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Posted at Wed, Oct 19, 2022 10:30 AM

Key Takeaways

  • Antifreeze and coolants are not the same, but they perform similar functions.
  • Antifreeze is a component of the coolant used to keep engines from overheating in hot weather and freezing in cold weather.
  • Coolant is the liquid used in cars to keep engines cool.
  • Using the correct type of coolant in your car is essential to avoid damaging your engine.
  • You should check coolant levels regularly.
  • Visit an auto technician when radiator problems go overboard.


Is there a difference between antifreeze and coolant? You bet there is! While they may have similar-sounding names, these two fluids perform different functions in your vehicle. This blog post discusses antifreeze and car coolant – and why understanding the differences is essential.


What’s Coolant, and Why is it Important? –

Your car’s coolant is a mixture of water and glycol-based antifreeze. It is used to regulate the engine temperature, preventing it from overheating. The coolant’s responsible for transferring heat away from the engine and into the coolant itself. It also prevents the formation of rust and corrosion inside the engine by creating a barrier between metal surfaces. It’s essential to check the coolant levels regularly, as low coolant levels can lead to engine overheating – which can cause severe damage to your engine.

What Happens When the Engine Overheats?

If the engine overheats, it can cause severe damage. The engine can seize up, meaning the pistons can fuse to the cylinder walls. Piston damage can cause irreplaceable damage to your engine and will likely require a complete replacement. Here are signs your engine is heating, and you need to add coolant immediately:

  • The coolant light on your dashboard comes on
  • You see steam or coolant coming from under the hood
  • Your car starts to overheat, and the temperature gauge goes into the red

You must pull over and call a tow truck if you notice these signs. Avoid driving your car, as this will only cause further damage.

How Does Antifreeze Enter the Mix?

So, we know that coolant is essential for keeping your engine from overheating. But what about antifreeze? Are coolant and antifreeze the same thing, or is there a difference?

Antifreeze is a substance added to cooling systems to lower the freezing point of water, preventing the system from freezing over. It is typically composed of ethylene glycol or propylene glycol and may contain corrosion inhibitors and other additives.

fluid pour

The Difference Between Coolant and Antifreeze –

Now that we know what coolant and antifreeze are, let’s look at the difference between coolant and antifreeze.

Antifreeze is added to the coolant to raise the coolant’s freezing point and ensures that the coolant does not freeze in cold weather. In terms of chemical makeup, coolants and antifreeze are very similar. The main difference is that coolants contain water, while antifreeze does not.

Antifreeze is simply a coolant with no water content. The primary function of antifreeze is to keep your engine from overheating in the summer and freezing in the winter.

How to Check Coolant Levels-?

You need to check coolant levels regularly to manage engine temperature. The coolant should be at the “full” line on the overflow tank. If it’s not, add coolant until it reaches that level. Adding coolant to the radiator is straightforward, but ensure the engine is cool first.

Here’s how you can add coolant to your car:

  • Locate the coolant overflow tank and remove the cap.
  • If the coolant level is low, add coolant until it reaches the “full” line on the overflow tank.
  • Replace the coolant overflow tank cap and screw it on tightly.
  • Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes.
  • Recheck the coolant level and add more coolant if necessary.

If you’re unsure what kind of coolant or antifreeze to use, consult your car’s owner manual or speak with a mechanic.

Different vehicles require different types of coolant, so it’s essential to use the right one to avoid damaging your engine.

How to Choose the Right Coolant for Your Car? –

You can usually find the coolant type you need by looking in your car’s owner’s manual.

If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find a sticker under the hood that lists the coolant type. If you can’t find either of these, you can ask a mechanic or bring a sample of your coolant to an auto parts store, and they will be able to tell you what kind you need.

When Should I Change Car Coolant?

Excessive use can cause coolant to become acidic and eat away at engine components. Increasing corrosion can reduce efficiency levels and results in blown gaskets. Here are signs you should change your car’s coolant.

  • The coolant is rusty.
  • The coolant is dirty and no longer has that bright green color.
  • You can see sediment or scale build-up in the radiator or coolant reservoir.
  • Your car is overheating or taking longer to warm up in the winter.

What to Consider When Choosing Auto Technician for Engine/Radiator Issues

Not maintaining the radiator fluids can increase visits to the auto workshop. Before coolant flush, it is essential to take your car to an expert auto technician. The professional will examine the coolant mixture, test the pH levels and look for leaks.

However, before visiting the technician, ensure they’re the right fit for the job. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Certification: Ensure the technician is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
  • Experience: Choose someone who has experience with coolant and radiator issues.
  • Warranty: Find out if the services come with a warranty.
  • References: Ask for references from previous clients.

At Lee Nissan of Panama City, serving Tyndall AFB, FL, we recommend keeping your coolant levels at or above the minimum to avoid any potential engine overheating problems. If you’re not sure what your car needs or how often it should be serviced, our technicians can help. Schedule a service today, and let us take care of everything!

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