While coolant and antifreeze are used interchangeably, ultimately, they serve different purposes.

Coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water. Its purpose is to make sure the engine doesn’t overheat. It circulates the engine and absorbs heat, which is then transferred to the radiator where is dissipates. Since it contains more watr than antifreeze, however, coolant can’t withstand extreme temperatures. A proper coolant antifreeze mix should have a very high boiling point, and should thus be able to withstand high temperatures in hotter regions.

Antifreeze, as the name suggests, prevents your engine from freezing. It’s typically made from ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. Antifreeze works to lower coolant’s freezing point to keep it from becoming ice; any amount of frozen coolant in cold weather could induce stress and crack the engine block. Antifreeze also raises water’s boiling point, preventing over heating.

Overtime, coolant will become dirty and lose its color, becoming darker, often an oxidized shade of brown. There might also be debris floating around in it such as rust or carbon. It’s important to regularly check your coolant and antifreeze levels, as it loses its effectiveness over time. Low coolant levels may lead the engine to overheat, causing a multitude of problems, and ultimately resulting in a vehicle breakdown. Even if your vehicle doesn’t breakdown, it could leave permanent damage.

As there are many different types and colors of antifreeze and coolant, please refer to your vehicle’s manual to know which is right for your engine. Most common is a ethylene glycol coolant, but there are also propylene glycol based ones as well. Some contain phosphorus-based additives, some utilize Hybrid Organic Acid Technology, some use phosphate-enhanced organic acid technology, while others contain no phosphate or phosphorus additives as they might damage certain engines.

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