The Comprehensive Guide To Different Types of Coolant
September 24th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
Coolant doesn’t get a lot of respect, but it should. It’s one of those “car things” that most drivers hear about when they get their oil changed but do not necessarily understand or appreciate. And since coolant is just as important as oil and could one day save the life of your car, it’s probably a good idea for us to get to know it a little better. What function does coolant serve, what are the different types of coolant, what is the right coolant for your car, and what color is coolant?
Coolant has three key responsibilities:
- Reducing the freezing point of your cooling system in winter, which helps ensure you engine doesn’t freeze.
- Increasing the boiling point in summer so your engine doesn’t overheat; and
- Safeguarding the engine and cooling system from rust, corrosion, and contaminants.
Different types of coolant
Because most older cars were manufactured with the same cooling system parts – brass, rubber parts, and cast iron – the coolant formula was pretty much the same wherever you went. However, today’s cooling systems are different from vehicle to vehicle and could include parts made from copper, steel, magnesium, aluminum alloy, and even nylon. As a result, the type of coolant that is right for your car varies based on the make, model, year of your car, and country in which it was made. Unlike 50 years ago, today’s drivers need to know the specific type of coolant that is right for their car. There are three main types: Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT), Organic Acid Technology (OAT), and Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT). Let’s take a closer look.
1. Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT)
This old-school coolant has a recognizable green color but is not often used in modern cars because it’s less efficient. While the newer crop of coolants can last up to five years, IAT coolant needs to be changed every two years on average.
2. Organic Acid Technology (OAT)
OAT is an example of a modern, superior coolant. You can find it in organe, red, yellow, and sometimes purple in terms of color. Cars manufactured by General Motors use this formula, and it may not be compatible with all other makes and models of cars. One of the main advantages of using OAT is that it lasts up to 50,000 miles, or five years, before it needs to be changed.
3. Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)
HOAT is derived from OAT and, as a hybrid, is designed to provide the best that OAT and IAT have to offer. HOAT typically comes in orange or yellow color and is used mostly in Chrysler and Ford vehicles. The best part? This long-lasting coolant can be changed every five to ten years.
Does color make a difference?
What color is coolant and does it make a difference? Not really. The colors are mostly for marketing purposes. There is no bad coolant color with one exception: if it is dark and murky, that could indicate it may have become contaminated.
If you are trying to determine the right coolant to use for your car, don’t base your decision on coolant color. It is simply not a reliable indicator of what type of coolant your car needs. Take, for example, OAT and HOAT. Sometimes they are yellow and other times orange, so it’s easy to get them confused if you use color as a predictor. When you throw in older coolants that tend to be green and others that are red or purple, you realize that coolant color isn’t that significant after all.
Speaking of coolant color, can you mix orange and green coolant? As a rule of thumb, you wouldn’t want to do that because you could be mixing two different coolants. Instead of asking what color is coolant, it’s better to simply check your vehicle owner’s manual for their recommendation on the type of coolant that is best for your car.
Cool Coolant Tips
- If you own a hybrid or electrical vehicle, you don’t get to choose your coolant.
That’s because these vehicles usually have their own cooling systems and require a special type of coolant that is designed to work with the battery pack. Only use the coolant specified by the manufacturer.
- Consult your vehicle owner’s manual.
What are the manufacturer’s requirements for your car’s cooling system? They usually stipulate the type of engine coolant that you should use. What you read in your owner’s manual should be the final word.
- Drop by the dealer.
If you want to make sure you purchase the right coolant for your car, ask your dealer. They’ll direct you to the exact coolant you need for your specific make and model.
- Remember that almost all coolant that you buy at the store has already been pre-diluted, which means you don’t have to add water when you get home.
- You could save money by buying aftermarket brands of coolant instead of from the original manufacturer. However, if you can afford it, we recommend staying with the true and tried coolant formula designed for your make and model of car.
- Keep track of the type of coolant you put into your cooling system so you are consistent with the type you use.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Buena Park, a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing the northwestern Orange County and surrounding areas.
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