Engine coolant is an integral part of what keeps your car’s engine ticking over and alive, but how do you know what one you need? With a wide range of options out there, it can often seem a bit boggling knowing which one you’ll need to keep you running without causing more damage to your power unit than good.
What is car coolant?
Also known as antifreeze, car coolant is a liquid that can be added to water to lower the freezing point and therefore reduce the chances of the liquid turning solid in cold conditions. Most antifreezes will also give the liquid a higher boiling point.
Do cars need coolant?
Without antifreeze added to the water in a car’s cooling system, you run the risk of the liquid freezing in cold weather. If the water freezes, it not only cannot flow around the engine correctly, but can also cause blockages and expansion damage, which will cause serious damage to the radiator, so keeping on top of your coolant levels are key to keeping your car in the best condition. Aside from stopping freezing, as its name suggests, antifreeze also raises the boiling point of the water so you’ve less chance of the engine overheating, and it also helps protect your engine from corrosion, aids heat transfer and prevents any scale build up internally.
What does coolant do in a car?
Engine coolant gets pumped around the engine by the car’s water pump and absorbs the heat as it passes through the hotter components of the engine, before it is transferred to the radiator. The hot coolant is then cooled down by the cold air that comes in through the radiator as the car drives along, which is why you will hear a fan kicking in if you are stuck in traffic and the temperature rises. Once it has passed through the radiator and cooled, the process will start again as it is fed back through the engine.
What types of coolant are there?
You’ll notice when you go to buy a bottle of coolant that there are a couple of options in front of you. You can buy antifreeze in either a ready-mixed formula or in its concentrated form. If you’re buying a bottle that’s premixed, this is often simply referred to as coolant and can be added directly from the bottle for top-ups and replacements. If, however, you have a bottle of concentrated antifreeze, this will need to be diluted with distilled water, usually at a 50/50 ratio – although make sure you check the instructions on the bottle.
Which coolant is best for your car?
You should make sure to check what type of antifreeze you need for your specific car. For most cars built after 1998, you will need to get antifreeze that uses OAT technology, meaning it is an organic, silicate-free, acid, while older cars will require more traditional types of antifreeze that has no silicate and is not OAT based. You’ll also find that most big retailers will be able to offer advice, either in person or via their websites, and make sure you walk away with the right bottle.
Where to buy car coolant?
Buying coolant is quite a simple job, and you’ll find it in almost all car parts shops. If you don’t have the chance to pop down to your local garage or parts shop, then the usual online bigwigs such as Halfords or Euro Car Parts will be able to deliver coolant straight to your door.
Can I use different coolant in my car?
Your owner’s manual will specify the type of coolant you must use and it is always best practice to stick to what it says. If you are just topping up and have a different type, then you’re unlikely to cause any serious damage, but with a wide range of coolant types out on the market, all catering for an even wider range of engine make-ups, ensuring you have the right coolant is a safe way to make sure you avoid any longer term problems.
You can learn more about how to add and change car coolant here, as well as the difference between coolant and antifreeze. However, if you’ve had a coolant-related nightmare and your car is now beyond economical sense to repair, then get in touch with our team who can guarantee the very best price possible to scrap your car.
For more hints, tips and general help with keeping your motoring life as trouble-free as possible, have a look through our Car Care guide, offering advice to keep your car on the road for as long as possible.