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How to add engine coolant: The Best Way in 2023

Last updated on January 22nd, 2024

No matter where you live, whether in the frigid or icy areas of the country, antifreeze is a necessary fluid for every car. Most modern vehicles use water to prevent the engine from overheating.

Even though plain water works sometimes, antifreeze or engine coolant and water mixture is perfect and safer.

As you change engine oil and replace flat tires, adding antifreeze to your car is a must-do maintenance procedure.

However, it’s not safe to add antifreeze when your engine is smoking hot, and your car is running. So we’ll be extensively analyzing all you need to know about adding antifreeze to the car.

Plus, if you’ve been asking, ‘does the car need to be running when adding antifreeze?’ We’ve got answers for you!

What is Antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a component of engine coolant with a sweet smell designed to regulate the temperature of cars.

During warm weather conditions, it prevents the water in the car’s cooling system from over-boiling.

It also regulates liquids that go as high as 275°F. When the weather gets cold, antifreeze prevents the liquids from freezing.

Antifreeze is otherwise called an engine coolant. Its effectiveness depends on how you add it to the car and which type you use.

Therefore, before you begin adding antifreeze to your car, you must contact your auto dealer to make the right recommendation on which antifreeze type is suitable for your car.

Does the Car Need to be Running When Adding Antifreeze?

No! Your Car doesn’t need to be running when you’re adding antifreeze.

Notwithstanding, there are times when you can leave the car running while adding coolant. A typical case could be when adding antifreeze to a new car model.

However, don’t forget that the engine of a running vehicle will be very hot.

As far as the engine is not too hot, you can add antifreeze. Just make sure the reservoir is warm, so you don’t hurt yourself or cause damage to the engine.

determine the correct antifreeze

How to Determine the Correct Antifreeze For Your Car Model

Never buy any coolant without doing proper research.

For starters, you can begin by reading your vehicle’s instruction manual or visiting your car manufacturer’s website to find out more information about the product.

This research will help you know how well the antifreeze you’re about to buy will work with your car. Most auto car dealers sell antifreeze.

So, you can go to your dealer to give you the right antifreeze for your car’s make and model. Using the wrong antifreeze can damage your car engine, so don’t make the wrong choice.

For instance, Volkswagen and BMW have antifreeze for different makes in their stores, while Honda uses type 2 antifreeze.

Types of Antifreeze (And Ingredients)

Antifreeze is made in different types and colors and serves varied purposes. That is why it’s imperative to get an antifreeze that works well in your car engine. Below are the most common types of antifreeze:

Inorganic Additive Technology

It is a green color antifreeze manufactured using silicate, ethylene glycol, and phosphates.

It prevents engine corrosion, even though it is not as effective as the newer brands in eliminating debris from the engine. So, if you’re using this antifreeze type, ensure you clear the reservoir before refilling it.

Phosphate-Free Hybrid Organic Acid Technology

This antifreeze is mostly referred to as HOAT. It comes in turquoise and is made with glycol.

HOAT has both inorganic and organic corrosion inhibitors; and is efficient in protecting the gaskets and seals of your vehicle.

Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes are the major car types that use coolant.

Hybrid Organic Acid Technology

This coolant is produced using silicates and organic acid. It comes in varied colors like blue, yellow, orange, and pink.

The Hybrid organic acid technology works well in most European cars, Ford cars, and Chryslers. With this antifreeze, rest assured your engine is prevented from corrosion.

Organic Acid Technology

This antifreeze is manufactured using propylene glycol and is mostly in orange color. It is the best coolant for GM, Volkswagen, and Saab. However, don’t just add it to your car at your discretion; consult your vehicle’s manual first.

Silicated Hybrid Organic Additive Technology

As the name implies, this antifreeze contains silicates that help prevent engine corrosion. It doesn’t contain imidazole, amines, borates, or nitrates.

The silicated hybrid antifreeze is compatible with Mercedes Benz, Audi VS, Lamborghini, and Bentley.

how to add antifreeze

How To Add Antifreeze (Coolant) To Your Vehicle

Here are the steps to follow to add antifreeze to your vehicle correctly:

1. Turn off the engine and allow the car to cool.

You have to turn off your car and allow the engine to cool before adding antifreeze.

