Coolant/Antifreeze is a Vital Element in Your Engine's Operation
What Coolant Do I Need?
When it comes to the coolant you must make sure that you're using the right one. If you use the wrong coolant then over time you'll begin to notice a drop in your car's performance, and can find a significant amount of damage.
The most common method to find out is to simply check the coolant and find out what color it is when the vehicle is cold. Most coolant brands will keep their coolants the same color to prevent any confusion.
If you're still not sure, check the owners/service manual for coolant specifications.
Can I use tap water as coolant?
If you choose to use only tap water in your cooling system, this can cause radiator, head gasket and thermostat corrosion damage over time. But before that, you will find that water boils at 100c and freezes at 0c.
This works outside the optimal range for engine requirements as some engines will heat up over 100c especially on hot days. When water starts to boil, it'll build up pressure from the gas expansion in the system causing it to overheat the system and blow vital gaskets.
What is coolant and why do I need it?
Coolant is commonly a liquid substance that is used in a closed system to reduce and regulate the temperature of an engine.
The amount of heat generated by an engine is the equivalent of that required to heat a large house in winter in very cold climates!
As engines and vehicles become smaller and more powerful they generate even more heat in a confined space, and aerodynamically efficient body designs tend to direct air away from, rather than into, the engine bay.
When an engine stands idle in cold weather, water in the cooling system will expand as it freezes, and this can have sufficient force to crack the engine block or radiator.
What is coolant made of? It's just water right?
Coolant is normally a concentrate fluid, usually made of Ethylene Glycol together with some protective additives that is mixed with demineralized water to produce coolant. Propylene Glycol, which is non-toxic, is sometimes used in the mixture, as well as, or even instead of, the more toxic Ethylene Glycol.
Glycol does not absorb heat as effectively as water, but when added to water it has the ability to lower the fluid's freezing point as well as raise its boiling point. A common Glycol to water ratio used is 50:50.
This will lower the freezing point of the fluid to minus 39°C and raise the boiling point to 108°C. Manufacturers can recommend other specific mixture ratios, but below 33.5% Glycol the coolant will give inadequate freeze protection, and above 65% Glycol the mixture has inadequate heat absorption.
What are the different types of coolant?
The most common types of antifreeze which are used today include; Ethylene Glycol and Organic Acid Technology. When you're out shopping for a coolant you'll see a lot of different colors, but don't let that scare you.
Coolant is a transparent fluid and different manufacturers add dyes to differentiate the coolant base. Always remember to read your car's owner manual before you add a coolant to the car. The most common colors you will come across are green, red, blue, yellow or orange.
- Green coolant is your conventional coolant (Ethylene Glycol base) and is the most common type of coolant found.
- Red coolant is typically has a base of Organic Acid Technology which has a different chemical makeup of green coolant and is designed to be suitable for aluminium radiators. Red coolant is often silicate and phosphate free for use in later Japanese and Euro vehicles.
- Blue coolant is usually an Organic Acid Technology base and what makes it different from red coolant is that they're normally Borate free which is a requirement for modern day Japanese vehicles that are supplied with blue coolant from factory.
- Yellow or Orange coolants are the latest in technology and are normally a universal product. Some universal coolants will allow top up mixing to a certain percentage of the overall capacity of the cooling system, so it's important to keep this in mind when topping up.
How long does coolant last?
Coolants typically contain something known as a “rust inhibitor” which is used to prevent components within the engine from rusting. This can lead to the coolant becoming flooded with contaminants which contribute to the deterioration of the anti-boiling and anti-freeze additives which are in the coolant.
There are a few different factors to consider when determining how long coolant lasts and when it should be changed. The two main factors are the type of car that you drive and the quality of your cars current coolant.
Many manufacturers suggest that you change the coolant every 3 years or every 75,000km, while others say that you can change the coolant every 200,000km.
How often you change the coolant can also depend on how well you take care of your car and whether or not there are any underlying issues with it.
Can I mix different coolants?
Provided that the coolants which you are using have identical chemical makeup (for example, if two coolants are based on Ethylene Glycol), then it is normally safe for you to mix them together.
If you aren't certain on which base the current coolant that you have in your car uses, there are universal mixes available.
If you don't have access to a coolant then water may be used in place of it. However, it's very important to keep in mind that water's boiling point is significantly lower than a coolant's and therefore, is less effective.
Furthermore, coolants have rust-resistant properties whereas water does not.