DIY

Coolant 102: How Do I Know Which Coolant to Buy?

Feb 19, 2019

Learn About Coolant Formulation and How to Choose the Right Product

Now that you’ve learned about the purpose and importance of coolant for your vehicle with our Coolant 101, it’s time to determine which kind to buy.

When it’s time to change the coolant in your car, always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for compatibility and warranty information and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommended coolant.

Here are some tips to help you better determine the right coolant for your car.

Is There a Specific Kind of Coolant Made for My Vehicle?

The first thing you should do is consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for compatibility and warranty information.

All too often, consumers pick a coolant based on price rather than performance. There are cheaper “universal” coolants available that claim to service any engine, but truth is, specific vehicles from specific manufacturers require a specific coolant formula.

Whatever kind of car or truck you drive, it’s a major investment, which means you’d be wise not to skimp on your coolant. Trying to save a little cash in the short-run could lead to expensive fixes in the long-run if your cooling system fails because you used the wrong type of coolant. Your cooling system is also at risk if you’re using undiluted coolant or pure water.

What Are the Key Ingredients in Coolant?

Ethylene Glycol has been the industry standard for more than 70 years, and it makes up about 90 percent of a concentrated coolant.

Silicate is an excellent corrosion inhibitor, and it’s one of the best additives used in coolant since it works on all the metals of a cooling system. It’s very effective on aluminum, which is what most engines and cooling systems are made of today. Most manufacturers use silicate in their antifreeze, though many Asian manufacturers (particularly in Japan) use silicate-free coolant.

Alugard® is one of Valvoline’s key additives. This compatibility agent helps when mixing coolants for broader application. That’s why, in addition to Zerex™ Antifreeze by Valvoline, Valvoline makes MaxLife™ Antifreeze/Coolant, a high-mileage coolant containing Alugard that’s compatible with a variety of vehicles. Also, look for Dex-Cool™, a coolant specifically formulated for General Motors vehicles that can also be used in Ford and Chrysler models.

Concentrated Coolants

What Color Should My Coolant Be?

Coolant comes in a variety of colors, often based on the level and type of protection offered.

Basic coolant is typically green, whereas more advanced coolants include hues of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple—the whole rainbow, essentially. Each color is designed to keep specific types of vehicles operating optimally by preventing overheating.

Keep in mind, though: If your car is still under warranty, make sure you stick to the same color of coolant. Don’t replace a particular color of advanced coolant with a different color, whether it’s advanced or universal.

What Mixture of Coolant and Water Works Best?

As coolant technology has evolved, so have the recommendations for the coolant/water mixture balance.

Previously, coolant manufacturers recommended an even balance of 50 percent coolant, 50 percent water for radiators. Nowadays, the amount of coolant recommended ranges from 40 percent to 70 percent.

A larger percentage of coolant will protect radiators and coolant systems all the way down to -84 degrees Fahrenheit, but unless you’re driving in extremely cold temperatures, you can go as low as 40 percent coolant. The tried-and-true 50/50 balance will have you covered all the way down to -34 degrees Fahrenheit as well.

What Kinds of Coolant Products Does Valvoline Offer?

Zerex™ Antifreeze is Valvoline’s primary coolant, used for factory fill in many vehicle manufacturers. To recap, here are the Zerex Antifreeze formulas mentioned above:

  • Zerex Asian Vehicle Antifreeze™ is a silicate-free blend made specifically for vehicles manufactured in Asia, particular Japanese vehicles.
  • Zerex ZXEL1 Dex-Cool™ is primarily used in General Motors vehicles but is also compatible in Ford and Chrysler models.
  • Valvoline MaxLife™ Antifreeze/Coolant is a multi-use product formulated for a wide variety of vehicles, specifically those with over 75,000 miles.

View a full list of our Zerex Antifreeze formulas and other coolant products, or see which coolant is right for your vehicle with our Valvoline Product Finder.

If you choose wisely when it comes to your coolant, your car will continue to operate at peak efficiency.


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