Refrigerants and types of antifreeze, everything you need to know for winter

Although he resisted at first, winter is here now with its low morning temperatures, frost and the problems associated with this homely season. In the car, we begin to have concerns such as maintaining a pleasant temperature in the cabin, we want to clear the windows of mist and condensation, we began to worry about the adherence on the asphalt, and we should also spend time thinking about the antifreeze.

Antifreeze is a liquid that is sometimes confused with coolant but is actually a feature that comes “standard” in the coolant. There’s a bit of a mess here in terms of terminology, so the first thing we have to do is be clear about what fluid we’re talking about.

Coolant or antifreeze?

The combustion engine needs to maintain a constant and optimal operating temperature so that it does not break down, or even melt if things get hot. For this purpose, it has a liquid cooling circuit through which our friend, the coolant, flows. This liquid has several components, and each of them performs a function.

What it has to do is meet a number of requirements, among others, it must have a good heating capacity, it must be sufficiently fluid in its useful temperature range, it must take care of and clean the whole cooling circuit, and it must not freeze. This is said in a very summarized way, but it comes to the hair for what we want to count. The cooling fluid must circulate without resistance, must not freeze at “usual” temperatures, nor must it evaporate at normal use temperatures.

This is why this liquid is usually composed of a concentrated antifreeze, which has been previously diluted in distilled water. It contains additives that promote its fluidity, which clean and maintain the cooling circuit perfect. It is therefore a multipurpose liquid, but above all, vital for the engine to last for many years.

What happens if we run out of anti-freeze fluid?

The first thing is that it is very rare for antifreeze to leak. The cooling circuit is usually ultra-protected and very tight, so it is very rare to see the liquid level drop noticeably. Anyway, it is convenient to check from time to time that the liquid level is kept where it should be (we see it now), just as we must check the other liquids, the tire pressures,…

If we are left with little cooling liquid… we take it clear. The liquid must remain between the maximum and minimum marks always, and if we control that it goes down gradually, we must fill the tank. If it is lost at “good speed”, that is, if we notice it clearly, we must go to a specialist to check the circuit.

To fill the coolant, we should consult the car manual to know which product should be filled, because if for any reason we make a mistake (we fill with organic over inorganic, for example), we will get a quite unhealthy paste for the car (head to the workshop).

As a side note, we must remember that the coolant must be changed every two years, what happens is that it is usually included in the maintenance checks, and we do not usually pay attention to that fact.

And what do you really mean by antifreeze?

Perhaps, since the car’s engine operates at temperatures around 90°C, we wonder why we need antifreeze. Well, actually it is nothing that affects the engine itself directly, but indirectly, because with the low winter temperatures we can suffer freezing … in the cooling circuit.

In other words, with really low temperatures, the coolant would freeze if it did not have enough antifreeze capacity. And if there is no good cooling, the engine suffers, breaks down, or dies. So it is essential that this antifreeze exists.