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What is a Car Coolant? and How to choose the correct one for your car.

Most people know that coolant is one of the most critical fluids in your car. It’s what keeps it from overheating like an overheating kettle. The coolant circulates through the engine, absorbing heat, and then exits the engine to be cooled back down by water from a radiator or fan-driven air flow.

Without proper coolant levels (and quality) in your car, there’s no way for your car to achieve the proper operating temperature. When the engine doesn’t reach optimum heat levels, the car could overheat, cause trans damage, and even lead to major engine failure.

But what does all this have to do with your cooling system?

To answer that question, you’ll need some basic knowledge of how a cooling system works and what fluids are in there.

You’ve probably seen the green antifreeze that your father used to pour into your radiator each year after you had your yearly checkup. That’s coolant, and it’s essential to keeping your engine from overheating. You’re actually supposed to drain some of that coolant out of your car for the winter, but it doesn’t hurt to leave some in there. It keeps your engine warm during those cold months and seasons.

The coolant is usually made up of water, which then absorbs the heat from inside the engine before being circulated out for cooling through a radiator or other method (like air flowing across the radiator). Coolant also has chemical additives that help prevent corrosion or rusting of metal parts, like old radiators or steel parts on your engine.

But coolant isn’t the only fluid inside your cooling system. Some engines even use a mixture of 50% antifreeze and water, which is called engine coolant or just “coolant”. That means that you can think of the coolant as something that combines water and anti-freezing additives to help keep your car from freezing in cold weather.

Choosing the Right Coolant for Your Car

When it comes time to top off or do a complete system flush you’re going to have to find the right coolant for the job. It can be difficult to tell which type of coolant a car needs.

How to Tell the Difference Between Coolant Types

Good quality coolant is typically easy to identify as it will have a particular color or smell. However, different types of coolants can come in various colors and smells. It’s important that you know what coolant type you’re buying so you don’t end up with something that won’t meet your needs. Know that they will almost always have numbers after “coolant” or “engine coolant”, indicating how cold they can go before freezing, or more accurately, what their freeze point is.

This range is from -10 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Water and most other coolant bases use a mix of fluids like ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. A 50/50 mixture of these chemicals will keep your car cool in extreme temperatures, just like manufacturer-bought coolants. This is because the freezing point of a mixture of these chemicals is at -35 degrees Fahrenheit, which is below even some manufacturer-bought coolants.

Additional Read: What Causes Engine Knocking Sound?

What Separates Good and Bad Coolants?

Coolant comes in a variety of colors, but typically they are either green or red. But the color doesn’t really matter. What matters is the concentration of the coolant.

As stated earlier, coolants are concentrated mixtures of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. The better coolants will have a higher amount of these chemicals to ensure that they keep you safe in extreme weather conditions.

What Is The Difference Between Green & Orange Coolant?

Green Coolant

Green coolants are typically a 60/40 mixture of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, mostly for cars that are manufactured outside the US. The coolant will typically have a -40 hour freeze point, which is low for most people.

Orange Coolant

Orange coolants are typically 70/30 or 50/50 mixtures of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. The coolant will typically have a -34 hour freeze point, making them the best in terms of winter performance. They are also the most expensive coolants available to the general public.

Red Coolant

Red coolants are typically used for your brake system and are usually a 50/50 mixture of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. They have a -55 hour freeze point, which is a bit lower than most non-US cars, but it will work in any car.

Coolant Switching

Switching coolants can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, so let’s go over the process really quick. If you plan on switching from green or orange to red or vice versa here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A set of new hoses
  2. A new expansion tank
  3. New coolant specific for your engine type
  4. Distilled water
  5. Funnel
  6. Hydrophobic sealer (optional).

The process is pretty simple. First, drain all the old coolant and water from your car. Next, flush out your cooling system with distilled water until you get clear water coming out of the hose. Once that’s done, fill up your expansion tank using a mixture of new red or orange coolant and distilled water in a ratio of 50/50 to match what you’re changing to (if you’re switching from green/orange put it on 40/60). After that, top off your radiator with more of the same mixture and start the engine so it can warm back up to normal operating temperature. Now that everything is at normal temperature, start draining the radiator again but this time use only pure distilled water when topping off. This will remove any old coolant that might still be in there. Now just top off your radiator again with the same mixture of coolant and distilled water you used before. After that, drain all the water from your expansion tank by opening up the drain cap or unscrewing it while you’re doing a slow drive (a few feet per minute). Next, take out your thermostat housing and put in some new sealer to prevent any leaks. You can also add this if you have older plastic hoses on your car. When everything is done, fill up your expansion tank one last time with distilled water and check for any leaks when driving slowly (again about 1-2 mph).

Additional Read: What is the Purpose of a Fan Belt in a Car?

Closing Thoughts

Coolants are great products to keep in mind when you next need to top off your fluid levels. Have fun switching around coolants, but remember that it’s something you want to get right the first time so make sure you always use distilled water for topping off and rinsing. Also, a new radiator cap is usually required when switching coolants, so keep that in mind when you go to replace your coolant as well.

Lastly, don’t forget about checking the color of your coolant and smelling for any leaks. If your car overheats, coolant levels are probably low. Your radiator is also a great place to check for leaks so make sure you keep an eye on it at all times. Contact us if you are looking for a car coolant change in Burnaby.

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