The antifreeze coolant that flows through your car or truck’s cooling system does more than just keep your engine from freezing in the winter. It also cools the engine while you’re driving. Without coolant, your engine would overheat after only a few minutes of driving. It could freeze overnight without enough antifreeze in it. There are two things you have to things you should remember when you’re checking and topping off your antifreeze.
Always make sure your coolant is full. If it’s not, add a little more to top it off. Make sure your engine is cold when you check your antifreeze. Auto cooling systems are pressurized and the fluid is very hot after the engine has been running.
To check your coolant, open your hood and look for a whitish, opaque plastic reservoir. It should say “engine coolant” on the side or on the cap, as well as markings to tell you when the coolant is full or low. Usually, you can see through the plastic reservoir, so you can tell if your coolant is low or not without even taking the cap off. Just to be safe, you should also remove the radiator cap and make sure your radiator is full of antifreeze as well. Check your antifreeze at least once every two weeks. If you need to add some coolant every time you check it, you probably have a leak in your system. Have your car or truck inspected as soon as possible.
Coolant Mix Ratio
The next Most people think that antifreeze is all there is to coolant. As long as you keep your coolant reservoir and radiator full of the (not always) green liquid, you’re good, right? Not necessarily. Besides antifreeze, the coolant in your car or truck should have distilled water in it as well. Even if your coolant reservoir and radiator are full, you still need to make sure you have enough water in your coolant. The mix should be half coolant, half water. Having too much water will not cool the engine as well as a 50-50 mix, and having too much antifreeze could cause your water pump to fail. Since antifreeze is much thicker than water, your water pump has to work twice as hard to pump pure antifreeze than it does a 50-50 mix. You can buy pre-mixed 50-50 coolant, or you can buy full-strength and mix it with water yourself. There’s no way to tell exactly what the mix of your antifreeze is unless you flush your cooling system and make sure it’s refilled with a 50-50 mix.
You can, however, make sure your coolant has a low enough freezing point for winter by using an coolant tester.