Engine coolant is crucial to maintaining the health and longevity of your car’s engine. It can go a long way in giving your engine long, steady life. It also supports all of its components and keeps your car running in top shape. The same goes for anti-freezing agents.
It’s unfortunate that, despite playing such an important part in regular car maintenance, the coolant is so often overlooked. We all remember to change our oil, but what about coolant and anti-freeze?
Cooling solvents protect your engine from overheating, corrosion, and freezing. It raises the boiling point of the cooling system in the summer. It also brings the freezing point lower so as to avoid damage. This protects the car when you drive under the effect of the elements, but also prolongs its lifespan under regular conditions.
Not all cooling systems are equal to one another. Some do their job well, others not so much. Occasionally, you will stumble upon one that doesn’t do its job at all — but you won’t know until disaster strikes and you end up in a repair shop.
We want to help you pick out the best possible cooling and anti-freeze solution for your engine. In order to that, we are going to tell you all that we know about the cooling system in a car and in other vehicles. Please keep reading to learn all about the best engine coolant available in 2020.
What Are Engine Coolant And Antifreeze & What Do They Do?
Engine antifreeze is a water-based solution that absorbs the heat in the engine. It is made out of several primary agents mixed with water. These primary agents are different kinds of alcohol like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and methanol.
- Ethylene glycol — when this agent is used in a system, it may oxidize to five organic acids (formic, oxalic, glycolic, glyoxalic, and acetic). It used to be marketed as permanent antifreeze due to the higher boiling points. It’s highly toxic.
- Propylene glycol — this type of alcohol is labeled as the non-toxic version of antifreeze and it oxidizes to lactic acid.
- Propylene glycol methyl ether — this agent is used in antifreeze for diesel engines. It’s more volatile than glycol.
As your car burns petrol or diesel, it generates a large amount of energy. This propels it forward and allows it to function, so it’s one of the key parts in your car. Moving the vehicle only accounts for about a third of the energy the engine generates. The remaining energy is converted to heat.
Of course, some of that is then expelled via the exhaust pipe. However, a large portion of it remains inside the engine block in your car. Consistently high temperatures can have very adverse effects on your engine and are the reason behind many repairs. You should never allow your engine to reach the boiling point or overheat for prolonged periods of time. To avoid this problem, you need to pick up the best possible engine coolant.
The way they work is rather simple. The coolant takes over the heat from the engine and then air cools as the car moves forward.
Antifreeze is also responsible for preventing the coolant from freezing under normal winter conditions. While water freezes at 32° F (0° C), a mixture of water and antifreeze won’t go anywhere near freezing until as low as -35° F or -37° C. This protects your car even under extreme weather conditions.
What Kind Of Coolant Should I Use?
Once the day rolls around when you need to do a complete flush or even just a top off, your vehicle is going to need the best possible coolant. Before you hop to the store and pick up the first one on the shelf, you need to be aware that there is more than one type of coolant. These types vary between different makes of cars, with each manufacturer choosing from amongst the top three types of coolants and anti-freeze.
The best types of car engine coolant and antifreeze coolant that are most commonly used in cooling systems are:
- IAT coolant — Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT), this is the basic type of coolant that is found in most older vehicles. It has to be changed relatively frequently (every 2 years or 30 thousand on average).
- OAT coolant — Organic Acid Technology (OAT) antifreeze/coolant has an extended lifespan in comparison to IAT. It can last up to 5 years or 150 thousand miles before needing to be changed. It’s not compatible with IAT antifreeze.
- Hybrid coolant — Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) is something of a mix between the two former types of antifreeze. It’s compatible with both OAT and HOAT, which means that you can use it to top off regardless of the type of coolant currently found in your engine.
These types are quite easy to tell apart thanks to the fact that engine coolant manufacturers make them in different colors. Unfortunately, this isn’t very standardized. You may run into colors that we won’t be covering in this article, as it’s entirely up to the manufacturer which color they will be choosing. However, a lot of the time the colors should be as follows:
- Green antifreeze coolant — Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT) coolant is usually made in bright neon green.
- Organic Acid Technology (OAT) antifreeze — this is where it gets tricky. This kind of coolant may come in orange, red, bright red, blue, and even dark green.
- Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) antifreeze — this one is also a little more standard. Most HOATs are found in yellow and orange.
Is Coolant And aAntifreeze The Same?
Antifreeze comes in multiple colors, but it is not the same thing as coolant. They are, however, often lumped together and not everyone knows the difference.
Antifreeze is in fact a component that produces coolant. You should never just pour antifreeze into the engine system by itself. It has to be first diluted with water, usually at a 50/50 rate, and only then can you apply it to the cooling system. The only exception is types of antifreeze that come pre-diluted — those are in fact ready-to-use engine coolants.
Commercially, both pure concentrate (antifreeze) and the mix (coolant) are referred to as antifreeze and/or coolant, which may get a little confusing. Fortunately, every brand of antifreeze makes it quite clear as to whether you need to dilute it or not.
You should never try to mix different types of engine coolants together unless it is specifically stated on the container that you can. As mentioned before, not all types of coolants go together and as such, you should rather play it safe.
