Antifreeze is an essential part of car maintenance. Without it, your car could break down in extreme temperatures. Luckily, it’s very easy to correctly fill your car with antifreeze and prevent a winter catastrophe.
To put antifreeze in your car, all you need to do is open the hood, find the reservoir, and fill it with antifreeze. As long as the engine is completely cooled down and you don’t overfill the reservoir, the process is very simple.
Antifreeze is a chemical substance that lowers the freezing point of the liquids in your engine. This phenomenon helps keep your car engine running throughout the winter and prevents the engine from freezing over and breaking.
Without antifreeze, the low temperatures of winter could freeze the oil, gasoline, and other liquids that sit in your engine. The car needs these to be in liquid form to run properly. Frozen engines can lead to total breakdowns and could require engine replacement.
There are several signs to tell you that your car needs more antifreeze or a complete antifreeze flush. However, it’s best to not wait until you see these signs–they mean that your engine is being damaged by the lack of coolant. Instead, stay on top of it and refill your antifreeze regularly. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- The engine runs hotter than usual
- Sweet-smelling steam coming from the engine (some say it smells like maple syrup)
- Tiny bits of rust in the coolant or around the engine
- A grinding noise under the hood
Antifreeze belongs in a specific location. Under the hood of your car, there are several twist-off caps. One is for oil, another might be for wiper fluid, and one is for your coolant fluid reservoir. This reservoir varies in location but always has a colored cap (often yellow).
The process of putting antifreeze in your car is an easy one. It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t need extra tools to succeed. Here is how to put antifreeze in your engine correctly.
To correctly put antifreeze in your car, you’ll only need the antifreeze itself and a pair of gloves for safety. There are no tools or equipment needed as the antifreeze reservoir has a screw-on cap and is easy to access.
Never work on your engine while it is on–the metal and plastic can be extremely hot to the touch. Always make sure your engine is off and completely cool before opening the hood to prevent injuries and burns.
Once your engine is cool and the hood is open, you need to find the coolant reservoir. Usually, it has a yellow lid and is located near the top of the engine. Consult your car’s manual for more information or look on the company’s website. Make sure it’s fully cool before opening the reservoir.
You can check the coolant levels before or after you open the reservoir by looking at the side. There are two marks on every coolant reservoir: minimum and maximum. As long as it’s between these lines and the coolant is still brightly colored, your car is safe.
Wearing gloves, carefully add enough antifreeze to fill the reservoir to the maximum. Be careful of spilling in the engine compartment or overfilling the reservoir.
Once you’re done, you can close the reservoir (carefully, so you don’t damage the lid) and hood of the car. You’ve successfully refilled your antifreeze!
With the proper knowledge, anyone can put antifreeze in your car. If you want a licensed mechanic to do it, ask about it when you take your car in. However, it’s a pretty simple process and doable at home. You can also get it done when you get your oil changed.
There are several reasons why antifreeze is an essential part of your car, even if you don’t live in colder climates. Here are the primary reasons to keep your car well-stocked with antifreeze and refill it regularly.
Of course, the primary use for antifreeze is to lower the freezing point for the other liquids in the engine. In the winter, this function is crucial to keep the vehicle working properly through extremely low temperatures.
Antifreeze is sometimes called an engine coolant because it also protects the engine from overheating during extremely warm temperatures. The antifreeze maintains optimal engine temperature, no matter the outside weather conditions.
Antifreeze helps to lubricate the engine. All of the pieces of an engine rub together regularly, and without liquid to smooth and lubricate the motions, the increased friction could cause fire or smoke from the engine. Oil does this as well.
While water could lubricate an engine and prevent fires, it would easily rust the metal parts if left standing. Water would also turn to ice in the winter, freezing the engine parts together and preventing them from working properly.
If your car isn’t showing signs of low antifreeze, you should top off your antifreeze about once a year. Refilling your antifreeze is an easy way to maintain car health and longevity.
Any automotive shop, mechanic, or oil changing specialist will have antifreeze for sale. Certain larger grocery retailers like Walmart also sell antifreeze with their auto supplies. You can also buy antifreeze when you are getting your oil changed. Since all brands start with the same formula, it doesn’t matter which brand or price of antifreeze you purchase.
Here are some commonly asked questions about antifreeze.
Some car manufacturers make specific types of antifreeze for their cars. However, unless you have a high mileage car and need a stronger brand, you can probably buy generic antifreeze and be fine.
You can drive immediately after putting antifreeze in your car, as long as the reservoir cap is on tightly and the hood is closed correctly.
No. You should turn off your engine and let it cool completely before putting in antifreeze. You could injure yourself severely by putting antifreeze into a hot engine.
No. Pool antifreeze keeps the water from freezing in a pool, while car antifreeze lubricates the engine and keeps it running at an optimal temperature. The two should not be used interchangeably.
RV antifreeze is closer to pool antifreeze than car antifreeze, as it also works to keep water tanks and black water tanks from freezing. It should not be used in a car.
Most regular cars hold up to three gallons of antifreeze, but you shouldn’t need to put all of this in at once unless you are flushing the antifreeze. Usually, you’ll put in about a gallon and a half to top off the reservoir.