As the weather moves from cold to hot now that spring has arrived, you might find yourself asking whether your car is ready for the hot weather. Many new drivers don’t know how to check their antifreeze and coolant, or what those two things do at all.
The short answer is yes, antifreeze and coolant are the same thing. But you might be interested to know why and how they work.
Antifreeze is the colored fluid (usually green or red) found in your radiator. Antifreeze serves a few purposes. The most important is keeping the water in your radiator and engine from freezing in cold temps. It also keeps that same water from boiling over in the summer. Radiators are normally filled with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. The third function of antifreeze, or coolant is lubrication — it lubricates the moving parts it comes in contact with, like the water pump.
The key chemical component in today’s coolants is ethylene glycol. Mixed correctly, this stuff can keep your radiator fluid from freezing even if the temperature is less than 30 degrees below zero! That’s cold. The amazing thing is that it can also keep the same fluid from boiling at as much as 275 degrees F. Antifreeze can really get control of those water molecules!
So while coolant keeps your car from boiling in the hot summer heat, antifreeze keeps your car from freezing up in winter. Though we use two different names the truth is they are the same amazing liquid that helps keep your car running.
Be sure to check your antifreeze and coolant levels frequently, especially during temperature changes. Many automotive parts stores have quick tester kits that are inexpensive and could save you a bundle down the road.