Which Type Of Coolant Is Right For My Car?
The general rule of thumb is that you should use the type of antifreeze that was previously used in your vehicle. Older vehicles, built before the 00s, use IAT for a reason and may not be able to handle OAT antifreeze. It’s also important that you remember not to mix IAT and OAT antifreeze. It may not happen right away, but should you mix them, they may end up completely wrecking your cooling system. That is one mistake every car owner wants to avoid at all costs.
Combining two different types of engine coolant, such as OAT and HOAT, does not boost their benefits. As an example, if you were to add an OAT antifreeze to IAT, you won’t be improving the lifespan of the IAT coolant. Instead, you will lose the extra 3 years and over 120,000 miles that you’d normally get by using just OAT or HOAT.
It’s best if you pick one cooling system and stick to it. This will ensure the safety of your engine at no loss to you, as the different kinds of antifreeze are all readily available.
If you’re unsure as to what type of engine cooling system your car can use, consider the following:
- Your car’s manual should contain a section on antifreeze and coolants
- If you don’t have one on hand, you can look it up online if you search for your make
- Alternatively, you can consult a car mechanic or a repair shop
- You can also contact your car’s manufacturer via many different channels and ask them for advice on the matter of coolant.
This is important: you should never, under any circumstances, attempt to use just any type of antifreeze without being sure that it is the right one for your car. Coolant brings massive benefits, but it also has the potential to damage your car if used wrongly. Keep that in mind and be cautious.
Things To Remember
To give you a quick rundown, here are a few things to be mindful of when picking the right antifreeze.
- The make: make sure that your car is going to be compatible with this type/color of coolant.
- Pre-diluted or not: some kinds of coolants come pre-mixed and do not require adding water. If not stated otherwise, it’s likely that water will have to be added.
- Top-off or change: if you’re happy with your choice of car engine coolant, you won’t have to swap for years. However, regular top-offs are an absolute must.
- Previous antifreeze: as not all types go well together, it’s crucial that you check which one you’re currently using. Do not mix them as this may cancel out their effects or, in a worst-case scenario, damage your engine.
Is Prestone A Good Coolant?
Prestone is among the world’s most popular car engine coolants brands. Thanks to the many years spent on the market, it has built up somewhat of a following and many people swear by the brand.
Prestone coolants are solid options if you can get your hands on them. They’re not among our favorites, but they are perfectly adequate if they are easily accessible in your area. However, keep in mind that Prestone is not the only good brand out there. Some other interesting brands include Havoline, PEAK, Zerex, Valvoline, and more.
Can You Put Water Snstead Of Coolant?
If you’re wondering whether you can add water to your car instead of engine coolant, the answer is that you can. But a better question is — should you?
Antifreeze contains all kinds of substances, such as ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, that go a long way in prolonging the life of your engine. When mixed with water, antifreeze can serve you well for up to 5 years without needing to be changed or topped off. Given how rarely it has to be changed, it is a relatively small price for the safety and good performance of your vehicle.
The most beneficial and preferable way of treating your vehicle’s cooling system is to add a mixture of engine coolant and antifreeze. This is the only surefire way to protect the engine in your vehicle and it also guarantees good engine performance. However, if you find yourself in an emergency and don’t have any antifreeze on hand, you can resort to just pouring in water. It will be better than nothing and will suffice for a short while.
If it comes to it and you have to pour water into your car radiator, make sure to get yourself some quality antifreeze as soon as possible. This will let you provide adequate cooling to your car.
Best Engine Coolant in 2020
Now that you know a bit more about coolants in general, we’d like to recommend a few. This will save you time spent on researching particular brands and qualities. Here are some of the best engine coolant car options.
- Recommended for use in all makes, all models, all mileages and compatible with all colors
- Only antifreeze to contain Alugard Plus, a special additive that allows these chemistries to work together to provide maximum protection
It’s rare for antifreeze to be suited to all makes and models of cars and light-duty trucks, but this one achieves that thanks to the addition of Alugard Plus. Alugard Plus is a special additive that allows different kinds of coolant to work together. While most kinds use an OAT chemistry which is not compatible with IAT, this one overcomes that problem.
It comes pre-diluted, which means that this is a ready-to-use coolant as opposed to just antifreeze that you’d have to mix with water yourself. It comes in a gallon (3.78 liter container) and is compatible with all colors of antifreeze.
It’s a safe pick for those of us that simply don’t know which type of cooling is the best. It coats your engine’s cooling system in a protective sheen, lubricating the seals and gaskets for years to come.
The formula used in this solution also contains 30-50 ppm of denatonium benzoate. This is a bittering agent that is not often found in competing brands. It’s also a remarkably long-life solution that may get you above the expected five-year-mark. Of course, remember to still check it periodically to ensure that you don’t need to top it off or replace it.
This secure multi-vehicle cooling agent will protect your car from freezing and overheating in equal measure. A blizzard in the winter will not pose a threat, nor will an exceptionally warm summer. Valvoline simply does a good job at protecting all vehicle cooling systems from A to Z.
