We would be here all day if we listed all the important car parts. Brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluids—yadda, yadda, yadda. But we can’t stress enough how important antifreeze and coolant are.
These are chemicals that protect your car’s engine. They safeguard it against the cold, heat, and corrosion. This means that your vehicle’s engine won’t overheat, freeze, or corrode as it ages.
Everyone needs to have the right kind of cooling fluid at hand. It’s not just people who live in places with harsh, long winters! But sometimes, it can be hard to know what kind of liquid is best for your needs.
In this article, we’ll show you the nine best antifreeze products. We’ll walk you through each of their upsides and downsides. Then, we’ll teach you how to find the best antifreeze and best coolant for your car. Finally, we’ll answer the most common troubleshooting and frequently asked questions about this vital car component.
Top 10 Best Antifreeze and Coolant Products of 2020
Not all coolant products are the same. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. So, it’s important to carefully look at each of them and decide if they’re a good choice overall.
Luckily for you, we have put in several hours of research to find the best antifreeze products on the market today. Look into each of their specs, find out if they’re compatible with your vehicle, and then make your purchase!
Are Antifreeze and Coolant the Same Thing?
Although usually used interchangeably, these two words do not mean the same thing. Coolants are a mix of antifreeze fluid with water. The ratio of this mix depends from brand to brand, but you’ll find plenty of 1:1 mixes.
At the end of the day, however, they serve the same purpose. Their goal is to protect the engine from harsh conditions (low and high temperatures and corrosion).
How Antifreeze Works in a Car
Your car’s engine can hit skyrocket temperatures when running. In fact, it can get so hot that it starts to melt itself. Obviously, this is something no car owner wants. Thus, manufacturers have created engine cooling systems.
The fluid that circulates in this cooling system is mostly water. However, under special conditions, that water can start slacking at its job.
In a nutshell, coolant liquid raises the boiling point of water and lowers the freezing point of water. By running through the vehicle’s radiator, it aids the water in the cooling system in its job.
Why Antifreeze Is Used in Vehicle Radiators
Think of an engine exposed to California-in-the-summertime temperatures, for example. Once it starts running, it faces a serious chance of going bust because of the heat. However, since antifreeze and coolant fluids raise the boiling point of water, that is no longer really a problem. In short, your engine is safe.
Something similar happens with low temperatures. The water in the cooling system can freeze, permanently damaging your car’s insides. To prevent this from happening, coolant and anti-freezing liquid are added. They lower the freezing point of water, allowing it to stay in its liquid form even in temperatures below 32ºF.
Who Should Get These Fluids for Their Car?
Everyone—and we mean it. Some people still think that if they don’t live in freezing cold or scalding hot places, they won’t need coolant. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Your car’s engine will likely hit unhealthy temperatures at some point. When it does, if there isn’t any coolant to keep the engine healthy, you will be faced with a lot of permanent engine damage.
How Important Is Antifreeze? Benefits of Using It in Your Car
We can’t stress how important this cooling fluid is, and we know you probably get this by now. To sum it up, let’s look at some succinct bullet points.
- Prevents water in the cooling system from freezing
- Thus, reduces chances of radiator pipes bursting
- Prevents water in the cooling system from boiling
- Thus, reduces chances of pressure build-ups in radiator pipes
- Reduces the erosion of the engine components
- Lengthens car engine’s lifespan
Are all antifreeze compatible with my car?
No, not every coolant for sale will be compatible with your car. This is the most important point to stress. Before buying a gallon of cooling fluid, check if it’s compatible with your vehicle.
The easiest way to know which kind of liquid suits your car is to check with the manufacturer. Nowadays, if you know the make, model, and year of your vehicle and its engine displacement, you can find that information a quick Google search away.
On that note, keep in mind that different anti-freezing solutions have different colors. This is to alert car owners to the fact that not all fluids are the same.
Types of Antifreeze and Coolant Fluids
Here, you’ll find the answer to your question “What antifreeze goes in my car?” There are essentially four types of engine cooling fluids. Make sure to pick the one your car’s manufacturer indicates.
Inorganic Acid Technology (IAT)
This is the classic and original green antifreeze. They use an ethylene glycol-based solution. They contain silicates and phosphates, two substances highly toxic to the environment. For this reason, you won’t find it in cars manufactured after the late 1990s. It’s recommended that you flush and replace this fluid every two years or every 30,000 miles.
Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
What sets this coolant fluid apart is the fact that it doesn’t have any silicates or phosphates in its composition. Thus, it’s a more environmentally friendly option. However, it does have other corrosion inhibitors that prolong the engine’s life. You’ll find that most recent trucks, SUVs, and cars use this liquid, which can come in orange or pink. You should flush it and replace it every five years or every 150,000 miles.
Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)
This type of fluid is great for aluminum-blocking engines. It gained popularity in Europe before migrating to the United States thanks to Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1980s. It does contain silicates, but in low quantities, and is a phosphate-free mixture. You should be replacing and flushing it every 150,000 miles or every five years.
