Coolant, A.K.A. antifreeze Uses, Functions, and Benefits

Coolant, A.K.A. antifreeze Uses, Functions, and Benefits

Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is a liquid mixture that circulates through a car's engine cooling system to regulate its temperature. It prevents the engine from overheating in hot conditions and from freezing in cold conditions. There is a different type of coolant made per model. Always check your owners manual or auto parts store to ensure you use the correct type for your car. Not all are made the same, and not all fit your car. Here’s a detailed look at coolant and its importance:

Types of Coolant

  1. Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT):

    • Composition: Typically contains silicates and phosphates.
    • Color: Usually green.
    • Usage: Commonly used in older vehicles (pre-1990s).
    • Lifespan: Requires replacement every 2-3 years or 30,000 miles.
  2. Organic Acid Technology (OAT):

    • Composition: Contains organic acids.
    • Color: Often orange, red, blue, or dark green.
    • Usage: Found in many newer vehicles.
    • Lifespan: Longer lifespan, typically up to 5 years or 150,000 miles.
  3. Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT):

    • Composition: A combination of IAT and OAT, with added silicates or phosphates.
    • Color: Yellow, orange, pink, blue, or purple.
    • Usage: Used in many modern cars, especially European and Asian models.
    • Lifespan: Similar to OAT, usually up to 5 years or 150,000 miles.
  4. Phosphate-Free Organic Acid Technology (P-OAT):

    • Composition: Organic acids, but without phosphates.
    • Color: Often blue or pink.
    • Usage: Common in European vehicles.
    • Lifespan: Long lifespan, similar to OAT and HOAT.

Importance of Coolant

  • Temperature Regulation: Coolant absorbs excess heat from the engine and dissipates it through the radiator, preventing the engine from overheating.
  • Freezing Protection: It lowers the freezing point of the coolant mixture, preventing the liquid from freezing in cold temperatures.
  • Corrosion Prevention: Additives in coolant protect metal components in the engine and cooling system from corrosion and rust.
  • Lubrication: It lubricates the water pump, seals, and other components, extending their lifespan.

Effects of Running Low on Coolant

  • Overheating: Without enough coolant, the engine can overheat, leading to potential engine damage, including warped or cracked engine components.
  • Engine Damage: Persistent overheating can cause severe damage such as a blown head gasket, damaged pistons, and cylinder heads.
  • Reduced Performance: An overheated engine can lead to poor performance and efficiency.
  • Increased Wear: Low coolant levels reduce the lubrication for the water pump and other components, leading to increased wear and tear.

Effects of Using the Wrong Coolant or Incorrect Mixture

  • Corrosion and Damage: Using the wrong type of coolant can cause chemical reactions that lead to corrosion and damage of engine components.
  • Reduced Effectiveness: An incorrect 50/50 mix (typically 50% coolant and 50% water) can reduce the effectiveness of temperature regulation, leading to overheating or freezing.
  • Clogging: Incompatible coolants can form sludge or gel-like substances that clog the cooling system, reducing coolant flow and effectiveness.
  • Warranty Issues: Using an incorrect type of coolant may void the vehicle's warranty.

Proper Coolant Maintenance

  • Regular Checks: Check coolant levels regularly and top up as needed.
  • Correct Mixture: Use the recommended 50/50 mix or as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Scheduled Changes: Replace coolant according to the vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
  • Compatibility: Always use the type of coolant specified in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

The type of coolant used in a car can vary significantly based on the vehicle's make, model, and manufacturing year. Different car manufacturers have specific requirements for the coolant types that best suit their engines and cooling systems. Always check your owners manual or auto parts store to ensure you add the correct one to your car. Here’s a detailed look at the differences in coolant by car model:

Key Differences in Coolant by Car Model

  1. Manufacturer Specifications:

    • Domestic Cars (e.g., Ford, GM, Chrysler):
      • Typically use Dex-Cool (an OAT coolant) or other specified coolants. 
      • Colors can include orange, yellow, or pink.
    • European Cars (e.g., BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen):
      • Often use G11, G12, or G13 coolants (P-OAT or HOAT).
      • Colors are often blue, pink, or purple.
    • Asian Cars (e.g., Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai):
      • Usually use specific OAT or HOAT formulations.
      • Colors can include red, blue, green, or pink.
  2. Compatibility and Additives:

    • Ford:
      • Often uses Motorcraft specialty green or orange coolants.
    • GM (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac):
      • Commonly specifies Dex-Cool orange coolant.
    • BMW:
      • Typically requires a blue P-OAT coolant.
    • Mercedes-Benz:
      • Uses HOAT coolants, often blue or pink.
    • Toyota:
      • Specifies a red or pink OAT coolant.
    • Honda:
      • Uses a specific blue OAT coolant.
    • Volkswagen:
      • Often uses G13 coolant, which is purple or pink.
  3. Longevity and Maintenance Intervals:

    • Different coolants have varying lifespans, which can affect the recommended maintenance intervals. For example:
      • Dex-Cool: Up to 5 years or 150,000 miles.
      • Toyota Red/Pink: Typically replaced every 5 years or 150,000 miles.
      • BMW Blue: Generally replaced every 4-5 years.

Importance of Using the Correct Coolant

  1. Preventing Corrosion:

    • Using the specified coolant helps prevent corrosion and damage to the engine and cooling system components.
  2. Ensuring Optimal Performance:

    • The correct coolant ensures efficient temperature regulation, preventing overheating and freezing.
  3. Maintaining Warranty:

    • Using the wrong type of coolant can void the vehicle’s warranty and lead to expensive repairs.

How to Determine the Correct Coolant

  1. Owner’s Manual:

    • The most reliable source for the correct type of coolant is the vehicle’s owner’s manual. It will specify the exact type and often the brand of coolant recommended.
  2. Manufacturer's Recommendations:

    • Check the manufacturer’s website or contact a dealership to confirm the appropriate coolant for your specific model.
  3. Coolant Labels:

    • Look for the labels on coolant bottles, which often indicate compatibility with specific makes and models.

Example Coolant Types by Car Make

  • Ford:
    • Motorcraft Specialty Green Engine Coolant.
    • Motorcraft Orange (Dex-Cool) Engine Coolant.
  • Chevrolet/GM:
    • ACDelco Dex-Cool.
  • BMW:
    • BMW Antifreeze/Coolant (blue).
  • Mercedes-Benz:
    • Mercedes-Benz Antifreeze/Coolant (blue or pink).
  • Toyota:
    • Toyota Long Life Red Coolant.
    • Toyota Super Long Life Pink Coolant.
  • Honda:
    • Honda Type 2 Coolant (blue).
  • Volkswagen:
    • Volkswagen G13 Coolant (purple/pink).


Proper maintenance and using the correct type of coolant for your car model is crucial for maintaining the engine’s performance and longevity. Always refer to your owner’s manual and follow manufacturer recommendations to ensure you are using the appropriate coolant. Regular maintenance and proper coolant usage can prevent costly repairs and extend the life of your vehicle.

Back to blog