Coolant 101: A Complete Guide
When temperatures fall, a very important fluid is grinding away in your car to help keeps it running referred to as “coolant”. Coolant maintains the temperature of the main components of your car, especially the engine.
Coolant additionally greases up the moving parts it comes into contact with, which guard the water pump, head gasket, the cylinder, and piston against damage.
Without coolant, your car would stop working. In addition, your engine may overheat and break. Let’s learn more about how and why is coolant important for the maintenance of your car.
What is the role of coolant in a car?
The engine creates a lot of energy and heat while the car is moving. It’s the job of the exhaust and cooling system to make sure the engine stays cool.
The coolant absorbs the heat from the engine and stops the water from boiling in the summer. In addition, it also ensures metal parts don’t rust and rubber or plastic parts don’t corrode.
Without the coolant, the heat produced during constant internal combustion would ruin the engine very quickly. Although coolant is mixed with water, the water alone isn’t able to keep the engine cool.
The heat of the engine would eventually start boiling the water, or the summer heat would evaporate it.
What are the 3 main properties of coolant?
A good coolant will provide the 3 main properties below. Bad coolant will provide none.
● Prevents Freezing and Boiling
● Lubricates the Water Pump Seal
● Inhbits Corrosion
What kind of coolant should I use?
For most vehicles, a glycol based coolant is the best type of coolant to be used in any vehicle radiator. However, using the concentrated glycol coolant alone is usually not a good idea.
In most cases, you will need to mix the glycol with a certain amount of water.
If you live in more temperate climate areas, you should mix a glycol coolant with an equal amount of water.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend a 50/50 mix of glycol and water when vehicles require adequate cooling but do not need much protection from the cold of a harsh winter.
However, a 50/50 mix of glycol and water will offer adequate winter protection for a vehicle in all but the most extreme winter environments.
If you live in colder regions of the world, you should mix your glycol based coolant with water as well.
However, you should use 70% glycol and 30% water to provide additional protection for your vehicle.
This will help prevent your engine block from freezing up in extremely cold temperatures.
How do I add coolant to my car?
Refilling your vehicle’s coolant reservoir is a simple process. Here’s a guide on the best way to do it:
● Pick the correct Coolant (usually 50%)
● Make sure the engine is cool
● Mix the coolant with water (if using from concentrate)
● Unscrew the reservoir cap and add the coolant
● Replace the cap
How do I know if my car needs coolant?
1. The temperature gauge reads hotter than normal when the engine is running
2. Antifreeze leaks and puddles beneath your vehicle (orange or green fluid)
3. A grinding noise is coming from under the hood of your car
4. Flecks or bits of rust start to show up in the antifreeze/coolant liquid
5. Steam or an odor similar to boiling maple syrup is coming from the engine
What happens if coolant is low?
Coolant helps pull heat away from the engine. So, without enough coolant, the engine could overheat or seize up.
Continued use of an overheated engine could lead to permanent damage, such as pistons welding to the cylinders.
Is coolant the same as antifreeze?
Well, antifreeze and engine coolant are similar, but not the same. Antifreeze is a concentrated, glycol-based liquid that must be diluted with water before use – at which point it is referred to as coolant.
Alternatively, you can purchase pre-mixed engine coolant, a ready-to-use solution of antifreeze and water.
Mainly consisting of ethylene glycol, antifreeze is used in a car’s cooling system to enable trouble-free engine operation even in the most extreme, sub-zero weather.
Ethylene Glycol prevents coolant liquid freezing within your radiator by lowering its freezing temperature, alongside lubricating the water pump and inhibiting corrosion.
Engine coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water, with a common ratio of 50:50. This is because antifreeze works best as a diluted liquid (making it coolant) when combating temperatures of intense heat.
With coolant in your car’s cooling system, the engine can be effectively regulated to the optimum temperature, all year round.
Antifreeze does not expire, but the additives that prevent engine corrosion do. As such, it’s recommended you replace your antifreeze in line with the manufacturer’s expiry guidelines.
Additionally, ethylene glycol is toxic to both humans and animals, so make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety advice and disposal instructions carefully.
How often should I change coolant?
When is the right time to change your engine coolant? For some vehicles, you’re advised to change the coolant every 30,000 miles. For others, changing it isn’t even on the maintenance schedule.
For example, Hyundai says the coolant in the engine in most of its models should be replaced after the first 60,000 miles, then every 30,000 miles after that.
The interval is every 30,000 miles on some Mercedes-Benz models with some engines, but on others its 120,000 miles or 12 years. On still other Mercedes, it’s 150,000 miles or 15 years.
Some manufacturers recommend you drain and flush the engine’s cooling system and change the coolant more often on vehicles subjected to “severe service,” such as frequent towing, which can generate more heat.
The schedule for many Chevrolets, though, is a change at 150,000 miles regardless of how the vehicle is driven.
Many service shops, though including some at dealerships that sell cars with “lifetime” coolant say you should do a coolant change more often than the maintenance schedule recommends, such as every 30,000 or 50,000 miles.
Is it ok to drive with low coolant if yes! (How long can you run an engine without coolant?)
Coolant circulates through the engine, maintaining the correct working temperature of different components. If your car runs out of coolant on the road, you’ll likely experience the following:
1. Dashboard warning light or abnormal temperature gauge – The first sign of low coolant should be a dashboard warning light, or a rising temperature gauge.
2. Automatic engine cut-off – If you drive a modern car, it will be fitted with an automatic engine cut-off feature.
This is designed to prevent damage when the engine starts to heat up due to lack of coolant. You won’t be able to drive the car further until it’s cooled down.
3. Damage to engine parts – If your car doesn’t have a cut-off feature and you continue driving, you’ll risk damaging parts of the engine that are running too hot.
This may not only lead to pricey repair bills, but could result in permanent and irreparable damage. So if you run out coolant your car will not run for long it will eventfully stop.
Does my coolant reservoir need to be full?
The coolant level should be between the “LOW” and “FULL” marks in the coolant extension tank. As the coolant heats up it expands if it is at the full mark it could overflow. That is why you don’t fill up the coolant reservoir all the way.
Can you put tap water in the coolant?
No, using or mixing tap water in your coolant will eventually cause a buildup of calcium and other minerals in your radiator as tap water is full of these minerals.
That will hinder the movement of the coolant in your system which will reduce the effectiveness of the coolant and the engine parts will not be cooled properly.
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