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When you first start looking at coolant and antifreeze some people are confused and feel that these are two different fluids that need to be added to your car. The truth of the matter is that this is a single fluid running through the engine of your car. But this brings up the question, does it mean that if you have the best coolant is it also the best antifreeze?
To start off, we’ll look at some of the best products on the market. We have rounded up six of the best products on the market and we’ll give you all the important details on them as well letting you know their strong points as well as any areas that they come up short.
After that, we’ll go into our buyer’s guide to help you get all the details that you need to make the pick for the best antifreeze coolant for your particular situation.
Best Coolant for Cars – Our Top Picks Compared
Engine Coolant Reviews – Which one is the Best?
We’ll start things off by examining the top products on the market. After looking through different options we have come up with a list of six of the antifreeze/coolants that seem to us to be the top of the pile.
We have flagged out Garage Chief‘s Best Product and Best Value choices to help you quickly find not only what we felt was the best option, but also a great choice that can save you money. At the end of the day, you will have to look over each of the projects and decide which works the best for the vehicles and situation that you find yourself in.
Prestone AF2100 Extended Life 50/50 Best for All Makes and Models Coolant/Antifreeze
- Type: Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
- Protection Range: -34 to 265 F
- Color: Yellow
- Mix Ratio: Pre-Mixed 50/50, Ready to Use
- Size: 1 Gallon (Pack of 6)
- Price: Approx. $70
If you are looking for the best choice of coolant for all makes and models you will want to check out the Prestone AF2100 Extended Life 50/50 Antifreeze. This comes in a one-gallon bottle and since it is already mixed all that you need to do is pour it into your car’s coolant system.
To make things even better the company claims that this coolant can be mixed with any other coolant or antifreeze regardless of color. This makes it a great choice when you do need to mix your coolants in an emergency, or if you want to flush out a whole cooling system.
Prestone AF2100, with its patented Cor-Guard technology, meets or exceeds ASTM D3306 and ASTM D4985 standards protect against inhibits rust corrosion on all cooling system metals (except for aluminum). This simply means it keeps your cooling system running maximum efficiently.
It is designed to be used with any type of car and light-duty truck. And it is also set up to be good for up to 5 years of service or 150,000 miles of driving.
While this isn’t the best option for heavy-duty trucks or winterizing vehicles. If you aren’t going to just store your car for the winter and just have a normal vehicle then you’ll be fine with our pick for the best product when it comes coolant. As we mentioned above, this one has additives that help to prevent corrosion and protection against extreme temperatures. This formula can be additionally be used in radiators of any type of metal, even aluminum radiators.
Get it here at Amazon
Zerex G-05 Antifreeze/Coolant, Concentrated ZXG051
- Type: Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)
- Protection Range: -90 to 277 F
- Color: Yellow
- Mix Ratio: 50% to 70%
- Size: 1 Gallon
- Price: Approx. $20
If you are looking for the best value option on the market, we felt that you can’t do better than the Zerex G-05 Antifreeze/ Coolant, Concentrated ZXG051. This is another one-gallon bottle, but since it is concentrated you will have to mix it yourself, but it means that you end up with a more useful product (note: Zerex offers non-concentrated option too – Zerex ZXG05RU1).
For the mix rate on this one, you’ll need to make a choice if you are looking for corrosion prevention the best choice is to mix it at a 50 to 70% ratio. If you are instead looking for the most protection from extreme temperatures a 50% mix is your best bet.
This formulation has been made to work with any type of engine, both gasoline, and diesel. It is made to be used with any type of metal for the radiator and will even work with aluminum. It has been approved by Ford, Mercedes, and Chrysler, but it can also be used in other vehicles as well. This is another coolant that is made to last for 5 years or 150,000 miles.
Check it out at Amazon
Evans EC53001 High Performance Cooling Systems – Best Waterless Engine Coolant
- Type: Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
- Protection Range: -40 to 375 F
- Color: Yellow
- Mix Ratio: Pre-mixed
- Size: 1 Gallon
- Price: Approx. $45
While most vehicles on the market use water as their main coolant, there are a few options out there that don’t rely on it to cool off your car. We found that the best waterless engine coolant on the market is the Evans Waterless Engine Coolant EC53001 High Performance Cooling Systems.
This one needs nothing mixed in, but being a waterless solution it can be used in every type of engine, not only gasoline and light duty diesel by also LP and CNG engines. And since it works from -40 F all the way to 375 F you’ll be protected for quite the range of temperatures.
As there is no water in this particular formula there is nearly no need to worry about corrosion of your coolant system. This, however, is not a good choice for motorcycles or ATVs, but for most other vehicles it can stop boil over and freezing. It also includes funnel to help make sure that you don’t spill any while refilling your vehicle.
You’ll also find that since there is no water in this formula to boil the operating pressure on your coolant system will lower than with other cooling solutions.
Read customer reviews at Amazon right here
BMW 82141467704 Grey – Best BMW Antifreeze Coolant
- Type: Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
- Protection Range: -62 to 272 F
- Color: Blue
- Mix Ratio: 50/50 or 60/40
- Size: 1 Gallon
- Price: Approx. $32
If you are looking for the best BMW Antifreeze Coolant you need to consider the BMW 82141467704 Grey Antifreeze Coolant. Don’t worry if you don’t drive a BMW as it can be used in other gasoline engines as well.
This has been particularly formulated to work in BMW engines though, so it is probably the best choice if you have that particular engine. This is an ethylene glycol based coolant, but it has to be mixed with water to give you the performance you are looking for.
If you are looking performance in the most severe conditions you’ll need to mix at a 60 to 40 ratio of antifreeze to water. If you go with this you’ll have protection from all the way down to -62 F and then up to 272 F. However, for the year-round operation, you’ll want to stick to the 50/50 mix. With this mix, you have protection down to -34 F and up to 265 F, which should still cover most operating conditions you might find your car in.
Note: Do not be confused with the product name. The color of this antifreeze coolant is blue, as recommended by BMW.
Go and check it out at Amazon
Genuine Honda Parts OL999-9011 Blue Type 2 – Best Honda Coolant Antifreeze
- Type: Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
- Protection Range: -34 to 226 F
- Color: Blue
- Mix Ratio: Pre-mixed 50/50
- Size: 1 Gallon
- Price: Approx. $25
If you are driving either a Honda or an Acura you are probably wondering what the best Honda Type 2 Coolant Antifreeze. Luckily for you, we’ve found it, it is the Genuine Honda Parts OL999-9011 Blue Type 2 Coolant.
It is designed for all Honda models, it is an ethylene glycol based product. As it has already been mixed you don’t need to worry about mixing it yourself. It also has corrosion inhibitors added in, so you don’t need to worry about adding any back in.
This formulation is made to protect your Honda for up to 5 years or 60,000 miles. This is not as many miles as some other options on the market, but since this is specifically made for Honda engines it could still be the best choice for your particular vehicle.
This one is made to resist corrosion in any and all coolant systems, which include aluminum components. It is the same as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) fluids that came in your car when you first purchased it.
Check it out at Amazon
Engine Ice TYDSq008 Best High Performance Racing Coolant
- Type: Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
- Protection Range: -26 to 256 F
- Color: Blue
- Mix Ratio: Pre-mixed
- Size: Half Gallon
- Price: Approx. $24
If you are searching for a coolant that is non-toxic, phosphate free and biodegradable, you’ll want to take some time to consider the Engine Ice TYD Sq008 High Performance Coolant. It will keep your vehicle protected from -26 F on the colder end and you’ll be protected from boil over all the way to 256 F.
While this is a great choice for any car that you might be driving, this particular formula is made with a few more tricks up its sleeve. Not only will it work well in your motorcycle, but it will also work with your ATV and is a great choice for any racing that you might take on. The company claims that this will drop the operating temperature about 10 F.
This product has been made to be used with most all metals that might be in your cooling system, including aluminum. It has been approved to be used in both CCS and ASRA road racing as well.
The formula is based on propylene glycol. And if you are looking to buy a good chunk of this coolant there are a number of options that include multipacks and even an option for a 5-gallon bucket.
Get it at Amazon right here
Car’s Coolant and Antifreeze – Buyer’s Guide
At a basic level, we need to start off with just what is coolant and antifreeze. Coolant is a liquid that is used to help move heat from the engine of your car away so it can be vented off safely. Antifreeze is another liquid that is mixed with the coolant to make it harder for ice crystals to form in your coolant lines. We discuss how these liquids go about doing this below.
The liquids that are sold as either coolant or antifreeze are both added to your car as one of the standard fluids that a conventional internal combustion engine. However, as this is not a fluid that gets checked very often, it is one that can be forgotten. So long as your vehicle doesn’t have a coolant leak, this is something that you can let be for years. We do have a section below that discusses how often these fluids need to be changed out.
Coolant Types and Colors
As you go through different coolants, you will find that there are a number of different types. Perhaps the first thing that you’ll notice is that there are three main different colors: green, yellow and orange. To give you a handle on each of these we will break down and give you some information on each.
At the beginning, all types of antifreeze coolants come out of the mixers as a clear fluid. During their formulation process color dyes are added for easy identification.
