Which Antifreeze Color Should I Use?

Antifreeze ColorSo you discovered you need to add some antifreeze.  You’re a mechanically inclined person so you popped the hood, found where to add the new antifreeze and are ready to go.  The hang up came when you headed to the auto parts store a found a surprising variety of antifreeze options in front of you.  Many vehicles today are starting to use “lifetime” coolant, meaning that it should not have to be changed for the lifetime of your vehicle.  We can debate whether or not that is true in another article, but for us, that means there are even more varieties and classes of antifreeze available for your vehicle.  Luckily the manufactures of these new and different antifreezes have continued to make them different colors so they are easily identifiable.

If you plan on keeping your car for the rest of its useful life, the surefire way to make sure you have the right type of antifreeze in your vehicle is to go to the dealership and purchase some directly from the manufacturer.  That way it will match exactly in color and chemical makeup, leaving nothing to chance and making sure your vehicle’s cooling system will stay working at top efficiency for years to come.  Some such situation where this is a good idea is newer Ford vehicles with a gold color antifreeze, or GM vehicles that came with Dex-Cool.

This option will also most likely be the most expensive option you have available, and there may be an off the shelf antifreeze you can use just as easily without harming your vehicle and save some money.  At the end of the day, it is far more important to have the proper level of coolant in your vehicle, even if it is the “wrong type” or a bad mixture.  Low coolant levels can cause immediate damage while the wrong type or mixed coolants will take a long time to cause problems.

There are 3 basic types of antifreeze used today, ethylene glycol based, propylene Glycol based and the newer Organic Acid Technology.  The biggest thing to look out for is using the organic acid technology (OAT) in older vehicles with brass or copper radiators.  OAT antifreeze is designed to be used to protect aluminum components from corrosion in newer cars with aluminum radiators and heads.  OAT antifreeze may not do as good of a job preventing corrosion of brass or copper.  Also, mixing brands of antifreezes can cause unwanted chemicals.  For example Toyota red antifreeze contains silicates that American antifreezes will not contain.  These chemicals if added to American glycol based antifreeze can precipitate and float as particulates around your cooling system.

If you are concerned about getting the absolute maximum life out of your vehicle you should add the same type (color and manufacturer) of antifreeze as you already have in your vehicle.  In the long run, adding a different type of antifreeze to your cooling system will probably shorten the life of the antifreeze in your vehicle, meaning you should flush your cooling system sooner than recommended.  When you flush your cooling system refill it with a single type of antifreeze recommended by the manufacturer and it will be unlikely that a significant amount of damage will have been done.

BlueDevil Pour-N-Go Head Gasket Sealer

If you discover any leaks in your cooling system add BlueDevil Pour-N-Go as you top off your cooling system to permanently seal your leaks.  You can purchase BlueDevil Pour-N-Go online.

Pictures provided by: macsworldwide.wordpress.com

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12 responses to “Which Antifreeze Color Should I Use?

  1. A few years back my wife just had to have a raggedy 2000 VW New Beetle. We paid too much for it and it had too many miles on it. After we owned it for a couple of weeks it started to run hot. My first thought was the thermostat. After a half a day I finally got it changed an it was then that I knew for sure that I had no business working on this marvel of German engineering. Not enough room for me. It was also then that I learned that it had red antifreeze in it. In my small town there was no where that I could buy this red stuff so I just put the regular type in it. Much to my dismay, it continues to run hot to this day. I’ve done everything except replace the head gasket, my next project I guess. I had some guy that told me that the yellow/green antifreeze that I put in it may be causing it to run hot. Could this be true?? HELP!!

    1. Jerry-

      It is important to use the factory recommended antifreeze in your vehicle. We recommend that you do a complete cooling system flush and refill with the factory recommended coolant. If the vehicle is still acting up after the fact then you may want to have it diagnosed for a possible head gasket leak.

      -BDP

  2. I inherited an 85 Maserati bi-turbo from my brother. The car has been sitting in a heated garage since the year 2000. The cooling system was not drained before the car was laid up. There’s a lot of gunk and scale sitting in the aluminum filling box area for the intercooler but no liquid. The radiator overflow tank is also dry. It might have some liquid halfway down the radiator and engine block but I haven’t checked yet. The engine has not been started in 15 years but was running when it was parked and well serviced by a dealership until it was parked. In the past I was an auto mechanic and I am very capable of working on this vehicle. What is the best way to de-scale and flash this engine? I can remove the thermostat before working on this. Is there a product that I can mix with hot water prior to filling the cooling system then put it in the radiator and let it soak without running the engine? Kind of like a pre-flush?

    1. Peter,

      Thanks for your question about your Maserati. Besides flushing the cooling system, we’d recommend changing all the oils as well as they’ve probably lost their ability to lubricate over that many years. For the cooling system, you can use BlueDevil Radiator Flush (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/radiator-flush-00204/) to start the process. You can mix it with hot water and manually fill your system as it is a concentrated formula and will start to work even without the engine running. It of course will do a better job if the engine is running or you can manually pump it through the system as the descaling process works both chemically and from the flow of the water in the engine.

  3. I have a 41 Ford with a fully blown 35o chevy engine. It has begun running hot and I want to flush the radiator. It foes not have a heater should I flush the block as well?

  4. I have a 2012 Mazda 5 and need to add a bit of antifreeze to the overflow container as it is close to dry. The Mazda specified brand is around $35/gal. Is there a cheaper substitute that will work safely?

    1. JR,

      Thanks for your question about your Mazda 5. Even though it is expensive we would recommend you using the Mazda specified antifreeze. Many less expensive “universal” antifreezes claim to be able to mix with all kinds of antifreeze but in our experience, they may keep your engine cool, but they may also cause particulates to form or other problems down the road. Using the manufacture’s recommended antifreeze will keep your cooling system pure and free of particulates or precipitants.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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