The last type of cooling liquid is one that has been made thinking of the environment. Instead of using ethylene glycol as the basis of the solution (which all three other types use), it runs on a propylene glycol base. This is why you’ll see “safe for consumption” written on its label—meaning, it’s not as dangerous to pets and other animals or to the environment. Its downside is that it has a shorter lifespan, needing replacing every three years or 36,000 miles.
Antifreeze and Coolant Buying Guide
From price to vehicle compatibility, there’s much to pay attention to when looking for the best antifreeze and best coolant products. Make sure to keep these in mind in order to have an easier time shopping for cooling fluid.
Obviously, looking at the price tag is important. Cooling fluid isn’t usually expensive, considering how long it lasts. In spite of that, stick to something within budget.
Our biggest warning is to always be vigilant. Always suspect if the deal you’re getting sounds too good to be true. When it comes to car engine health, you don’t want to mess with it.
Maker or Manufacturer
Along the same line, getting the liquid manufactured by your car’s maker is never a bad idea. This ensures nothing bad will happen to your engine as a result of a poorly made fluid.
However, these are typically on the more expensive end of the spectrum. If you can’t afford them, stick to recognizable brands that have built up a trustworthy reputation throughout the years.
If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be this: you need anti-freeze fluid that is compatible with your vehicle. Using the wrong kind, even if it’s cheaper and more readily available, will set you back several thousands of dollars in repairs.
Always check if the fluid you’re getting is suitable for your car before making your purchase. You can never be too sure!
Many people ask “Why are antifreeze different colors?” It’s for one simple reason: to prevent people from mixing them.
Mixing coolants is always an awful idea. If you’re lucky, all it will do is shorten the life of the cooling fluid. If you’re not, the components in each liquid will work against each other and permanently damage the cooling system. Ouch.
So, stick to the same color all the time. Memorize what type of liquid you need—ACT, OAT, and so on—and commit that color to memory. Don’t ever mix colors.
Ease of Use
You can either get premixed or concentrated coolants. Which one you want to get depends on your preferences.
Of course, the premixed kind is the most convenient, given that they don’t require you to do anything to them.
The concentrated ones will need you to mix them with water. The container will tell you the ratio of water to cooling fluid, but they’re obviously trickier to use.
It’s also important to see how long each product will last. Look for information on how often you should flush and replace it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when antifreeze is mixed with oil?
You should avoid mixing this cooling fluid with oil as best as possible. If you’ve accidentally spilled oil in the cooling system, have a professional flush it as soon as possible.
What to do when antifreeze boils?
For starters, be extra careful when approaching the cooling system. The water and other fluids will be extremely hot and at higher pressures than normal. Then, the safest way to get this checked out is to let a professional (or a car know-it-all) help you.
How to check the level of antifreeze?
Always check it with the engine cool. You most likely won’t need to remove the cap of the reservoir. Instead, there should be a “full” or “max” line on the outside of the reservoir. If the fluid doesn’t reach the line, it’s time to top it up.
How often to change antifreeze fluid?
This depends on what kind of fluid you’re using. If it’s an…
ACT fluid, replace every two years or 30,000 miles
OAT fluid, replace every five years or 150,000 miles
HOAT fluid, replace every five years or 150,000 miles
Non-toxic fluid, replace every three years or 36.000 miles
Of course, these are just ballpark estimates. Each container of the product advises you on how often to replace it, though.
Alternatively, you can check the color of the fluid when you flush it. If it looks brownish, it’s time to replace it.
What to do when antifreeze is mixed with another coolant?
If you do mix two types, immediately have a professional flush your entire cooling system.
Are antifreeze fumes harmful?
Inhaling these ethylene glycol fumes is dangerous. Exposure to high concentrations of the gas will cause irritation in the mucous membranes and harm the upper respiratory tract.
Are coolant containers recyclable?
No, because of their harmful chemicals, coolants (and the containers they came in) cannot be placed in the recycling bin. No, not even if you’ve rinsed the insides of the container (which you should never do).
Are antifreeze and wiper fluid the same?
Wiper fluid does have anti-freezing fluid in it, in order to lower its freezing point. However, when we use the word “antifreeze” generally, we’re talking about the cooling fluid you add to the car’s radiator.
What is antifreeze made of?
This liquid is made from a mixture of:
Purified or mineral water
Ethylene glycol or propylene glycol
Silicates and phosphates (not all)
Other additives to prevent corrosion
Can antifreeze be mixed with other coolants?
Under no circumstance should you mix two kinds of coolants. This is a terrible idea that may damage your car’s radiator forever.
Can antifreeze go bad?
As long as you keep it in an airtight container in a dark and room-temperature place, this product will not go bad.
Can antifreeze damage paint?
No, it does not damage paint jobs. All you have to do is rinse it off with some water and wash the spot like normal (with soapy water). Try your best to not let the dirty water go down the drain, for environmental reasons.
Can antifreeze go down the drain?
Because of its chemical composition, you should never dispose of this product as you would other fluids. It has severe impacts on the environment and should be disposed of carefully by professionals.
What antifreeze do I need?
Always consult your car’s user guide, it will tell you what kind of fluid to use. If you don’t have this manual, a quick Google search with the make, model, and year of your vehicle should yield the answer you’re looking for.