Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingRadiators and Cooling System What Coolant Does My Car Need – All The Different Coolant Types

What Coolant Does My Car Need – All The Different Coolant Types

by Jordan Harris
What Coolant Does My Car Need

Are you scratching your head and asking yourself the question of what coolant does my car need? If this is the situation you are in, then you are at the right place because we are going to cover everything you need to know about the right coolant your car need.

Having the right coolant in your system is very crucial because modern cars are not like cars back in the day. Meaning that they are more sensitive to different types of coolants. Back in the day, there was only the green stuff. But nowadays there is a whole palette of colors that you can choose from to pout into your vehicle.

And you should definitely get the right type for your specific application because if you make a mistake, the engine will not perform as it did before and the cooling process can be put into danger, and your cooling system to develop some issues. So, that’s why you need to learn what coolant does my car need and learn the proper coolant to water mixture and we are going to help you out with that.

First, we are going to cover the basics of coolant and what makes a good car coolant. Then we will discuss how the cooling system works and the different types of coolant used in cars. After we will discuss what coolant does my car need. After, we will discuss some other topics like how to flush your coolant and also what is the proper coolant mixture. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is Coolant, And Why Your Car Needs One

Before we dive into more complex topics, let’s discuss some of the basics and that is the question of what is coolant in general? I bet there are a ton of people out there that are not into cars and need to learn some of the basic things like this before they learn more complex stuff like what coolant does my car need. So, if you want you can jump to the following chapters, if not, keep up with us for a while.

So, what is car coolant in general terms? A car coolant is an automotive fluid that cools your car down and makes sure that the engine is always working at operating temperatures.

Although many people have a misconception about coolant that it is the same stuff as water. Which is so untrue.

Water, for example, does not have any heat-dissipating capability and no antifreeze capability. Meaning that whenever the engine is exposed to freezing temperatures, the water inside of the block will expand and crack the block. Or if you run the car with water in summer, the engine will overheat because the water has a lower boiling point when compared to the coolant.

So, you can see why coolant is so essential. It has the heat-dissipating ability and a lower boiling point and it also prevents the engine from freezing out in the winter and causing damage to the block. That’s why coolant is so essential these days because with a good coolant you will have no problem with your car in the winter and also not have a problem in the summer.

But what coolant does my car need? We will answer that in a bit, now let’s discuss what makes a good car coolant.

What Makes A Good Car Coolant?

So before we learn what coolant does my car need, let’s see what makes a good coolant that will always deliver no matter how the temperatures go high or low. This is one of the questions that a lot of people make scratching their heads because they don’t know what is inside of the coolant and think that there is some magical stuff that makes this all happen.

But in reality, what makes a good coolant is water. Water is the essential ingredient in any coolant out there because you cannot put a coolant concentrate only. It will ruin your system. So, you need to beware of the sticker on the jug and see if it is already mixed or it will need to be properly mixed with water.

Since we covered 50% of the coolant which is water. Now let’s discuss the coolant concentrate. This coolant concentrate is made either from ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. These are two compounds that make up 100% of modern coolants.

The difference is that ethylene glycol is toxic while propylene glycol is not a toxic solution. Meaning that there is less chance of your pet getting poisoned if it tastes some of the propylene glycol-based coolants.

Ethylene glycol was used mainly in the past when almost all the cars were using it. But nowadays, there are some more modern solutions that are less toxic for the environment like propylene glycol.

And the third main ingredient in modern coolants is corrosion inhibitors. Modern coolants are using a mix of carboxylates and silicates to prevent corrosion in your system and prevent the coolant lines from damage. But what coolant does my car need? More on that in a bit.

How The Cooling System Works In A Car?

Now before we learn what coolant does my car need, let’s first learn how the cooling system works on a car. Knowing this is quite handy when it comes to understanding the base meaning of coolant and its role in the internal combustion engine. So, how does the cooling system works?

The cooling system is basically an enclosed circulating system where the coolant circulates inside and outside of the engine. But what makes this circulation of the coolant possible?

Well, this is made possible by a mechanical water pump that is installed on the block. This water pump is usually powered by the accessory belt that spins the pump to deliver you the best cooling possible.

Other components include the thermostat that opens and closes whenever the coolant inside of the block reaches the operating temperature and makes the circulation of the coolant possible. Other components are the upper and lower radiator hoses that connect the engine block to the radiator itself.

The coolant is driven from the engine block with the help of the water pump into the radiator and this is the point where the coolant is cooled down with the help of the air drag of the car and then again inserted into the engine block.

There is also a coolant expansion tank on top of the engine where you top off the coolant whenever there is a need to. This expansion tank also releases pressure from the system if there is too much pressure buildup. This is to prevent possible damage to the hoses or the radiator itself.

But what coolant does my car need? We will get to that in a bit. After we discuss the different types of coolant in the following chapters. So, follow along.

Types Of Coolant? What Coolant Does My Car Need?

Now before we learn what coolant does my car need. Let’s learn the different types of coolants that are used out there.

