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What is antifreeze and why is it so important?

Date: Mon 4th December 2017   |   Author: Modeten

Learn more about antifreeze and how it helps your your vehicle

Antifreeze changes the freezing and boiling point of water to ensure that it remains at the correct temperature for your car to function. In this blog we look at why it’s so important and answer the question: what is antifreeze? 

What is antifreeze?

Firstly, as the name suggests, antifreeze prevents your car from freezing in winter. The process of water freezing and then warming causes water to expand. And as you can probably guess, this could cause serious damage to your vehicle! By adding antifreeze to your water coolant, your car will be protected from temperatures as low as -37 degrees celsius, therefore preventing unnecessary damage during the winter months.

However, antifreeze also protects your car in high temperatures too; up to 129 degrees. In hot temperatures, it’s possible for the engine coolant to boil inside of the engine itself, causing serious damage to your vehicle. Therefore antifreeze allows your vehicle to become tolerant to extreme temperatures.

Lastly, antifreeze also stops your engine from corroding.  Antifreeze contains chemicals that prevent the internals, including the engine itself, from corrosion. Therefore, by simply purchasing antifreeze, and ensuring its refilled, you’ll prevent yourself from unnecessary and costly repairs.

Does my car need antifreeze?

All cars need antifreeze. Firstly, if you live in an area where the temperature reaches freezing point you’re putting your vehicle at serious risk without having it. If the liquid in your car was to freeze the metal would expand causing potentially expensive damage to all kinds of internal systems.

Secondly, antifreeze doesn’t just regulate at low temperatures, it also regulates at high temperatures which will help prevent the engine from overheating on a long drive or in extreme temperatures. The final great benefit of antifreeze is that it protects your car from corrosion and limescale build up and also has properties that improve vital heat transfer to help your engine run smoothly.

What kind of antifreeze does my car need?

There are several different types of antifreeze available for your vehicle. The different types include red, blue, pink, yellow and universal antifreeze.

Before your refill antifreeze in your vehicle it’s important you know which kind it needs. To find out which type you should be using couldn’t be easier! Simply check your owner's manual to see which one your manufacturer recommends. Or instead, there’s universal antifreeze which can be used with any car. 

Do I need to dilute antifreeze?

Antifreeze is available in both ready mixed and concentrated form. If you choose to go with the concentrated form then you will need to dilute it before putting into your vehicle. The recommended mixture in the UK is usually 50% water to 50% antifreeze, but you’re best to follow the guidance on the bottle or in your owner’s manual.

Concentrated antifreeze will last longer and refill antifreeze in more vehicles from the same bottle. So if you’re a family with a small fleet of vehicles sitting on your drive it could be more cost effective to buy the concentrated mixture rather than the ready mixed stuff.

When to replace antifreeze

Eventually, as part of standard maintenance of your vehicle, your engine coolant reservoir will require flushing and the coolant inside completely replacing. This is a more technical task than simply refilling and requires special equipment that completely removes the existing engine coolant.

When it comes to replacing antifreeze, each vehicle will vary depending on make and model. Many auto-mechanics will recommend that you perform a complete antifreeze flush every 30,000 miles or five years, depending which comes first. Unless you’re confident in vehicle maintenance, then it’s worth taking your car to a garage to undertake this work. 

How to refill antifreeze

1. Make sure your engine is off and cool

This step is crucial in preventing accidents when refilling antifreeze. If your engine is hot, you are likely to get burnt from steam that will fire out of the cap. Allow your engine to cool down for at least an hour after driving before you pop the bonnet and refill antifreeze. DO NOT REFILL ANTIFREEZE IN WITH THE ENGINE ON. Other important safety precautions include keeping the antifreeze out of reach of pets and small children.

2. Make sure your vehicle is secure

Place your vehicle in park or neutral and ensure the brakes are secure. You don’t want to be refilling your antifreeze as your vehicle rolls towards you or away from you.

3. Open your bonnet

To refill antifreeze, you’re obviously going to need to lift the bonnet. If you’re unsure how to open your bonnet, you can check how to do so in your owner’s manual or by completing a quick search on Google.

4. Locate the engine coolant reservoir

The engine coolant is a translucent container, with a brightly coloured screw top. It is easily located next to the radiator. It should be clearly marked, but if you’re unsure consult the owner's manual.

5. Top up antifreeze

Once you’ve carefully selected your antifreeze, it couldn’t be easier to top up the engine coolant reservoir. Simply pour your antifreeze between the minimum and maximum levels as displayed on the container.

6. Replace cap

It is important to replace the cap properly to prevent any leakages. Simply screw the cap till you’re certain the engine coolant reservoir is secure. Next, put the bonnet down. You’ll know the bonnet is secure if you hear a click, and are unable to lift it back up again.

7. Test engine

To ensure you’ve added the antifreeze properly, you can check by simply turning the engine on and looking for engine any warning lights.