This article may contain affiliate links. For details, visit our Affiliate Disclosure page.
Coolant is referring to any liquid that helps maintain the temperature of a gas- or steam-powered engine. In most cases, coolant is distilled water with a small amount of rock salt in it — you just need to know what type to use and how much. This blog will help you answer the question “does it matter what coolant I put in my car?”
Does It Matter What Coolant I Put in My Car?
The short answer is the type of coolant you use does affect your car as a whole. Pay attention to the type of coolant you use and what type of antifreeze, if any, is mixed into it. If you don’t know what kind to use or how much, consult with your car manufacturer for specific advice based on the vehicle you own.
Is It Ethylene Glycol or Antifreeze?
First, it’s important to know the difference between coolant and antifreeze. Coolant is a generic term for any liquid that goes inside your cooling system, while antifreeze is a specific type of liquid that helps lower freezing temperature and inhibits rusting.
Most people know that glycol is a coolant, and a lot of people may even think that only glycol is used in car engines. They’re not entirely wrong, but the truth is that all coolants used in modern vehicles have an antifreeze purpose as well. Most of them are made with ethylene glycol, but there are also other types of antifreeze available.
For most car owners, it makes more sense to use the term “coolant” instead of “antifreeze.” Most people are unaware that there are two different types of coolant, and using the wrong one may cause serious problems with your engine.
What Coolants Should You Use?
One thing that everyone should know about coolants is that they aren’t created equal. Even though car manufacturers tend to prefer X type of coolant for their engines, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Most manufacturers just like to stick to one type of coolant because it’s cheaper and easier to use than multiple types. For example, many companies don’t make their own coolant, they just buy it from a third party. This is why the same manufacturer may use different fluids in different car models.
As mentioned before, coolants have two purposes: they do the cooling and they act as an antifreeze when temperatures go below freezing. Even though it’s not as important as the cooling function, antifreeze also reduces the risk of rusting.
While most coolants are very effective at preventing coolant leaks, some types are specifically designed to prevent leaks due to freezing temperatures. Given the fact that salt is a major culprit for rusting in many vehicles, it’s no surprise that people tend to choose a coolant based on freezing protection.
See More: Which Color Coolant Is Best?
What Type of Coolant Should I Use?
There are three primary types of coolant sold for automobiles: ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and water-miscible oils (WMOs). In most cases, you should avoid using any type of antifreeze. Because they’re old school and don’t do a good job at preventing freezing temperature, they’re also prone to leaks.
Ethylene glycol is the classic coolant of choice because it’s cheap and offers excellent freezing protection. It’s also less corrosive than many other antifreeze products. Unfortunately, ethylene glycol is also toxic and does a very bad job at protecting engine parts from rusting. If you buy a radiator with built-in coolant recovery tanks, you should never top it up with ethylene glycol in the long term. Ethylene glycol doesn’t protect against rust like modern coolants do.
Propylene glycol is slightly less corrosive than ethylene glycol, but it’s still not ideal. While it can prevent leaks, it leaves the engine vulnerable to water contamination. This means that the coolant won’t be able to maintain proper water temperatures and may even freeze up when you turn on your car on freezing mornings.
Can I Mix Different Coolant?
I’ve made it a point to avoid mixing different types of coolant. This is because mixing antifreeze with any type of coolant that has ethylene glycol in it will cause serious damage to your car. This is because the ethylene glycol in the antifreeze will attack the outer layers of the engine and severely affect engine performance over time.