What Coolant Does My Car Need

Knowing the types will make your purchasing process much easier since you will know what coolant does my car need. First, we will go through the types in the following chapters, and later we will discuss the specific coolants that each car manufacturer is using. Now let’s begin with the types of coolant.

IAT – Inorganic Acid Technology

Now before we learn what coolant does my car mean, let’s cover the first type of coolant used in cars. The first type of coolant is the IAT coolant. But what does IAT means in the first place? Well, IAT stands for inorganic acid technology.

This is the type of coolant that was used before the 1990s. As its name implies, this coolant is a type of coolant used inorganic compounds. Namely ethylene glycol and silicate phosphate.

This coolant has that characteristic green color. If your car is from the ’90s or pre 90’s, then this is the coolant you will probably need.

Another characteristic of this coolant is the sweet smell that it has. This is why it can attract animals if it’s leaking and kill them if they taste this type of coolant. This is why these solutions were ditched and replaced with organic solutions that we are going to cover next. But what coolant does my car need? More on that later.

OAT – Organic Acid Technology

Now before we learn what coolant does my car need, let’s discuss the second type of coolant that is out there. This is the organic coolant also known as organic acid technology.

This coolant unlike the IAT is propylene glycol-based and is fully organic. Meaning that is less toxic and safe for the environment.

That’s why there was a switch from recent years to these types of coolants and the green coolant was largely replaced in most mainstream applications like commuter cars that we drive.

Even though this solution has not completely replaced the green coolant. But what coolant does my car need? We will get to that in a bit. Let’s cover the colors in which this coolant is often seen on the shelves.

The most common color of OAT coolant is probably red, blue, or orange. This type of coolant also has an extended life, meaning that it lasts for about five years or 100,000 miles. So, if you want to go for something that will give you longevity. This is it. But what coolant does my car need? More on that in a bit.

HOAT – Hybrid Organic Acid Technology

Now before we cover what coolant does my car need, let’s learn the last type of coolant that is out there and that is the HOAT.

But what does HOAT means in the first place? Well, it means that this solution is a hybrid of the IAT and OAT that we covered above. Meaning that it contains propylene glycol and silicate. This makes this coolant a much better alternative for the two types that we have previously covered.

This HOAT coolant contains both silicates and organic acid and delivers the best results when it comes to the protection of your engine when it comes to corrosion. Some of the biggest car manufacturers are using this type of coolant.

There are several subtypes of this type of coolant that are worth mentioning. These are the phosphate-free HOAT, phosphated HOAT, and silicated HOAT types.

This type of coolant comes in various colors though. There is yellow, pink, purple, orange, blue. Or light blue. Depending much on the manufacturer and that we are going to discuss next. Where we will learn what coolant does my car need.

What Coolant Does My Car Need?

Now let’s discuss the main question and that is what coolant does my car need? And the answer to this question greatly depends much on what type of car you are running.

Many of the older cars, and by older I mean 90’s cars or pre-’90s are using the green coolant. This is an ethylene glycol-based solution. So, if you have an older car, this will be the right solution for you. This coolant is also the cheapest coolant out there as well.

If you run a more modern car produced after the year 2000, then this car is probably using OAT or HOAT type of coolant.

These coolants come in various colors. That’s why we are going to list the colors of coolants manufacturers use.

If you run a Chrysler or Dodge vehicle, then the coolant you will need is purple in color. GM and VW vehicles are running red coolant also known as G-12. BMW is running their proprietary coolant mixture which is bluish in color. Ford on the other hand uses a variety of colors like yellow and orange. Korean and Japanese carmakers are also using yellow and orange coolant in most cases.

As you probably know, most modern coolants are of the HOAT or hybrid type of coolant. So, colors are very different from manufacturer to manufacturer. The important thing is to differentiate the green coolant which is the old school for cars pre 2000 and the newer solutions that are for cars later than 2000.

What is best for you is to look for the OEM coolant for your specific vehicle. Especially if you run a higher-end car that tends to be sensitive when it comes to coolant types. Now after we learned what coolant does my car need, let’s move to the proper coolant mixture ratio.

Proper Coolant Mixture Ratio

Now after we covered what coolant does my car need, let’s focus on some other topics like the proper coolant mixture. As you know, a proper coolant mixture is quite essential when it comes to the work of the cooling system to be on point and deliver an excellent performance.

So, what is the right mixture? Well, the right mixture is 50/50. Meaning that you will need 50% coolant concentrate and 50% water.

If this is not met, the coolant will be too strong or too weak. When the coolant is too weak it will have a much quicker boiling and freezing point (to learn more about automotive fluids, check out our guide on does oil freeze). Meaning that the engine block to freeze in the winter by running thin coolant will be much more probable. And this engine damage is really expensive and could cost a ton of money to fix.

What Coolant Does My Car Need

Also, if the coolant is too strong, it could corrode your system and basically ruin the performance of the cooling system.

In some areas that are extremely cold, you can use a mixture of 70% concentrate and 30% water. By doing this you will make sure that the coolant doesn’t freeze out during the winter. Overall, that’s everything you need to know when it comes to the proper coolant mixture. Now after we learned what coolant does my car need and the proper coolant mixture, let’s learn if you can mix two types of coolants.

