What are coolants? How are they used? What kinds of coolants are there? In today’s article, we will examine the chemicals, applications, and use of coolants on equipment and machinery.
What Are Coolants?
Coolants are fluids that run continuously across the engine to absorb some of the heat and carry it to the radiator, where the fluid will cool before rotating into the engine again. Combustion engines, or engines that burn fuel to produce power, use coolants.
The 3 Key Components of Coolants
Coolants are usually made of three key components: water, glycol, and an additive, usually an inhibitor package. Here are those three components in more detail:
- Water: Water is one of the most abundant substances on Earth. It's inexpensive, and it is one of the most effective heat exchange mediums around. However, due to a relatively high freezing point and low boiling point, water by itself cannot complete the task. The engine temperature within combustible engines quickly reaches the boiling point, meaning that water would be ineffective.
- Glycol: Glycol, commonly referred to as antifreeze — ethylene or propylene glycol — is added to water to both withstand freezing temperatures and increase water’s boiling point. With these properties added to water, proper engine cooling can take place. Ethylene glycol has superior heat exchanging properties but is far more toxic than propylene glycol. Never mix the two glycol groups, as it causes errors when measuring freeze points.
- Additives: The final ingredient in coolant soup is a chemical inhibitor. This is added to help prevent corrosion in the radiator, water pump, and any other cooling system involved in the process.
Why It's Important to Have the Right Engine Coolant
Your vehicle's make, model, year, and engine all influence the type of engine coolant it needs. Different antifreeze types will react differently to the materials making up an engine. You want to make sure the vehicle coolant you add to your engine won't damage its parts and keep it running in blazing or freezing weather.
Along with keeping your vehicle running in extreme weather, antifreeze also protects against corrosion. Depending on the materials used in your engine, the ingredients in one brand or formula of coolant might not protect against corrosion. To minimize engine wear, it's essential to pick the correct coolant formula.
Your car's owner's manual will most likely let you know what type of coolant to use when you need to flush the engine. If you misplaced the owner's manual, the dealer could help you pinpoint the appropriate engine coolant to use. While some vehicle manufacturers produce their own branded forms of coolants, you can use an aftermarket brand, provided it's the right type for your car.
The type of coolant your vehicle needs also determines when you need to flush the engine and fill it up with a new coolant. Older vehicles typically use an antifreeze formula that needs replacement every two years or 24,000 miles. Newer models often require coolants that only need replacement every five years or 50,000 miles.
The Different Types of Coolants
Now that you know what goes into coolants and how it keeps your systems within manageable temperatures, you can begin to learn about different types of coolants.
This is commonly called antifreeze. It's a bright green fluorescent liquid that contains silicates. This compound salt includes both silicon and oxygen molecules that work as resistors within the fluid to increase the boiling point and lower the freezing point. The silicate also coats the metallic parts of your machine, inhibiting corrosion within the system.
Conventional Low-silicate Example:
Havoline Conventional Antifreeze 50/50
Havoline® Conventional Antifreeze/Coolants are low-silicate, ethylene glycol-based multi-purpose coolants, available as concentrates or 50/50 pre-diluted products. They are for use in automotive engines where silicates are needed and with supplemental coolant additives (SCAs) addition in heavy-duty diesel engines. The details include:
- Coolant Service life – Its service life is two years or 50,000 miles (80,500 km) in automotive service or up to 250,000 miles.
- Protection – It provides excellent protection to automotive cooling system components including aluminum.
- Wide temperature application – It protects against winter freeze up and minimizes the chances of summer boil over.
- Antifoam properties – It's excellent antifoam package minimizes foaming potential.
A fully formulated coolant is a more specialized form. It uses SCAs, which protect the quality of your cylinders from cavitation. Cavitation occurs when the high pressure within the chamber causes perforation over time. To maintain an effective level of protection against cavitation, SCAs must be periodically added to the mixture. This addition of solid additives to the mixture can result in some seal and vane damage and wear over long periods.
Fully- Formulated Coolant Example:
Castrol Radicool Premix
This is a ready-to-use coolant formulated using mono-ethylene glycol and selected additives, and it's free from nitrite, amine, and phosphate inhibitors. It uses hybrid technology for the modern performance engines of cars and trucks. Other details include:
No nitrites, amines or phosphates
Effective engine cooling without boiling
Protection against corrosion in the alloys used in the cooling systems of modern vehicles
- Protection against freezing depending on the concentration
Protection against cavitation corrosion
Extended Life Coolants (ELCs)
Used primarily for heavy-duty vehicles, ELCs are synthesized with properties that prevent liner cavitation (see fully formulated coolants). These coolants can be nitrated — nitrated organic additive technology (NOAT) — to improve fluid flow or nitrate-free — organic additive technology (OAT) — depending on the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) requirements. SCAs are not required, but inhibitor additives can be added to extend the lifetime of the coolant. ELCs do not contain solid additives, which extends the life of your pump.
Extended Life Coolant Example:
Delo ELC Advanced Antifreeze/Coolant products have a patented formulation for protection and compatibility with flux brazing residue present from the manufacturing process of today's aluminum heat exchangers. There are no solid additives included in ELCs, which extends their pump life. Get more information on these products below:
- Long Service Life: It has a service life of 1,000,000/1,600,000 km on-road use / 20,000 hours off-highway use, or 8 years
- Optimal Cooling System Operation – There is no gel or deposit formation! Silicates and other SCA deposits can reduce heat transfer and increase downtime due to overheating.
- Environmentally Friendly: This product is biodegradable in its unused form. Phosphate, borate, silicate, 2EHA, and amine-free
Can You Combine Coolants?
While the topic of combining coolants has varying opinions and views, it is generally believed that coolants “can” be mixed if needed for an emergency fill-up but “should” be used without combining properties to get the premium effect the coolant was designed for.
Which Coolant Is Right for You?
The coolant that will work best in your vehicle depends mostly on the car's make, model, and year. A manufacturer might start using one type of coolant during a model year but only in specific vehicle models. Or, the manufacturer might use Coolant A in vehicles with one type of engine and Coolant B in the same model with a different engine.
To be on the safe side, consult your manual or directly ask the manufacturer which coolant it recommends. SC Fuels can also help you identify the coolant that will work best in your vehicle based on its age, model, make, and engine type.
When choosing a coolant, your best bet is to look at the antifreeze formula rather than rely on color. Coolants are available in a rainbow of colors, and the color can vary based on the formula from brand to brand. A green antifreeze from Brand A might not be the same formula as a green antifreeze from Brand B, for example.
SC Fuels Can Help You Choose the Right Coolant for Your Car
Make sure that you are always using the right coolant for the right job! SC Fuels offers a full line of coolants and chemicals from name brands such as Chevron, and Valvoline. Contact us to learn how SC Fuels can save you money on fuel, lubes, and coolants!
Thank you for reading
The SC Fuels Team