What is Antifreeze and Why is it needed?

Categories: Engine, Performance

The Definition Of Antifreeze And The Reason Behind It’s Need

We take a look at the various types and colors of antifreeze, the characteristics of each type of antifreeze, the type of antifreeze used by your automaker and why it is necessary to mix it with water.

“Anti – freeze” is a chemical consisting primarily of ethylene glycol, which is used to reduce the freezing point and increase the boiling point of the mixture when mixed with water. The combination of antifreeze and water is traditionally referred to as “coolant.”

In contrast to air-cooled vehicles that rely on fan-driven air blowing over engine components, water-cooled engines use the engine’s radiator, water pump, thermostat, heat core, tubes and passages.

Within this system, the coolant travels in a circular path driven by the water pump, through the engine in which the heat generated by the combustion is removed, through the heat core of the vehicle (heat is supplied to the interior of the vehicle), and through the radiator in which the heat is transferred to the exterior air, in order to restart the cycle.

Water alone would cool an automotive engine fine with nothing more than the right corrosion inhibitors added -until external circumstances caused it to freeze or boil over. To prevent these disasters, antifreeze has been developed and contains additives that prevent the corrosion of metal components in contact. In this article, we will examine the various types and colors of antifreeze on the market today, their characteristics and why pure antifreeze should be mixed with water for maximum efficiency.

Like any fluid entering a vehicle, antifreeze has a lifetime and begins to degrade. But it is not the ethylene glycerol itself that wears out, but the ingredients added to it by the corrosion inhibitor are consumed.

These inhibitors prevent metal parts such as water pumps and engine blocks from forming rust and are used at different rates depending on the chemical make-up. Antifreeze that is brown or rusty in color indicates that the inhibitors have broken down to the point of replacement of the solution. If you want to replace your old antifreeze, our cooling system service article is helpful.

Adding Water to Antifreeze

If antifreeze containers do not state on their labels that they have already been pre-mixed 50/50 with water during the production process, you will receive antifreeze with “full strength” and have to dilute it with water yourself. Typically, when purchased, full strength antifreeze gives more value – even after the cost of distilled water is taken into account. If you prefer the convenience of not having to worry about accurately mixing things, 50/50 mixing is the way to go.

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Distilled Water Is Always Best

Tap water and even filtered water are full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium which leave deposits inside the entire cooling system -particularly around parts of the engine that reach high temperatures. So no matter what type of antifreeze your vehicle requires, use only distilled water when formulating your mixture. Because distilled water was boiled and condensed, there were mineral deposits and other impurities. And since it is available in any supermarket or car parts store, there are limited excuses not to use distilled water.

The Mix Maximizes the Freezing and Boiling Points

No matter what type or color your antifreeze is, the heat is most efficiently transferred when mixed with the right amount of water – a percentage of the mixture based on the lowest temperatures typically seen in your climate. Most regions are best suited to a mixture of 50 / 50 water-antifreeze, which provides protection from -34 °F to 265 °F. In addition, the proper protection of the freeze point ensures that corrosion inhibitors remain at the intended levels. It is interesting to note that the task of protecting the cooling system of your vehicle is not performed by pure antifreeze alone much better than water itself. In fact, where water does, pure antifreeze freezes at a temperature not much below. The most effective freeze-up mixture in the coldest climates is 60-70 percent antifreeze (the rest is water) -not 100 percent.

The Health of Your Entire Cooling System Suffers If the Coolant Level Is Low

Antifreeze is much more corrosive than a normal liquid state when it is in the form of hot, steaming vapors. When a cooling system is constantly low, these vapors fill the additional space available – creating an environment that is extremely corrosive to engine components. In addition, metal components which become exposed because there’s not enough antifreeze quickly form corrosion -something that transforms clean, effective coolant into sludgy, dirty coolant. And, of course, a cooling system cannot transfer heat properly when there isn’t enough antifreeze to do it. The engineers who created your vehicle have designed it to work full of anti-freeze, so make sure it is regularly checked and topped off. (If you frequently add coolant, check the system for leaks as soon as possible.)

Varieties of Antifreeze Color That Exist

The antifreeze color is completely generated by coloring dye, not directly as a result of any chemicals mixed during production. That said, there are different antifreeze colors. Although specific colors agreed in the automotive industry mean chemical make-up, in each shade there are still variations. Traditional green, extended-life yellow and extended-life pink or orange are the main antifreeze colors. Some Korean car manufacturers have even used blue dye antifreeze in recent years.

We strongly recommend that you strictly follow the recommendations of your vehicle manufacturer when adding or replacing coolant, regardless of the color and type of antifreeze your vehicle has been equipped from the factory. In other words, only use the recommended type or color and never mix the types of antifreeze. Some have recently developed market-sold antifreeze claims that they are universal for all vehicles, but we would avoid making such a claim.

green antifreeze