Antifreeze vs. Coolant: Are They the Same Thing?

It is important to maintain the right temperature of your car to make sure it always functions properly. So, when you’re preparing to sell your car, be ready to answer buyer questions about your cooling system as a whole and your radiator in specific. 

Your car’s radiator cools the engine. Without it, the engine would overheat and stop working. The engine cooling radiator needs water and coolant to do its job. Thus, you should regularly check coolant levels and add some to maintain a sufficient level of fluid in the radiator.

First things first, what is a radiator? 

A radiator is a part of the cooling system and it helps prevent the engine from overheating by dissipating excess heat.

At the front of your car, there’s a thermostatic valve, also called a thermostat. When the temperature rises and reaches a certain level, this valve opens to let the coolant and water flow through the system.

Coolant flows from the radiator to the engine, regulating the heat of the circuit, then returns to the radiator to cool again.

Although the area at the front of the car is not very large, the radiator manages to cool the fluid, using a fan located between the engine and the radiator.

What Differs coolant from antifreeze?

Many people still confuse the terms “coolant” and “antifreeze liquid”, which are two different types of fluids. I mean, you shouldn’t really mix up between the two as this could seriously damage the mechanics of your vehicle. But, since even mechanics use both terms interchangeably, you realize it might be a universal problem.

This is because both fluids are essential to the cooling system and keep the engine running at the correct temperature.

So what is exactly the difference between coolant and antifreeze


The coolant is made of 3 main elements:

  1. Purified water, to prevent the engine from overheating.
  2. Antifreeze to protect the engine from freezing.
  3. Anticorrosive, to prevent corrosion of metal parts of the engine.

It prevents the engine from overheating, lubricates the water pump, extends the life of rubber pipes, prevents the formation of limescale, and prevents other engine fluids from freezing at temperatures below 0° C.

Along with engine oil, coolant is the most important fluid in your vehicle. It should be replaced every 2 to 4 years, on average. However, this doesn’t cancel out the importance of still checking the coolant levels throughout the year so that your engine doesn’t fail beyond repair and cause a massive decrease in price when calculating your car value.


Antifreeze contains an organic mixture called mono ethylene glycol (MEG), a colorless, and slightly sweet liquid known for its anti-freezing properties.

Because of its slightly sweet odor, unlike other car fluids, you should make sure to store antifreeze away from children.

When combined with water in a car’s cooling system, ethylene glycol increases the freezing and boiling temperatures to help fluids flow through the engine regardless of the season or weather condition. 

Mono ethylene glycol (MEG) is toxic to humans and animals. You can find all safety precautions and recommendations on the antifreeze bottle, explaining to you how to use it and dispose of the product.

Antifreeze only has conditional durability in the cooling system. For this, you must change it every three years or every 50,000 km. 

The ratio of antifreeze to purified/softened water is between 60:40 and 50:50. You should mainly stick to these quantities unless instructed otherwise by the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Many products, such as the windshield washer fluid, may mention anti-freeze ingredients or the ability to melt ice. However, it is crucial to understand that these are very different liquids than the cooling system – and mixing them could be a catastrophe!

If you live in a hot country, like the UAE, it is best to keep a bottle of premixed coolant fluid in your car and check the coolant levels before any long trip. 

If you’re not an expert in cars, don’t try to mix antifreeze and coolant by yourself. Or else, you will be increasing the engine corrosion rate, or even leading it to clog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *