What Kind Of Coolant Do I Need

What Kind Of Coolant Do I Need

Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is an essential fluid that helps regulate the temperature inside your vehicle’s engine and prevent it from overheating.

Just like oil, coolant needs to be maintained and replaced periodically to keep your engine protected. However, with so many different coolant types on the market today, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your specific vehicle.

In this article, we will explore the different coolant options available and help determine the type of coolant your vehicle requires. We’ll explain the properties of each type, when they should be used, and how often coolant should be changed.

Coolant Basics

At its core, coolant serves two main purposes in a vehicle’s cooling system: regulating temperature and preventing freezing. Traditional automotive coolant is a premixed solution of ethylene glycol and distilled water.

Ethylene glycol lowers the freezing point and increases the boiling point of water for optimal temperature control no matter the conditions. Over time, coolant breaks down as it circulates and absorbs contaminants.

Types of Vehicle Coolant

There are a few main types of coolant available:

  • Ethylene glycol-based (most common, brands like Peak, Prestone, Dex-Cool)
  • Propylene glycol-based OAT coolants (more environmentally friendly, brands like Peak Global, Peak European)
  • “Green” coolants using propylene glycol or similar (marketed as eco-friendly)
  • Deionized/distilled water for some hybrids/EVs, usually with additive pack
  • Dex-Cool originally from GM, still available but some controversy
Types Of Vehicle Coolant
Types of Vehicle Coolant

Determining Your Vehicle’s Coolant Requirements

Manufacturers vary in their coolant specifications so always follow your owner’s manual first. Don’t rely on generic advice online. Look for the coolant type listed under scheduled maintenance items or in the fluid capacities section. It will be clearly specified.

Pay attention to manufacturer limitations on alternate coolants. Some explicitly do not allow propylene glycol formulations. Make sure to meet any listed coolant standards. Common ones are ASTM D3306, D4656, and different versions of GM 6277M.

If you don’t have an owner’s manual, check common online resources for your make/model or contact a dealer service department to confirm the proper coolant type. Don’t guess – always verify with documented sources. Next let’s cover the three main coolant types in more detail:

Ethylene Glycol Coolants

Ethylene glycol is widely used as a vehicle coolant due to its ability to provide protection over a broad range of temperatures from -34°F to 265°F. It works by depressing the freezing point of water and raising its boiling point when mixed in a 50/50 solution with water.

This protects engines from damage caused by freezing or overheating. Popular ethylene glycol coolants contain additives that prevent freezing down to -34°F and corrosion, as well as offering continuous cooling up to around 265°F.

It is recommended to change out ethylene glycol coolant every 2-4 years depending on vehicle use, to ensure optimal freeze protection, boiling point elevation and corrosion prevention are maintained. Trusted brands meet ASTM industry standards.

Ethylene Glycol Coolants
Ethylene Glycol Coolants

Propylene Glycol Coolants

Protect down to -34°F similar to ethylene glycol but have an enhanced version of rust and corrosion inhibitors. Their boiling points range from 257°F up to 265°F, offering heat transfer performance comparable to ethylene glycol.

Some propylene glycol coolants are advertised as more environmentally friendly and considered “safer” should any spill, but toxicity still requires proper handling. Change intervals are typically every 5 years/150,000 miles depending on the specific product’s formulation and additives.

Popular brands meeting OAT standards include Peak Global, Peak European, Pentosin, Predator, and more. Designed for use in vehicles requiring “extended life coolant” (ELC) specifications, usually high-end European brands or GM’s DEX-COOL replacement.

Propylene Glycol Coolantspropylene Glycol Coolants
Propylene Glycol Coolants

“Green” Coolants

Green propylene glycol formulations function similarly but aim to be completely non-toxic and readily biodegradable if spilled. Key things to know are:

Protection levels are identical down to -34°F and up to 265°F boiling point. They focus on being benign for the environment in case of accidental release with no harmful solvents.

Additive packages provide rust/corrosion inhibitors and use fully formulated to protect an engine’s cooling system. Popular green coolants fitting these criteria include Peak Global Green and Peak European Green.

Checking your owner’s manual is still essential for approval before using, as not all are officially approved for some vehicles.

&Quot;Green&Quot; Coolants
“Green” Coolants

Water-Based Coolants

Some hybrid and electric vehicles specify using a premixed 50/50 water and additive solution rather than conventional glycol base. Items to note are:

These dilute coolants are specifically engineered by manufacturers for their unique thermal management systems. Cooling additive packs are added to deionized or distilled water in the required 50/50 ratio.

Brands like Peak Charge offer additive packs that when mixed bring critical additives, inhibitors, and antifreeze technology suitable for these systems.

Change intervals are every 2-3 years under normal use for the effective lifespan of the additive package. Only use manufacturer-approved products as these systems rely on very customized antifreeze technology.

Water-Based Coolants
Water-Based Coolants

Choosing the Right Coolant for Your Application

Consult your owner’s manual for the specific type of coolant recommended. Check online or contact the dealer if the manual is unclear. Get OEM confirmation. Look for a name brand product that meets standards for your vehicle’s specified type.

Consider a universal 50/50 ethylene glycol formula like Peak or Prestone if unsure. For hybrids only use OEM-endorsed additive kits as directed. If manual specifies extended life or propylene glycol, choose a matching OAT formula.

Consider eco-friendly options if approved by OEM. Never mix types without flushing due to potential incompatibility issues.

