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Is it time to top-up your antifreeze?

Along with the right engine oil, antifreeze is the most important liquid in your vehicle’s engine - vital for keeping your car running smoothly.

Antifreeze is a chemical liquid, primarily made of ethylene glycol, which is mixed with water to lower the water’s freezing point and increase it’s boiling point. It also has additives that protect the engine’s components from corrosion and scale build up, whilst also improving heat transfer.

Antifreeze is available either premixed with water or as a full strength solution that you can make up yourself. If you are planning on diluting the solution yourself you should only use distilled water and never tap water.

Different dyes are added to antifreeze mixes to change their colour and with a range of colours available it is advisable to follow your vehicle manufacturers recommendations when selecting the right one. Avoid mixing different antifreezes as this can cause problems for your engine.

If you think your engine coolant may be low here are some of the key signs to look out for;

  • High-temperature gauge: After driving your car for a while you should be familiar with the temperature the gauge usually sits at. If you notice that it is creeping higher and edging into the red this is the first major sign that the cooling system is not working as it should.
  • Interior heaters not working or blowing constant hot air: A vehicle’s interior heaters are powered by the same residual heat that is collected from the engine by the cooling system. If you notice that the heaters are not working or blowing a constant stream of hot air then this indicates that there is a problem in the engine.
  • Reduced fuel economy: When a car is running at an optimal temperature it will burn fuel efficiently. However, if the car is overheating then you will notice that the MPG rate rises significantly.
  • Coolant dashboard light: If your coolant dashboard light appears whilst you are driving the vehicle you should pull over immediately. This is displayed once the engine has reached its temperature limit and continuing to drive could cause irreparable damage. It is often displayed as a thermometer with wavy lines next to it.