Maintenance Tips, Tricks And Hacks For Your Vehicle

What Does Antifreeze Do? Essential Car Maintenance




When it comes to maintaining the health and performance of your vehicle’s engine, few things are more critical than antifreeze. But what does antifreeze do, and why is it so essential to your car’s well-being?

Antifreeze, also known as engine coolant, is a liquid added to a vehicle’s cooling system to help regulate the engine’s temperature. Its primary function is to prevent freezing in cold weather conditions, but it also serves as a coolant to dissipate excessive heat in the engine.

Regularly checking and maintaining your antifreeze levels is vital to ensure optimal engine performance and prevent damage. In this article, we’ll explore the functions and properties of antifreeze, its significance in winter, and how to maintain it properly.

We’ll also cover common problems and troubleshooting tips associated with antifreeze, as well as the importance of safe handling and disposal.

Key Takeaways:

  • Antifreeze, also known as engine coolant, prevents the water in a vehicle’s radiator from freezing in cold temperatures, raises the boiling point of water to prevent overheating in hot weather, and contains anti-corrosion agents to protect the engine’s metal components while also lubricating some of the moving parts.
  • It also helps regulate the engine’s temperature by dissipating excessive heat.
  • Regular maintenance and checks of antifreeze levels are essential to prevent engine damage.

What Does Antifreeze Do?

What Does Antifreeze Do Essential Car Maintenance

As the name implies, antifreeze prevents the water in your car’s radiator from freezing in cold weather, hence the term “antifreeze”.

Conversely, it also helps to keep your engine cool in hot weather by increasing the boiling point of the water, preventing overheating.

Additionally, antifreeze contains anti-corrosion agents that protect the metal components of the engine and cooling system from rust and corrosion.

Lastly, it lubricates the moving parts it comes into contact with, such as the water pump, helping to extend their operational life.

Antifreeze Properties and Composition

Antifreeze is a chemical mixture that is added to the engine coolant to prevent it from freezing or boiling. The two most common types of antifreeze are ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.

Ethylene glycol is widely used but is toxic, while propylene glycol is less toxic and mainly used in industrial applications and food products.

The main function of antifreeze is to prevent the engine from overheating or freezing in extreme temperatures. Antifreeze is also added to the cooling system to increase its boiling point, allowing the engine to operate at higher temperatures without boiling the coolant.

Antifreeze additives

Antifreeze is a mixture of water and chemicals that have specific functions, such as anti-corrosion, anti-foaming, and lubrication. The chemicals added to antifreeze vary depending on the application and the type of antifreeze used.

Anti-corrosion additives protect the metal surfaces of the engine and radiator from rust and corrosion. Anti-foaming additives reduce the surface tension of the coolant and prevent foam from forming in the cooling system. Lubrication additives reduce the wear and tear on the water pump and other moving parts of the engine.

Antifreeze uses

Antifreeze has several other uses beyond its primary function of preventing the engine from freezing or overheating. For example, antifreeze is used in winterizing plumbing systems to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. It is also used in the aerospace industry as a coolant for rocket engines and in the manufacture of electronics and chemicals.

When selecting antifreeze, it is crucial to match the type and concentration of the coolant to the manufacturer’s specifications. Using the wrong antifreeze can result in engine damage, corrosion, and reduced performance. Regularly checking the antifreeze level and condition is essential to ensure the proper functioning of the engine and cooling system.

How Antifreeze Keeps the Engine Cool

Antifreeze, also known as coolant, serves a vital purpose in keeping the engine cool. The combustion process generates intense heat, and without proper cooling, the engine would overheat and potentially suffer significant damage. Antifreeze works as a coolant by absorbing heat from the engine and transferring it to the radiator for dissipation.

The process of heat transfer involves the antifreeze circulating through the engine, picking up heat, and carrying it to the radiator. When the hot antifreeze reaches the radiator, it passes through a series of small tubes with thin fins, increasing its surface area and allowing the heat to escape into the air. The cooled antifreeze then returns to the engine to repeat the process.