Inorganic Acid Technology (IAT)
This is the basis of the classic green antifreeze/coolant. In some cases, this type of coolant also comes in a yellow color. At its base, the company which makes the antifreeze will take either EG or PG and adds various additives which help to keep corrosion at bay among other things. Most coolants available today use this type of antifreeze. These tend to work best with a copper/metal radiator.
TIP: If you need green coolant, this Zerex Original Green Antifreeze/Coolant is probably best way to go.
Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
Orange, Red, Green, Pink or Blue Antifreeze/Coolant
If you have an orange colored coolant (most popular, but also can be red, green, pink or blue), this is probably the type that is in your vehicle. This type of antifreeze is a more environmentally friendly option, but it has its own drawbacks. This is not something that can be used all cars, as it needs an aluminum radiator instead of a more copper model found in older cars. This is often marketed as a long life coolant (LLC) or extended life coolant (ELC).
Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)
Orange or Yellow Antifreeze/Coolant
This, as you might guess, is a mixture of the two other technologies. It is a combination of IAT and OAT. The goal is to produce a “global” coolant option, one that can be used in any car, anywhere on the planet, but still be as environmentally friendly as possible. Often this kind of coolant will be orange or yellow in color as well.
Each of antifreeze has some changes in ingredients. Let’s take a look at them:
Ethylene Glycol (EG)
This is the basic and common type of antifreeze that you will come across. It is an alcohol made from ethane. If you have an older car and haven’t swapped out antifreeze on your own this is probably what is in your coolant system. While it works, it doesn’t last as long as the newest options and it isn’t the most environmentally friendly option out there too.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
This is another alcohol, though this is one that is made from propane. This is an option that was made to take the place of Ethylene Glycol, as the propylene glycol is less toxic than the other option.
It is easy to see that your engine tends to be a bit hotter than the surrounding air. However, this is not always easy to see just how hot it is running. Your dashboard has a temperature gauge that runs basically low to high. But there is no really good way to say that at a given point on that gauge your engine is so many degrees hot.
Most engines work well between about 195 and 220 F (note: European cars may have it scaled in Celsius, you can easily convert it here). But where is that on your temperature gauge? Well, it kind of depends. A good ballpark is that your car’s gauge’s midpoint is about the right place for normal operating temperatures. However, if you watch your gauge, over a period of time you’ll find where the needle should point for your gauge.
While water might be a component of your selected coolant mixture, you might think that your coolant might start boiling at about 212 F. However, with the mixture of antifreeze, your coolant shouldn’t start boiling until around 250 to 260 F. This means that your coolant will work fine in the zone of normal operating temperatures. And since the coolant helps keep the engine from overheating, if all is running well you shouldn’t have to worry.
Ratio and Water Addition
As we have mentioned above, water is normally a key component in the cooling system of most vehicles. However, you need to double check the bottle that you end up selecting. A mixture of both water and an antifreeze component will provide the best performance for your car.
Some coolants are sold as a “pre-mixed” solution. These already have a distilled water mixed in. For this solution, you can simply pour the coolant into your car and be done with it.
Other companies put out a bottle that only has the antifreeze ingredients. With these, you will need to mix in your own water. It is best to use a distilled water, which can be found easily and inexpensively. A good guideline is to do a 50-50 mix of the water to antifreeze. However, it is important to double check your bottle as some companies might claim that their product works better in a different mixture.
Out of coolant? Remember that water is better than nothing – it will do more than having your system run empty.
As a last note on the topic, water is better than nothing. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to add something to your fluid but all you have is tap water, add it in. While it isn’t what you want to be running in your system all the time, but it will do more than having your system run empty.
How Does it Work?
If you’ve ever opened your hood or just had your hand near the front of your car you know that your engine makes a good deal of heat while it is running. The burning of any type of fuel (gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel, or any other fuel) creates quite a bit of heat that could cause damage to your engine or your car as a whole if there is no way to release that heat.
That is where your engine’s coolant comes in. Through a series of tubes running through your engine, a liquid is pumped around. It starts off cool, but traveling through the engine absorbs the heat of your running engine. This now heated liquid flows to a radiator, which is a system that is built to help dissipate that heat into the air. After flowing through the coolant radiator, the liquid is cool again and ready to start the process again.
The antifreeze part of the equation comes in to play while your car is not being driven, particularly in the cold weather. Any number of liquids can be used for that coolant and often water is a good choice for at least part of the coolant mixture. However, some of these liquids, like water, can freeze as the temperatures drop. Ice doesn’t move through hoses very well, so it doesn’t make a good coolant. This is the reason that antifreeze is added into the mix. These are another series of liquids that are added since it is harder for ice crystals to form in a mix of liquids.
