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Antifreeze vs. Coolant: Are They the Same?

Bottles of coolant on a shelf.

If you want your car’s engine to live a long and healthy life, it’s essential to keep it running at the proper temperature. Engine coolant is the fluid that helps to prevent your car’s engine from overheating. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with antifreeze, but is antifreeze a coolant? Let’s take a look.

Antifreeze vs. Coolant: How They Differ

Antifreeze and coolant are similar in many respects, and they share the same purpose. However, they are not the same.Antifreeze and engine coolant are similar, but they are not the same.

Typically, antifreeze consists mainly of ethylene glycol, an ingredient that has an extremely low freezing temperature. Because of its ethylene glycol content, antifreeze remains liquid even in extremely cold conditions, enabling your car’s engine to function normally when the temperature drops. There are several different types of antifreeze, and each type provides unique benefits.

Before it’s used, antifreeze must be diluted with water. Once this happens, antifreeze becomes a fluid and is referred to as an “engine coolant.” In reality, engine coolant is nothing more than a mixture of antifreeze and water. It’s common for antifreeze and water to be diluted at a 50:50 ratio to create coolant.

What Does Coolant Do?

Coolant sits in your car’s radiator when the engine is off. Once you turn the ignition, the coolant travels through the engine’s nooks and crannies to absorb the heat that’s generated while the engine powers your vehicle. After a pass through the engine, the coolant is sent back to the radiator and cooled by the air. It’s then returned to the engine so that the process can start all over again.

Pure vs. Premixed Antifreeze

You can purchase pure antifreeze at any auto parts store. This antifreeze can then be mixed with water and added to your car’s cooling system. Another option is to purchase antifreeze that’s already been premixed with water to make engine coolant.

Is Antifreeze Toxic?

Whether it’s pure or premixed, antifreeze is toxic. The ethylene glycol it contains is harmful to both humans and animals. For this reason, it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when disposing of this liquid.

Antifreeze gives your car’s engine the support it needs to function in extreme weather. Armed with the information provided above, you can make the right decisions for yourself and your vehicle when it comes to this vital fluid.

Check out all the engine coolant products available on NAPAOnline, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on antifreeze vs. coolant, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.


Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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