In addition to its cooling properties, antifreeze also plays a crucial role in preventing corrosion in the engine and cooling system. The chemicals present in antifreeze form a protective layer on metal surfaces, preventing rust and other forms of corrosion.

However, inadequate or incorrect levels of antifreeze can have adverse effects on the engine’s performance. Insufficient antifreeze levels can cause the engine to overheat, leading to potential engine damage or failure. On the other hand, using the wrong type of antifreeze or mixing different types can lead to chemical reactions that harm the engine’s components.

It is essential to maintain the proper antifreeze levels and to ensure the correct concentration of antifreeze in the vehicle. Regularly checking and replacing antifreeze is critical for maintaining the engine’s health and preventing costly repairs down the line.

The Significance of Antifreeze in Winter

Antifreeze is an essential component in a vehicle’s engine, particularly during winter months. It provides numerous benefits that help prevent engine damage and maintain optimum performance in cold weather conditions.

One of the most significant benefits of antifreeze is its ability to prevent freezing and cracking of the engine block and other components. When water freezes, it expands and can cause significant damage to the engine. Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of water, preventing it from freezing and causing damage.

Additionally, antifreeze ensures that the engine remains at the optimal temperature, even in colder weather. It acts as a coolant to dissipate excessive heat and maintain the temperature within the engine’s ideal range. This helps prevent overheating, which can cause significant damage to the engine.

Using the right type and concentration of antifreeze is crucial in ensuring optimal performance in cold temperatures. Diluted antifreeze can lead to inadequate protection, while too much antifreeze can negatively impact engine performance. It’s important to refer to the vehicle’s manual or consult a professional to determine the correct type and concentration of antifreeze.

In conclusion, antifreeze plays a vital role in engine maintenance, particularly in winter months. Its benefits in preventing engine damage and maintaining optimal performance in cold weather conditions highlight its significance to the overall health of a vehicle. By prioritizing regular checks and maintenance of antifreeze levels, car owners can ensure the longevity and reliability of their engines.

Antifreeze as a Corrosion Inhibitor

Antifreeze not only plays a crucial role in preventing engine damage, but it also acts as a corrosion inhibitor. The properties of antifreeze help protect metal surfaces from rust and corrosion, which can cause significant harm to a vehicle’s engine and cooling system.

The main chemicals present in antifreeze that provide its corrosion-inhibiting properties are the various organic acids, such as benzoate, phosphate, and silicate. These chemicals form a protective layer on metal surfaces, preventing the oxidation process that causes rust and corrosion.

It is essential to regularly flush and replace the antifreeze as recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer to maintain its corrosion-inhibiting properties. Over time, the chemicals in antifreeze can break down, leading to reduced effectiveness in preventing corrosion. Additionally, if antifreeze levels are low or the wrong type of antifreeze is used, it can cause corrosion to occur more rapidly.

Antifreeze’s ability to act as a corrosion inhibitor not only helps maintain the longevity and performance of a vehicle’s engine but also makes it a vital aspect of overall car care.

Proper Antifreeze Maintenance and Checks

Regular maintenance of antifreeze is crucial for ensuring optimal engine performance and avoiding costly repairs. Here are some steps to follow for proper antifreeze maintenance and checks:

  1. Check antifreeze levels regularly: You can do this by inspecting the coolant reservoir and making sure the level is between the minimum and maximum markings. If the levels are low, add a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.
  2. Inspect the coolant: Ideally, the coolant should be clean and free of debris. If it appears dirty or rusty, it’s time for a flush and replacement.
  3. Ensure the right concentration: The ideal antifreeze concentration is usually a 50/50 mix with water. However, it’s best to refer to your car owner’s manual for the recommended concentration. Adding too much antifreeze can cause corrosion, and too little can lead to freezing or overheating.
  4. Check the condition of hoses and belts: Inspect hoses and belts for cracks, leaks, or other signs of wear and tear. These components are critical for the proper functioning of the cooling system, and any damage should be addressed promptly.
  5. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule: Most car manufacturers recommend flushing and replacing antifreeze every two to three years, or as specified in the owner’s manual. Following this schedule can help prevent engine damage and extend the life of the cooling system.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your car’s antifreeze is properly maintained and functioning optimally. Regular checks and maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs and keep your car running smoothly.

