Your Trusted Auto Repair Shop for 40+ Years
Shop Talk Logo

What Is Antifreeze?

antifreeze in a carKeeping your car in proper working order requires understanding how it works and the different components needed to make it run right. One important component is the cooling system, which requires antifreeze. This fluid is essential to the operation of your vehicle by preventing the vehicle from overheating.

Antifreeze Defined

Antifreeze, also known as coolant, is a liquid that is added to your radiator to assist with keeping your engine at the proper operating temperature. What does it do? It is an additive that ensures the coolant in your cooling system does not freeze, which is where it gets its name. It also helps increase the efficiency of the system through increasing the boiling point of the coolant and lowering the freezing point.

Problems With Low Antifreeze Levels

If you do not add antifreeze to your coolant system, or your antifreeze levels are low, it can cause catastrophic issues. If the coolant in your system freezes, it will seize up your system. It can also cause cracks in the system lines due to the coolant expanding as it freezes. If the coolant gets too hot, it can damage your engine, cylinder head and block. Even without temperature extremes, a lack of proper antifreeze can allow your engine to overheat, which leads to other issues.

Adding Antifreeze

You should get your antifreeze checked regularly when checking other liquids in your vehicle. It is especially important to check levels right before temperatures rise in the summer months and before they fall in the winter months. Also, be aware that it will degrade in time, so it is important to have its quality checked. Our expert technicians at Sun Auto Service can flush and refill your radiator when necessary.

Because the antifreeze is located in your radiator, the reservoir that holds it is located near your radiator, which is at the front end of your car under the hood. There is generally a cap located within easy reach where you pour the antifreeze. Pour the antifreeze into the reservoir and not directly into the radiator, as the liquid can splash back out and cause severe burns. In addition, you should only add it when the engine is cool to lower burn risks. The cap may even have a warning on it to not open when the engine is hot.

Check your antifreeze through the radiator. Again, only remove the cap once the engine is cool. You will need a device called a hydrometer to check the fluid. It will verify the strength of the fluid and let you know if it is still good. This also will let you see the fluid. If it appears dirty, then it is time to have it changed. You can also check the pH level if you know how to do that.

A Note About Water

You may have heard that you can add water to your radiator instead of antifreeze. However, this is not recommended for a few reasons. The first is that water will freeze solid in colder temperatures whereas antifreeze will not. The second is that antifreeze today is made specifically to help balance the highs and lows of the coolant temperature, which water cannot do. In most modern engines, water cannot properly control the temperatures and can lead to your engine overheating.

It is always advised to use antifreeze and never to use just water. However, if you do buy a 100 percent antifreeze solution, it needs to be mixed half and half with water. You can buy a blend already made, though, if you do not want to mess with mixing it yourself. Make sure you know what type of antifreeze you are buying. Adding the wrong blend to your radiator could lead to the problems mentioned before because it may not work properly at maintaining the temperatures, and if there is too much water, it could lead to freezing.

Final Notes

One final recommendation is to always keep antifreeze out of the reach of pets and children as it is highly toxic. If you spill any on the ground, make sure to clean it up completely. If you notice a leak in your system, make sure to bring your vehicle to us as soon as possible and clean up any leaks to prevent fatal accidents from ingestion.