How Often Do I Change Coolant Fluid?
As with any fluid in your car, there is a need to change out the coolant/antifreeze mix every so often. The questions that come up are why do you need change out the mixture and how often does it need to happen.
First, let’s look at the coolant mixtures that are normally used. Often times a 50/50 mixture of water and an antifreeze is used. Some of the problems that this can run into are that over time some of the water can boil and the steam can leak out through various connections. While not a lot of the water will make its way out, over time it can drop down to lower levels than might be desired.
Another issue that can come up is that over the liquids used as an antifreeze can grow acidic over time. As that liquid grows more acidic it starts to lose its corrosion protection. As this happens you can start getting correction happening at points in the coolant system which over time can block the hoses used.
Never work on or remove the pressure cap from a hot pressurized cooling system. Allow to cool completely before starting coolant conversion.
With that in mind, you can see that at some point between when you first purchase a car and when you get rid of it you’ll want to change out the coolant/antifreeze mixture. The question becomes when is the time that you want to change it. There are some fluids that get changed every few months like oil, but others can wait longer. The best place to look for your particular vehicle is the service manual for your given car. While some manuals will give you a definite timeline as to when your coolant needs to be changed. However, some manuals don’t list how often this should be swapped out.
As a ballpark figure, you should first think about what kind of water is added into your mixture. If just tap water was used, you can guess that the mixture will last for about 3 years or so. If, instead, you have distilled water mixed in (if you purchased premixed coolant distilled water was most likely used) about 5 years is a good rule of thumb.
Some people prefer to base their maintenance schedule on mileage instead of time. If you look at taking things on that way you’ll want to look into changing out your coolant about every 30,000 miles. Though there are now some newer coolants on the market that have different ingredients that leads the company to claim that you only need to change them out every 150,000 miles.Of course, there is a way to test your coolant to see if it is still good. You can’t just look at it to see if it looks good, but getting a coolant test kit (like this tester from Prestone) will allow you to check if your coolant is still working well or if you need to swap it out.
When it comes time to change out your coolant, you’ll want to do a coolant flush. This will make sure that all of the old coolant mixtures out of all the hoses, radiator and tubing. Once you’ve gotten all the old stuff out you can then add in a new mixture of coolant and antifreeze and your car can be off and on its way again.
The Benefits of Using a High-Quality Product
It is generally a good idea to know a few of the top brands in any particular area of the market when looking into making a purchase. We’ve rounded up three of the top contenders, while these are not the only ones making great products, we feel that just about anything that they put out can be a fairly safe choice.
Evans is a newer company, having only been around for about 20 years. However, in that time that struck out to a different idea on coolant than most other companies. They have decided to go with a line of coolant products that don’t use water as the coolant. They come premixed, but you aren’t paying for a bottle that is half full of water. The company claims that since they aren’t using water, their products won’t boil until about 375 F, which is well above the operating temperature of nearly all engines.
Check all Evans coolants at Amazon
Prestone is a rather well-known company in the automotive space, as their products tend to be inexpensive and fairly easy to find at not only automotive stores but also a number of big box stores. Don’t let this market penetration fool you into thinking that they are low-class options, as many of their products are top notch and deserve consideration when you are looking into picking your next bottle of coolant.
Check all Prestone coolants at Amazon
Zerex falls under another well-known company in the automotive space. As a part of Valvoline, they have a solid background. They focus on putting out a ready to use coolant that means the customer doesn’t need to worry about mixing and getting ratios right, they can merely open a bottle and pour it into their car. Many of their products won’t freeze until about -37 F and then don’t boil until a whopping 330 F. This means that your car is protected through quite a range.
Check all Zerex coolants at Amazon
FAQ – Questions and Answers about Coolant and Cooling System
Below we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about radiator antifreeze coolants. We hope that these are also the answers to your questions, but if something is still unclear, go ahead and ask in the comment section under this article.
Are Coolant and Antifreeze the Same?
At the end of the day when you go to make a purchase the bottle that is labeled coolant and the bottle that is labeled antifreeze will go into the same spot in your car and both work together to accomplish the same goal. You’ll want to be sure that you follow the mixing instructions on any given bottle of coolant or antifreeze though so that you use the product as directed by the manufacturer, as that should be the safest way to use it.
You’ll often find that some bottle will be labeled as both coolant and antifreeze. This is since they will end up being mixed and working together. To be technical about it, the coolant is the liquid that is removing the heat from your engine to dissipate in the radiator. Many times this is water. The antifreeze, on the other hand, is there to help keep the coolant from freezing in cold weather. At a certain level these are two different liquids with different jobs, but for practical purposes, they are sold as a single product.