If you’re after something that is quick to use and easy to wrap your head around, it doesn’t get much better than Valvoline. It will work with every vehicle and mix well with all other coolants, delivering high performance to your car.
- Formulated to replace the OEM fluid in Asian make vehicles such as Toyota , Lexus , Scion and others requiring a red, silicate free HOAT antifreeze/coolant
- 5 year/150, 000 mile . Silicate-free, long-life, phosphate Hybrid Organic Acid Technology chemistry
While this brand is not compatible with all makes and models, it’s ideal for Asian brands such as Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Subaru, and others that require a red, silicate-free HOAT kind of engine coolant. Before making your purchase, make sure that you check twice if this product will work with your car.
This coolant was formulated to replace the OEM fluid in the aforementioned makes. It’s a silicate and borate-free, as well as phosphate free, Hybrid Organic Acid Technology formula and it is ethelyn glycol-based. It’s known for having an exceptionally long lifespan and it won’t need to be changed until the 5 years/150,000 miles mark.
You can expect Zerex to provide ample protection to the engine of your vehicle for years to come. You’ll be kept safe from corrosion, rust, and breakdowns that may happen due to overheating or freezing. The metal also won’t suffer from harmful scale and deposits.
This red coolant has been reported to have a significantly longer lifespan in comparison to the old, green ethylene glycol blend. This is due to the components and chemical additives that were used in this red version. They’re of better quality, and they also conduct less electricity in comparison to the standard green antifreeze.
It can be used in all types of cars, motorcycles, light trucks, and more. This, of course, only applies to certain brands.
If you have a car that’s compatible with Zerex, which covers most Asian brands that use a red coolant, we think you’ll like this brand of antifreeze. It’s an affordable solution that goes a long way in prolonging the lifespan of your engine and provides some of the best engine cooling out there.
- Universal car and truck formula
- Maximum freeze-up/boil-over protection -84°F to +278°F
PEAK is yet another multi-make solution on our list of the best engine coolants. It’s a green antifreeze produced by a company that has been doing this for a very long time. As this is an IAT formula, it’s going to be ideal for older vehicles where OAT and HOAT cannot be used.
Apart from cars, it can also be used in trucks, big and small. It was made to meet — and exceed — the expectations of all manufacturers and it is supported by all the required certificates.
One of the major selling points for PEAK is the fact that it has a very wide range of temperatures that it will keep you safe from. The maximum freezing point and the boiling point here is -84° to +278 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of protection is going to keep you covered in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. It’s worth noting that such a high boiling point is not offered by all kinds of coolant.
Temperatures aside, you can also feel safe where rust and other types of damage are concerned thanks to the corrosion inhibitors found in this product. PEAK protects the aluminum parts in your car from both of those issues. It’s a noticeable difference in comparison to having used other types of antifreeze. All of those factors play into the fact that engine performance should be top-notch with this coolant.
If green coolant is to your liking, you can’t go wrong if you buy a product made by a brand as reputable as PEAK.
- OEM Approval - Meets requirements of GM DEXCOOL under the GM6277M specification
- Wide service application - Recommended for use in Domestic, Asian and European automotive and light duty truck applications including newer hybrid vehicles
This is yet another 50/50 mix that comes pre-diluted and is ready to use right away. Havoline brings a lot to the table, namely an extended lifespan, a wide range of makes, and a solid formula. Let’s take a closer look.
This one-gallon engine coolant has OEM’s stamp of approval and meets the requirements of GM DEXCOOL. It’s recommended for use in many types of vehicles, namely Domestic (American), Asian and European cars, and light-duty trucks. This even applies to newer hybrid vehicles.
This is an orange type of coolant, which makes it a HOAT — the perfect blend between IAT and OAT. Havoline contains ethylene glycol as well as 40 mg/kg of denatonium benzoate. It’s based on an aliphatic organic additive formulation. Thanks to this, it is able to offer a superb mileage of 150,000 miles or 5 years of use before needing to be changed. It’s worth noting that it’s also phosphate free.
The corrosion inhibitors found in Havoline have been tried and tested thoroughly. The results have shown that they remain above 95% of their original concentration, provided you keep up with proper top-offs. This remains true even past the 150,000-mile mark. You don’t have to worry about rust and corrosion with Havoline.
It does not contain silicates, which is fortunate, as those are known to be abrasive to water pump seals. This also means that your water pumps are being properly cared for with this antifreeze.
Havoline covers a wide range of vehicles and offers a high degree of protection that comes with HOAT types of antifreeze.
Using the best possible coolant for car means more than just forced upkeep. Making sure that your vehicle never reaches the point of overheating or freezing brings it to a point of safety that every car owner should want to reach.
While coolants are often overlooked, they are the staples of achieving the high performance you want from your car. Only with proper cooling can the engine performance and health remain steadily adequate for years to come.
We hope that our guide has made understanding the technicalities of antifreeze a little easier to navigate. Make sure you research your vehicle model before making a purchase. Once you’re certain of the type of engine coolant you should be using, we’re confident that you will pick one you’ll be happy with.