Understanding Car Antifreeze

Antifreeze, or engine coolant, is a colored liquid that is mixed with water to help regulate your engine during extreme temperatures. If you do not have antifreeze in your vehicle when temperatures drop, then key engine components become too cold or freeze and you won’t be able to get too far in your car. In fact, you may not even be able to start your car at all. And if you don’t have any coolant at all, then your engine will overheat, presenting you with similar transportation problems.

What Is Antifreeze?

Typically, antifreeze is a 50/50 combination of water and the chemical ethylene glycol or polyproline glycol. More often than not, car antifreeze is a bright yellow or green liquid, however, different manufacturers dye their products different colors, so you may see orange or pink shades as well. What this mixture effectively does is change the freezing and boiling points of water, allowing it to effectively do its job even in extreme hot and cold temperatures. And its job is an important one. The antifreeze or coolant mixture circulates through your vehicle’s engine in order to keep the temperature of critical components in an acceptable range. It both stops your engine from overheating and from cooling off to the point where it may sustain significant damage.

How Does Antifreeze Work in Cars?

As your vehicle’s antifreeze circulates through the engine, it receives and removes heat from the engine block. It then takes the heat it absorbs and moves it to the radiator, which blows air across the liquid, cooling it down and exchanging heat with the air outside your car. Essentially, the coolant is being pumped around your engine, removing heat from components, and flowing through the radiator which removes it from the liquid. Before it reaches the radiator, antifreeze also has the important job of providing heat for your vehicle’s heating core, which is what keeps the inside of your car warm in the dead of winter.

When Does My Car Need New Antifreeze?

Most of the fluids your vehicle needs should be drained and replaced at various intervals in order to be effective. The same goes for antifreeze. It is typically recommended to check antifreeze levels at least twice a year, once before the summer heat and once before the winter cold. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for more precise information on when to flush and replace the coolant in your vehicle. You can also tell when it may be time to change your coolant by examining its appearance. Unlike brake fluid or engine oil, which relatively retain their appearance over time, coolant changes color as it breaks down. If your antifreeze takes on a rust-colored or brownish hue, it is likely time to flush it out of your radiator and replace it with a fresh supply.

Adding New Antifreeze

Before attempting to replace your vehicle’s antifreeze or top it off, you should consult your owner’s manual. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for type of coolant, as well as how to go about actually adding new fluid. Remember that most types of antifreeze come undiluted, so you will have to mix the proper ratio (usually 50/50) of the chemical and water. For the majority of vehicles, undiluted antifreeze is not compatible. In most cases, it will be easier if you let the professionals handle your vehicle’s coolant and antifreeze needs. At HEART Certified Auto Care, we can quickly check your coolant levels and let you know if you need a complete flush or just a top off. We will also provide the correct fluid that the manufacturer recommends, so that your vehicle runs at optimal performance in any temperature. Stop by any of our Chicago area locations at HEART Evanston, HEART Wilmette, or HEART Northbrook to have a certified technician take a look at your antifreeze and coolant system today!