Antifreeze Safety and Handling

While antifreeze is a crucial component of a car’s engine, it is also important to handle it with caution. Antifreeze contains chemicals that can be harmful to humans and animals.

One of the main antifreeze properties is its toxicity. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is poisonous and can cause serious health issues if ingested. It is essential to keep antifreeze out of reach of children and pets and store it in a safe place.

Antifreeze also has corrosive properties that can irritate the skin and eyes. In case of contact with skin or eyes, it is necessary to flush the affected area with water immediately. It is advisable to wear gloves and protective clothing when handling antifreeze.

Another antifreeze effect is its impact on the environment. Antifreeze can contaminate soil and water bodies if not disposed of properly. It is crucial to follow local laws and regulations for antifreeze disposal and recycling.

Proper handling and disposal of antifreeze are crucial for the safety of people, animals, and the environment. Always read the label carefully, wear protective clothing and gloves, and store antifreeze out of reach of children and pets. In case of spills or leaks, clean them up immediately and dispose of antifreeze according to local regulations.

Common Antifreeze Problems and Troubleshooting

While antifreeze is essential for ensuring the optimal performance of a vehicle’s engine, it can also cause problems if not properly maintained. Here are some of the most common antifreeze problems that car owners may encounter:

Coolant Leaks

One of the most common antifreeze-related issues is coolant leaks. These can occur for a variety of reasons, such as damaged hoses, a cracked radiator, a faulty water pump, or a damaged gasket. Coolant leaks can lead to reduced antifreeze levels and cause symptoms such as overheating or a sweet smell from the engine.

To troubleshoot a coolant leak, inspect the engine and cooling system for visible signs of damage or cracks. Check the hoses, radiator, water pump, and gaskets for any signs of leaks or damage. If the leak is not visible, a pressure test may be necessary to identify the source of the problem. In any case, it is best to address coolant leaks promptly to avoid engine damage or failure.


Another potential issue with antifreeze is engine overheating. This can occur if the antifreeze level is too low, the concentration is incorrect, or if the engine is operating at higher-than-normal temperatures. Overheating can cause damage to the engine and other components and may lead to costly repairs.

To troubleshoot overheating, start by checking the antifreeze level and concentration. Make sure the level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the coolant reservoir and test the concentration with a hydrometer.

If the antifreeze level and concentration are correct, check the thermostat, water pump, and cooling fan for proper operation. It may be necessary to flush and replace the antifreeze if it is old or contaminated.

Incorrect Concentration

Using the wrong concentration of antifreeze can also cause problems. If the concentration is too low, the antifreeze may not be able to protect the engine and other components from freezing or overheating. If the concentration is too high, it can decrease the effectiveness of the antifreeze and cause issues such as reduced heat transfer or corrosion.

To troubleshoot incorrect concentration, measure the concentration using a hydrometer and compare it to the recommended levels for the specific type of antifreeze being used. Adjust the concentration as necessary by adding either antifreeze or water until the correct level is achieved.

When to Seek Professional Assistance

While some antifreeze problems can be easily addressed with basic maintenance and troubleshooting, others may require the assistance of a professional mechanic. If the problem is severe or requires complex repairs, it is best to seek expert advice and assistance to ensure the problem is resolved safely and effectively.


Q: What does antifreeze do?

A: Antifreeze, also known as coolant, is a liquid that prevents the engine from freezing in cold weather and also helps in maintaining the engine’s temperature.

Q: What are the functions of antifreeze?

A: Antifreeze serves two main functions: preventing freezing of the engine in cold temperatures and acting as a coolant to dissipate excessive heat from the engine.

