coolant for your car, it is important to consider the climate in which you will be driving. Choosing a higher boiling point coolant is best if you live in a hot climate. Conversely, selecting a coolant with a lower freezing point is best if you live in a cold climate.
When choosing a coolant for your car, consult your owner’s manual. Some vehicles require a specific type of coolant, so it is important to use the right one to avoid damaging your engine.
Read: How can I tell if my radiator is damaged?
Engine coolant and antifreeze are both types of radiator fluid. Engine coolant is a mixture of water & glycol, while antifreeze is a mixture of water and ethylene glycol. The two engine liquids serve the same purpose: to keep your engine cool. However, engine coolant has a higher boiling point than antifreeze, so it is better suited for hot climates. Antifreeze has a lower freezing point than engine coolant, so it is better suited for use in cold climates. When choosing a radiator fluid for your car, consult your owner’s manual to ensure that you use the correct type for your environment.
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