Can You Mix Different Coolants?

Now after we learned what coolant does my car need, let’s see if you can mix different coolants. And the answer to this question is no. You should not mix coolants of a different color.

You need to always purchase the right OE coolant that you came from the factory with. This way you will make sure that your system is not running a weird mix that doesn’t perform well.

But in tight situations when you was left without a coolant because a hose is leaking, you can pour the first thing that you can get because any type of coolant is better than no coolant. You can also pour water as well.

After sorting the problem you can flush this mixed coolant and return it to the factory type of coolant that your car should be running.

When Coolant Should Be Flushed?

After learning what coolant does my car need and the proper coolant mixture, let’s see when should the coolant should be flushed.

As you know, coolant is not something that will last forever. The engine coolant has to be flushed at precise intervals. Or refreshed before the winter so the vehicle does not freeze at below-freezing temperatures.

So, when should the coolant be flushed for optimum performance of the cooling system? Let’s elaborate.

Let’s say you are having an older car and you use the IAT also known as green coolant. In this case, you will have to flush the coolant every 3 to 4 years or at about 30,000 miles.

If you run a more modern solution like the OAT and HOAT types of coolants you will have to replace the coolant every 5 years or after 50,000 miles. Meaning that these coolants have a quite longer lifespan.

Also, whenever the coolant is 3+ years old it is often advised to refresh it a little bit. Release some coolant from the expansion tank and pour some concentrate to make the coolant stronger. Overall, that’s it when it comes to what coolant does my car need and also the change interval of coolant. Now let’s see how you can flush the coolant at home using common tools.

How To Flush The Coolant On Your Car?

Now after we covered what coolant does my car need, let’s focus more on flushing the cooling system and how this procedure is professionally performed.

As with any DIY job, flushing the coolant has specific steps that you need to follow if you want to perform this work successfully. But frankly, it is a really simple process that even a child can do. That’s why when it comes to flushing the coolant I would always stand for this practice to be performed at home because you save a ton of money by doing this work at your house.

For this work, you will only need basic tools and nothing too complicated. Just make sure that you find the right coolant that is a 50/50 mix.

The first step will involve removing the cap from the expansion tank. Then you will have to find a big bucket and place it under the radiator. If the radiator has a drain plug then it’s even easier. If not, you will have to remove the lower radiator hose by releasing the clamp.

After removing the clamp you should let the coolant leak and after you connect the hose. Then pour new coolant and start your car.

Let it run and top the coolant off as the system releases the bubbles. After no more bubbles are left, then you are good to go.

Engine Coolant Facts:

  • Antifreeze and coolant are two terms that are synonymous with each other, and the right type and amount of coolant in your car’s engine are crucial for its cooling system.
  • There are two types of antifreeze: IAT and OAT. IAT is the traditional green antifreeze, while OAT is a newer, longer-lasting antifreeze that is recommended for newer cars with aluminum parts.
  • The best starting point for choosing the right coolant for your car is to check the owner’s manual, and specialty formulas are available for extreme temperatures and non-toxicity.
  • Basic antifreeze formulas are not the same, as the additives vary among manufacturers and provide each brand with its unique characteristics.
  • Manufacturers generally recommend a full coolant replacement every three to five years or 100,000-150,000 miles, but regular checks on the coolant will serve better than an estimate in time or miles.
  • Checking the coolant on a regular basis will tell you whether you need to add it, as well as how well it is working, and preventive maintenance and good upkeep can help slow down the process of aging cooling systems.
  • Besides cooling your car’s engine and keeping it from freezing, antifreeze acts as a liquid that resists corrosion and lubricates the moving water pump, which is why it’s important to use the mixture recommended in your manual and keep the coolant at optimal levels.
  • Losing a steady amount of coolant could be a sign of a leak, and checking for drips and leaks around the engine compartment, as well as pressure-testing and checking for leaks, is crucial.
  • Following all the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement, including the replacement of hoses and valves at the recommended times, will help prevent leaks from developing.
  • Refreshing the coolant system will help it hold on to the efficiency new cars have, making it easier for your engine to perform at a higher level for longer.

Conclusion To What Coolant Does My Car Need

In this article, we covered quite about when it comes to what coolant does my car need. We first learned what is coolant and why it is so essential. After we learned how the cooling system works in practice and the different types of coolants that are out there. Namely, IAT, OAT, and HOAT types.

We noted that the IAT is the green coolant and this coolant is mostly used on cars on cars built pre 2000. More modern cars are using the OAT and the HOAT types of coolant. As well we learned what coolant does my car need where we listed some manufacturers and the colors of coolant they are using.

Then we spared some time and we learned about the proper coolant mixture and whether or not you should mix the coolant of various types.

Lastly, we discussed the flushing procedure and we learned more about how this process is done in the right manner.

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1 comment

JM McGauley 10/10/2022 - 1:33 AM

What coolant does my car need? While informative this article didn’t enable me to enter my car information and provide results as to what anti-freeze / coolant I should This was disappointing.


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