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Antifreeze FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Antifreeze


What’s the difference between antifreeze and coolant?

The terms “antifreeze” and “coolant” are often used interchangeably. Since Antifreeze prevents both freeze-ups and overheating, many times it is referred to as 'Coolant'. Because of the way the product is marketed, many people mistakenly think they are two different products. They are one and the same.


Does antifreeze go bad?

Yes. Over time, the chemicals that are used to create antifreeze will break down into acid. That break down will happen more quickly with vehicles that operate in high temperature climates or vehicles that allow more air into the cooling system.


How do I know when to change my antifreeze?

Each manufacturer has its own antifreeze change intervals, which can be found in the owner's manual of your vehicle. It is highly recommended that you follow those intervals. In some cases, a vehicle may need more than a simple refill or top off.


How do I know which antifreeze is best for my vehicle?

Click here to find our Antifreeze Reference Chart, which breaks down the different kinds of antifreeze coolants that are available by type, color, and application. There are several key factors that play into deciding on the best choice. Those factors include your vehicle's make and model, your vehicle's antifreeze change intervals (located in your owner's manual), and the condition of your cooling system.


Is there a way to test if my antifreeze is still good?

The best way to test if your antifreeze is still good is by checking your vehicle’s coolant reservoir tank located next to the radiator.  Check the color of your antifreeze, if the fluid is transparent then it is still good.  If your antifreeze fluid has a darkish brown color that you can’t see through, then it’s time to get it changed.


How often should I replace my antifreeze?

The frequency of antifreeze replacements will depend on your vehicle’s make, model, and year.

Typically, most vehicle manuals recommend that you change the fluids in your vehicle every 24,000 to 36,000 miles. However, this number does not take into account personal daily driving habits or living climates. A car that drives in hot temperature climates may need to change out fluids every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.


What happens if I don’t change my antifreeze?

Neglecting to check your antifreeze levels and change your antifreeze when needed can cause corrosion or even blockage in your vehicle’s cooling system. Letting your antifreeze levels drop too low could also lead to reduced engine performance, cooling system failure, and engine damage.


Can I just add or flush and fill?

Adding antifreeze isn’t always the answer. You never want to add new antifreeze to a vehicle that has old or contaminated (darkish brown) antifreeze in the radiator or the reservoir tank. You also don’t want to waste money flushing out good antifreeze when it simply needs to be topped off. This is why checking your levels regularly and using the antifreeze guidelines in your owner’s manual is highly recommended.


How do I know my antifreeze is low? If I have to keep adding antifreeze, what’s wrong?

Check the low/high level markers on the overflow tank next to the radiator to ensure you have enough antifreeze to keep your vehicle from overheating or freezing.  Before you take off the cap, make sure the engine is cool; do not open your radiator cap or your reservoir cap while the engine is hot.   If you’re frequently adding antifreeze to your vehicle, then it might indicate that there is damage or corrosion to the cooling system.


How much antifreeze do I need in my car?

The amount of antifreeze your radiator can hold will depend upon the radiator your vehicle has. Both the radiator and coolant reservoir tank have fill lines that should not be exceeded. Every vehicle has its own antifreeze volume levels. Your owner’s manual will have more specific information pertaining to the vehicle’s antifreeze volume and intake.


Will there be an odor or what will my gauges do if it is bad?

If the needle on your temperature gauge shoots into the high numbers immediately after you turn the car on, that may indicate a problem with the antifreeze or cooling system. If there is a sweet smell inside the car once you turn it on, then it could indicate that your car is leaking antifreeze.


Safety tips?

If you plan on changing your vehicle’s antifreeze on your own, it is important that you handle the chemicals with care. Make sure the engine is cool. You never want to open your radiator cap or your reservoir cap while the engine is hot.  Always use a funnel when filling your radiator and your reservoir tank to avoid spills or overfilling. Overfilling your radiator with antifreeze can also damage your engine.


What do I do with old antifreeze?

Always properly dispose of old antifreeze. Never pour it down the drain or throw it in the trash. Most cities have public recycling divisions that accept used antifreeze.  Check your city’s local website to find out if they accept used antifreeze.  Likewise, your local O'Reilly store may offer recycling services for antifreeze. Check our store locator to find more information on the services offered at your nearest O'Reilly Auto Parts.

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