Q: What is the role of antifreeze in car maintenance?

A: Antifreeze plays a crucial role in preventing engine damage by protecting the engine from freezing and cooling it during normal operation. Regularly checking and maintaining proper antifreeze levels is essential for optimal engine performance and longevity.

Q: What are the different types of antifreeze?

A: The two main types of antifreeze are ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. These types of antifreeze have different chemical compositions and are used in various automotive applications.

Q: How does antifreeze keep the engine cool?

A: Antifreeze works as a coolant by absorbing heat from the engine and dissipating it through the radiator. This process helps in maintaining the engine’s temperature within the optimal range.

Q: What are the benefits of antifreeze during winter?

A: Antifreeze prevents freezing and cracking of the engine block and other components in cold weather. It is crucial to use the right type and concentration of antifreeze to ensure the best performance in freezing temperatures.

Q: How does antifreeze act as a corrosion inhibitor?

A: Antifreeze contains chemicals that help protect metal surfaces within the engine and cooling system from rust and corrosion. Regularly flushing and replacing antifreeze is necessary to maintain its corrosion-inhibiting properties.

Q: What are the proper antifreeze maintenance and checks?

A: To maintain antifreeze properly, it is important to regularly inspect antifreeze levels, check the condition of the coolant, and ensure the correct concentration of antifreeze. These steps help avoid engine damage and ensure optimal performance.

Q: What should I know about antifreeze safety and handling?

A: When handling antifreeze, it is important to be aware of potential hazards, such as ingestion or skin contact. Follow guidelines for safe handling and disposal, and be mindful of the environmental impact of antifreeze.

Q: What are common antifreeze problems and how can they be troubleshooted?

A: Common antifreeze problems include coolant leaks, overheating, and incorrect concentration. Troubleshooting tips and recommendations can be helpful in addressing these issues, but it is advisable to seek professional assistance for complex antifreeze-related problems.


As we have seen, antifreeze is a critical component in keeping a car’s engine running smoothly. Regular checks and maintenance of antifreeze levels are crucial in preventing engine damage, especially during winter.

Knowing the properties and composition of antifreeze and its effects on engine performance and corrosion inhibition can make a significant difference in the health and longevity of a vehicle.

It’s important to pay attention to the type and concentration of antifreeze used in your car and to follow proper handling and disposal methods to minimize safety risks. When encountering antifreeze-related issues, troubleshooting tips and professional assistance are available if needed.



Vide Polowenski, Senior Mechanic

The information in this article is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest mechanic SOPs.

Please take the time to leave a comment if this article has helped you in any way, you need additional help, or you have a suggestion.

Latest Posts

  • Crankshaft Position Sensor Lifespan

    Crankshaft Position Sensor Lifespan

    Crankshaft Position Sensor (CPS), is a pivotal component in your vehicle’s engine. Often referred to as the engine’s heartbeat monitor, the CPS plays a crucial role in ensuring optimal engine performance and efficiency. In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies of the Crankshaft Position Sensor’s lifespan, exploring the factors that influence its durability…

    Read more

  • Crankshaft Position Sensor Fuse Location

    Crankshaft Position Sensor Fuse Location

    This tiny component plays a significant role in the smooth operation of your vehicle’s engine, influencing everything from ignition timing to fuel efficiency. In this post, we delve into the often-overlooked but crucial aspect of vehicle maintenance and repair – locating and understanding the crankshaft position sensor fuse. The crankshaft position sensor fuse in cars…

    Read more

  • How to Replace Your Crankshaft Position Sensor

    How to Replace Your Crankshaft Position Sensor

    Replacing a crankshaft position sensor might seem like a daunting task, reserved only for seasoned mechanics, but with the right guidance, it can be an achievable challenge for even the most novice of car enthusiasts. This crucial component, often hidden within the intricate labyrinth of your engine, plays a pivotal role in the smooth operation…

    Read more