Also, ensure the parking brake is currently set, and your car is on a level (flat) surface. The reason for cooling your engine is that it gets very hot, and you may get burned while trying to add the antifreeze.

Plus, the reservoir cap gets hot too.

If the engine is overheating, causing breakdown. Don’t rush up to add the antifreeze.

Instead, allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes before opening the cap. Besides, the hot temperature can cause serious engine cracks.

2. Locate the reservoir of the engine coolant

The coolant reservoir is colored (mostly yellow). It is a thick transparent plastic that allows the owner to observe how the antifreeze gets in while adding it. It’s located somewhere under the car hood.

If you find it difficult to locate the reservoir, check your car’s manual or manufacturer’s website.

3. Check the level of the coolant.

To do this, look at the coolant reservoir by checking the coolant level against the minimum and maximum demarcation lines.

Besides, the reservoir is transparent, and the coolant is brightly colored, so you won’t have any difficulties seeing through the liquid.

If the coolant level is below the first line, you’ll need to add a little antifreeze so it can get to that point. If it’s below the minimum level, you’ll need to add the coolant till it reaches the top line.

Then, check the level again after two or three days. If it reduces and requires top-up, it could signify leakage. Contact your mechanic immediately to avoid serious problems.

how to add engine coolant

4. Twist the coolant cap

Unscrew the coolant cap and tighten it again properly. If the cap breaks, it can affect the cooling system. So, remove it carefully, so it doesn’t get damaged.

5. Add the antifreeze

If the antifreeze you’re using is concentrated, you can add some water. But, ensure you follow the instructions and guidelines of usage. If the antifreeze is labeled ‘ready to use, don’t add water.

Instead, you can use a funnel to add the antifreeze to your car to prevent spillage.

6. Put the coolant cap back after you reach the cold fill line

Once you add the coolant till it reaches the cold fill line, replace the coolant cap and tighten it. If you don’t, a leak could occur because of the pressurized system. 

Tool Recommendations for Adding Antifreeze to Car

Below are the basic tools you’ll need to properly add antifreeze to your car without causing spillage or damage to the engine:

  • Cooling system wrenches
  • Antifreeze and coolant testers
  • Cooling system testers
  • Thermostats
  • Radiators
  • Coolant overflow tanks


How to add antifreeze to your vehicle?

The steps to follow are quite simple. You don’t even need to contact your mechanic to do it for you. Just follow the steps below:

  1. Turn off your car engine
  2. Allow it to cool
  3. Open your reservoir
  4. Confirm the coolant level
  5. Open the coolant cap
  6. Add antifreeze; and
  7. Replace the coolant cap and close the hood

How to add engine coolant?

Adding engine coolant is literally the same thing as adding antifreeze. Recall that earlier highlighted in this article that coolant is otherwise called antifreeze. Therefore, follow the steps highlighted on how to add antifreeze to add engine coolant. It’s that simple!

Is there a difference between coolant and antifreeze?

There is just a slight distinction between coolant and antifreeze. Coolant is a mixture of water and coolant, while antifreeze is one of the ingredients of a coolant mixture. So, if water is added to a concentrated antifreeze, it becomes a coolant. However, they still serve the same purpose: to cool the engine.

How long does it take for antifreeze to work?

If the weather is not so cold outside, the antifreeze will take about two to ten minutes to work. However, this happens when the engine and coolant run at optimal temperatures.

What is the name of the container that contains the antifreeze?

It is called a coolant reservoir (a transparent plastic container), located close to the radiator. It contains the cooling agent used in the car engine.

Closing Thoughts

Generally, the car engine has many parts, and its operation sometime gets complicated.

However, one of the car parts performs most activities, if not all. This excess performance causes it to heat up, thus, requiring antifreeze.

So, to prevent your car engine from overheating, you must know how to add antifreeze to the coolant reservoir and regularly check the coolant levels.

Most importantly, if you ever notice any leak, don’t fail to contact your mechanic.



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