Having the word “freeze” in its name leads many people to conclude that antifreeze is only for the winter months. You may be tempted to only add water to your engine’s coolant system during the summer, but if you do, you’re likely to cause significant damage to your vehicle.
In spite of its name, antifreeze does a lot more than prevent your coolant from freezing in cold weather. Before you start adding straight water to your coolant system, keep in mind that antifreeze has these properties:
- Antifreeze raises the coolant boiling point and lowers its freezing point. As you know, water will freeze at 32° F (0° C) and boil at 212° F (100° C). Most car engines are designed to run near 200° F (93° C), which means that your water may boil inside the engine. This will lead to catastrophic engine failure. Running a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water will typically raise the boiling point to 265° F (129° C). This will prevent the coolant mix from boiling inside the engine under normal circumstances and avoid expensive repairs.
- Automotive antifreeze contains corrosion inhibitors to help reduce galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion, mistakenly referred to as “electrolysis,” is a chemical reaction that causes materials to breakdown. When dissimilar metals are in contact through an electrolyte solution, one metal, the anode, will dissolve and collect on the other metal, the cathode. This process is used in batteries to produce an electrical current, but in your cooling system it causes the anode metal to corrode and eventually fail. Antifreeze helps prevent this process with additives that prevent the flow of electricity. Since water can become a terrific electrolyte solution, it will allow this process to happen much faster if you do not combine it with antifreeze.
- The fluorescent green color of antifreeze can help you identify leaks. That vibrant green liquid pooled beneath your car may very well be your first indication that you have a coolant leak. If you just have water in your system and the leak is mild, it may evaporate before you have a chance to notice it or you may mistake it for condensation from your air conditioning system. There is no mistaking the bright green of antifreeze, and you’ll immediately know you have a leak somewhere in your system.
Never run straight water in your coolant system. You are guaranteed to have significant damage to your cooling system and possibly your engine. Always use a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and distilled water (please don’t use tap water as the impurities in it can cause significant issues as well). If you find that you are constantly having to replace coolant in your system, bring your car by or give us a call at 1-800-223-4299 so we can help you determine what you need to do.