Extended Life Coolants

Newer “extended life” coolants are formulated to last even longer before breaking down. Some claim protection for up to 150,000 miles or 10 years with proper maintenance. These longer-lasting formulas allow for less frequent coolant flushes, which saves money in the long run. Mainstream extended life options to consider include:

  • Honda HD Coolant
  • Toyota Long Life Coolant
  • Dex-Cool Extra Life
  • Peak Global Extended Life Antifreeze
  • Pentosin Long Life Coolant
  • Motorcraft Gold Antifreeze/Coolant
Extended Life Coolants
Extended Life Coolants

Proper Coolant Maintenance

No matter the brand, replacing coolant according to the owner’s manual schedule is important. Harsh environment or towing heavy loads may necessitate more frequent changes.

Symptoms like coolant loss, leaks, smells or deposits also indicate it’s time for a flush. When mixing your own 50/50 dilution, only use distilled or deionized water.

Check freeze point periodically with a hydrometer. Following these basic maintenance steps helps coolant—and your engine—perform at their best.

Here are some top coolant recommendations for specific brands and models:

Vehicle BrandRecommended CoolantsSpecifications Met
Honda/AcuraHonda HD Coolant, Genuine Honda Coolant, Peak Global HDATF TC specs
Toyota/LexusToyota/Lexus Coolant, Peak Global Super BlueAll Toyota standard requirements
GM Vehicles (2012+)GMC HD Antifreeze or Peak Global Long LifeGM 1825M specs
FordFord F1AZ-19531-AA, Motorcraft or Peak Global OrangeUniversal coverage
Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz A20A, Pentosin or Peak Global YellowSuitable for all models
BMWBMW LL-01, Pentosin or Peak Global GreenOptimum corrosion protection
Dodge/RamMopar Antifreeze/Coolant Pink or Peak Global Dodge/Ram PinkMeets all Chrysler specs
NissanGenuine Nissan, Nissol and Peak Global BluePremium protection
VW/AudiVW G13 or G12++ Long Life, Pentosin or Peak Global VWAluminum & newer models rating
Recommended Coolants by Vehicle

Choosing the right coolant

Choosing the right coolant is an important part of maintaining your vehicle’s long-term health. Consider the following key points:

  • Use universal HOAT or OAT coolant for most vehicles from the past decade.
  • Refer to owner’s manual first for Asian imports, GM, European brands.
  • Opt for extended life formulas when possible for maximum interval between changes.
  • Follow maintenance intervals and replace coolant fully every 2-5 years or 25k-50k miles.
  • Address any leaks, smells or deposits right away to avoid bigger issues.

With the perfect coolant match and consistent upkeep, your engine cooling system will operate at peak efficiency for many more miles to come. Let me know if any part of the coolant selection or maintenance process remains unclear.

benefits of extended life coolants in brief:

  • Longer service life – Can last 5+ years/150k+ miles vs. 2-3 years for traditional coolants.
  • Improved chemical stability – Formulations are more durable against breakdown over time.
  • Better corrosion and rust protection – Enhanced inhibitors shield the entire cooling system.
  • Condition gaskets/seals – Keep components flexible to prevent leaks long-term.
  • Efficient heat transfer – Precise temperature regulation for maximum performance.
  • Savings on maintenance – Fewer coolant flushes saves money in the long run.
  • Peace of mind – Extended drain intervals means less frequent coolant checks/changes.

In short, extended life coolants offer dramatically improved durability and protection versus traditional antifreeze through advanced chemical technology.

recommendations for choosing coolant for diesel engines:

Look for coolant rated to ASTM D6210 or D6468 diesel standards. Use an OAT or HOAT coolant made specifically for diesel engines. Follow OEM recommendations like Cummins coolant for Cummins engines.

Diesel supplemental coolants work for pickup/SUV diesel engines. Consider extended life coolants like Peak Diesel ELC for max protection. Only mix with distilled water to prevent mineral deposits from forming.

Choosing the right diesel-rated coolant ensures your high-compression engine has corrosion protection for reliable operation.


How do I know what coolant to put in my car?

The best way is to check your owner’s manual, as the manufacturer has specified the exact type of coolant recommended for your vehicle. You can also take your car to an auto parts store and provide the make/model/year, and they can help identify the proper coolant.

Do I need a certain type of coolant for my car?

Yes, different cars often require different coolants in order to provide the best protection and prevent corrosion issues down the road. Your owner’s manual will list the recommended product. Sticking with that is important, as universal coolants aren’t always compatible. It’s best not to assume one type works for all vehicles.

What coolant do I need for my engine?

Again, the owner’s manual is the best source, as automakers engineer vehicles to work with particular coolant formulations. Most modern cars specify an extended-life coolant that protects against both freezing and rust, extending the service life significantly over traditional antifreeze. Following your manual’s guidance ensures optimal performance and longevity.

How do I know what color my coolant is?

Coolants come in a variety of hues depending on the brand and specific formulation. You can check the color of the coolant already in your vehicle by inspecting the overflow reservoir when the engine is cold. Having any auto shop flush your system is another way to identify the existing coolant and ensure you purchase a compatible replacement.


In conclusion, taking the time to select and maintain the appropriate coolant for your specific vehicle is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can do. A cooling system kept in top condition with the right coolant prevents overheating, reduces rust

and scale buildup, and protects your engine for maximum performance and longevity. By understanding the different coolant types, formulations tailored for certain manufacturers and models, and proper maintenance schedules, you can be confident

your vehicle has the cooling protection it requires. An extended life coolant is often the best overall choice for most drivers seeking maximum service intervals and corrosion protection. With the help of this guide, you now have the knowledge to pick the perfect

coolant match for your car or truck according to your owner’s manual recommendations. Be sure to also follow a routine schedule of coolant checks and fluid changes as recommended to keep contaminants at bay. With high-quality coolant and diligent upkeep, your vehicle can cruise reliably well into the future.

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