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How to choose the right antifreeze for your car?

How to choose the right antifreeze for your car?

Does the colour of the antifreeze matter? Is it worth using a universal antifreeze? How to understand product markings (e.g. G11, G12, G13)? You will find the answers to these and some other questions related to antifreezes in the article below.

The fluid in the vehicle cooling system – how important is it?

To prevent the drive system from overheating, the heat generated by the engine must be collected and transferred to the radiator. And this is exactly what antifreeze is responsible for. For the entire cooling system to function properly, it is necessary to change the antifreeze periodically. Although theoretically there is nothing complicated about it, it does take some commitment on the part of the mechanic or the car owner. First of all, you need to choose the right fluid for a given car model.

Damage to the cooling system is one of the most common causes of vehicle failures. An independent study found that scale and rust formed in the cooling system in 7 out of 10 vehicles. You should also bear in mind that even a 0.6 mm layer of deposits on the walls of the radiator may reduce the heat transfer by as much as 40%. The most common causes of damage to the cooling system include infrequent antifreeze changes and using the wrong or poor-quality fluid. The use of undiluted antifreeze concentrate is also a serious mistake.

The antifreeze market is changing together with the advancement of the automotive industry. Manufacturers of more and more powerful state-of-the-art engines recommend using fluids with specific properties. So how to choose the best antifreeze? We should definitely follow the information specified in the vehicle documents. In the case of older cars, the classification made by Volkswagen group may serve as some kind of simplification. You can select an antifreeze for a given year of car production, according to the following markings:

  • G 11 antifreeze – cars made between 1989  and 1996
  • G 12 antifreeze – cars made between 1996  and 2001
  • G 12 + antifreeze – cars made between 2001  and 2004
  • G 12 ++ antifreeze – cars made between 2004  and 2008
  • G 13 antifreeze – cars made after 2008

*Note: For cars made after 2013, it is worth checking the vehicle documents as for the type of antifreeze to be used.

Which antifreeze to choose?

After determining the right type of antifreeze, you should consider the choice of the product’s brand. You need to check if a given antifreeze has approvals and certificates from leading car manufacturers. If it does, it will mean that the antifreezes of this manufacturer are factory filled. For example, Kemetyl antifreezes have numerous approvals and certificates from brands such as Volkswagen, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, DEUTZ or DAF. The company’s practice translates into the quality of products available on the secondary market. The features that distinguish Kemetyl antifreezes are high corrosion protection and the highest level of protection of the cooling system. Thanks to the high-quality inhibitors, each Kemetyl antifreeze provides protection against corrosion, cavitation (damage caused by a sudden local change in the liquid state) and deposit formation. On the market, you may find antifreezes with the same markings but significantly different in terms of quality. Fluids from the lower price range often contain  considerably simplified corrosion inhibitor package. It means a high content of glycerin, which translates into deterioration of cooling parameters, foaming of the antifreeze and its low effectiveness in preventing corrosion.

Antifreeze markings – how to read them?

When you are choosing an antifreeze it is good to know what the abbreviations placed on the packaging mean. First of all, glycol and water are always the main components of any antifreeze. Manufacturers most often use mono ethylene glycol (MEG) or mono propylene glycol (MPG). The latter is much more environmentally friendly but also more expensive to produce. From the point of view of antifreeze effectiveness, it is irrelevant which type of glycol is used. What is relevant, though, are the other components i.e. additives and corrosion inhibitors which have an influence on differentiation between antifreezes.

The oldest generation of fluids are IAT type (Inorganic Acid Technology). This technology uses mineral inhibitors that create a thick layer protecting the cooling channels in the radiator against corrosion. Unfortunately, because of the low durability corrosion inhibitors, antifreezes of this type need to be frequently replaced. Otherwise, there is a risk of blocking the channels by silicates precipitating from the antifreeze over time.

OAT (Organic Acid Technology) antifreezes are based on organic acids which create a much thinner yet more durable protective layer ensuring better thermal parameters. The durability of the protective layer translates into the possibility of extending the replacement intervals. OAT fluids do not contain silicates. They are not intended for use in some old type radiators as they may cause leakage – they dissolve the lead solders and some types of seals used there.

HOAT (Hybrid Organic Acid Technology) antifreezes are, in turn, a combination of the above two technologies. They contain both organic acids as well as silicates and borates. It is currently the most widely used technology on the market. Kemetyl, as a renowned manufacturer of antifreezes, has developed the above solutions offering LOAT (Lobrid Organic Acid Technology) antifreezes which combine the advantages of HOAT and OAT fluids, supplementing them with a package of the premium quality additives. The inhibitors used in them are organic acids with a small admixture of silicates. LOAT antifreezes are recommended for the so-called hi-tech engines that meet the latest Euro 6 emission standards.

Selecting antifreezes based on their colour?

The method of selecting an antifreeze based on its colour, common in the old days, definitely cannot be seen as reliable. In extreme cases, it may even be harmful to the vehicle cooling system. The colour of the antifreeze is a matter of manufacturer’s choice – there are no standards that would require a manufacturer to give a specific colour e.g to fluids made in a specific technology. Most manufacturers follow a few basic unwritten rules – OAT antifreezes (G12 and G12+) tend to be pink, while HOAT ones (G11) blue-green. However, relying on this parameter may easily lead to mistakes as many car manufacturers (Volvo, Renault, PSA) use their own specific antifreeze colours.

Can antifreezes be mixed?

The vast majority of manufacturers do not recommend mixing different types of antifreezes. This can only be done in an emergency, when we notice a significant antifreeze loss. Antifreezes are easily mixable if they have the same base (mono ethylene glycol – MEG or propylene glycol – MPG) but in any case, combining different sets of inhibitors may significantly reduce the anti-corrosion properties of the fluid. We should avoid mixing antifreezes containing different base substances, i.e. MEG with MPG and produced in different technologies.

It is good to have in mind that driving with a mixture of different antifreezes will have fewer negative consequences than its insufficient amount. However, it is advisable to replace such a mix of fluids with a new antifreeze during your next visit to the garage.

Universal antifreezes available on the market should mainly be used when you need a refill in an emergency situation. If you want to use them in a total antifreeze change, you should check their exact parameters and determine if they comply with the recommendations specified in the vehicle documentation. However, antifreezes dedicated to specific cooling systems will always be a better choice than the universal ones.

Kemetyl offers a wide range of antifreezes designed for use in passenger cars, trucks, agricultural and construction machines as well as various types of industrial  and heating systems. Do you want to learn more about Kemetyl antifreezes?

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