Can I Mix Different Kinds/Colors of Coolant?
It is best to not mix different types of coolant as they can have different properties. There may be a number of combinations that won’t have any negative effect, but there can also be somewhat disastrous effects if you end up mixing the wrong ones together. For the most part, you are fairly safe to mix the same colors of coolant together, as these are mostly of the same type.
The area that you’d want to exercise the most caution with this approach is that both the OAT and HOAT are dyed an orange color. While these should be alright together you are safest to stick to a single type in your vehicle. If you really want a mix, it is best to go with the Hybrid (HOAT) as this is a mixture that has been tested to prove that it is safe for use.
If you mix different types of coolant, you could find that they end up forming a gel. This gel will then not only not do its job of keeping your coolant from freezing but can block up your coolant lines and your car will end up not getting any engine cooling. Following that, your engine could overheat and bring all the troubles that come with it.
Can I Mix Different Brands of Antifreeze?
Brands of antifreeze will tend to add in slightly different additions to help out with the job of stopping your coolant from freezing. The other major difference would be the mix of how much water to add. While neither of these is a major issue, it is one to consider prior to pouring anything into your vehicle. You’ll need to consider how you will make sure you get the mix right and the best answer may very well be that you need to mix the water with your antifreeze prior to adding into your vehicle.
The biggest thing that you need to look at when mixing antifreeze is looking at the type, as we mentioned above. Mixing brands in the same type of antifreeze shouldn’t cause any trouble, but mixing types can be quite the big problem.
Is it OK to Use Tap Water in a Car Radiator?
If you have nothing else by tap water, it is alright to add it into your car’s radiator. You may run into some problems, as the water could end up either boiling (and not working well) after a lot of drying, or freezing (and really not working) on cold nights. Also, straight tap water tends to have other things in it, sometimes there are very small bits of debris depending on where you live and your tap water source. These can end up causing corrosion in your car’s coolant system.
Now if you are mixing tap water with your coolant or antifreeze, things will go a bit better. You won’t have to worry so much about things freezing up or boiling. As most coolants have anticorrosive additives your vehicle’s system will be safer as well. A better option would be to use distilled water as it has had all the impurities removed from it and can be found easily and inexpensively.
How Much is a Coolant for a Car?
When you are looking for the best engine coolant you will find that there is a bit of a range as far as price is concerned. Of course, you will need to take into account the size of the bottle that you are buying as well as the dilution rate. If you get one gallon of pre-mixed coolant and another of unmixed of the same size, the second effectively has twice as much. You will have to do a bit more work, though it is just added in the extra water. For our list, we have options that range from around $20 to some that come up closer to $60. There are other options on either side of that range.
In addition, you’ll also want to think about where to make your purchase. Coolant or antifreeze can be found in a wide variety of places, but there is not always the most selection to be had. You’ll find that while various automotive stores there are some options, but it won’t be all the ones on the market. After doing your research online you don’t want to go into a store only to find that the one that you picked isn’t there. For the best options, it is a wise choice to go with a reputable online dealer, such as Amazon.
Picking out the best coolant for your car is something that you need to carefully consider. Ignoring it or just throwing whatever is cheap could end up becoming a very expensive problem if your engine ends up over heating and seizing up. However, until some fluids you can’t just swap from the cheap stuff to the good stuff by pouring a new bottle in and figure the rest will work itself out. When you want to make a switch, or if you don’t know what is in your are you’ll want to do a complete flush of the coolant system to make sure that you remove all the old antifreeze and then you can add in your pick of the top coolant on the market.
Best Antifreeze / Coolant – Bottom Line and Conclusion
With that you, you should have everything that you need to know to pick out the best coolant or the best antifreeze for your car. We started off by showing you our picks for the best options that are available on the market today.
Our pick for the overall best product was Prestone AF2100 Extended Life 50/50 Antifreeze, from looking at things we felt that it was the best overall choice. If you are looking for something that might be a little bit more budget friendly we felt the Zerex G-05 Antifreeze/ Coolant, Concentrated ZXG051 is a great choice.
After that, we rounded out some of the other basic information on coolant and antifreeze to answer most all of your questions on the subject. We’ve given you the background to make smart choices for your particular needs, no matter what you find is the most useful thing for this fluid to do for your car.
Lastly, we’d love to hear from you. If you have experience with any of our picks, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a message in the comment section below to let us know what you think of them.
Patented Cor-Guard™ inhibitors prevents corrosion before it starts, helping your coolant system run more effectively.
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Last update on 2019-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API