What Can You Use in Your Car if you Run Out of Antifreeze?
Jack Dreyer | Friday 4th February 2022 12:15pm
Picture this. A cold winter morning, the school run, you’re late. And just like that, you’ve run out of antifreeze. What now?
Yes, it’s happened to the best of us. And yet, for many of us, we just don’t seem to learn. Checking your car’s antifreeze levels should be one of the many vehicle checks you should carry out before driving, especially in the winter.
To save yourself some hassle this winter. do yourself a favour: read on, and buy yourself some spare antifreeze to keep in the boot!
Why antifreeze is your best friend
Before we start, it is worth stating that alternatives to antifreeze should only ever be used in an emergency.
As a fluid that keeps your car running, antifreeze is crucial to driving in both the summer and the winter months. There is no real ‘replacement’ for it, since it has been formulated over the years to perform its heating and cooling functions better than anything else.
Antifreeze is a specialist, intelligent fluid that responds to the stimuli of your vehicle, and it would be a mistake to think that water or other fluids can perform in the same way.
But what is antifreeze exactly?
In short, antifreeze is a liquid that gets added to an engine’s cooling system to reduce the temperature at which the water in there freezes. In cold weather, water naturally has a freezing point of 0 degrees celsius. However, when antifreeze is added, this temperature is lowered dramatically.
Should the water in the cooling system freeze, serious damage could be caused to not only the radiator, but other crucial engine components. This can cost an awful lot to repair or, in some cases, need to be replaced entirely.
Antifreeze also puts in a shift during the warmer months. It also raises the boiling point of the coolant to prevent your engine from overheating. As well as this, the chemicals inside the antifreeze work to reduce corrosion rates, assist in heat transfer processes, and prevent scale from building up inside your engine.
So, it is safe to say that antifreeze really is your car’s best friend.
To find out more about the origins and unique formula of antifreeze, head over to another of our blogs here.
Different types of Antifreeze
Since it does so much for your vehicle, it would make sense for there to be more than just one type of antifreeze on the market, right?
You can use the concentrated form, which will require mixing with the water in the engine coolant reservoir, or opt for the ready-mixed solution. Also, if your car was manufactured after 1998, it will require antifreeze that uses OAT (organic acid technology) and silicate free solution.
No antifreeze. What now?
Ok, so you’re still out of antifreeze and the school run isn't getting any easier. Since you should really only turn to antifreeze alternatives in an emergency (and this is an emergency), we’ll let you off this once.
Below are a few alternatives to antifreeze that can be considered in an emergency:
If you’re in a jam, plain, distilled water is your best bet for a temporary fix. It is better to have some liquid in your cooling system rather than none, after all.
However, using water as a replacement coolant comes with a caveat. Unlike antifreeze, the freezing point of water is much higher. This runs the risk of your pipes freezing if your car is left to sit in cold conditions for too long. Hence why water should only be used as a highly temporary convenience, not as a long term alternative.
If you can, pour some water into the empty antifreeze bottle and then into the reservoir to get any remaining liquid out.
Again, take this with a pinch of salt. If good quality engine coolant cannot be obtained, then there is always the option to make your own to prevent damage to your engine.
Since engine coolant is made from water and ethylene glycol (the chemicals making up antifreeze), some people opt for a makeshift option. However, it is strongly recommended that you seek professional advice when tampering with your engine and the fluids in your vehicle as it can be extremely dangerous. Why not let the experts at Kwik Fit help you out instead?
Lastly, some drivers disregard antifreeze as a viable option for their vehicles altogether. Instead, the environmentally conscious may opt for a greener alternative. ECO2 is a plant-based antifreeze alternative that, when mixed with water, has the potential to lower the freezing point of the coolant significantly, reducing concerns surrounding expansion and bursting pipes.
As with any alternative to ’the real deal’, however, we would strongly advise you to discuss your options with professionals, like our Kwik Fit specialists, first to avoid any harm occurring to your vehicle.
Speak to the experts
If you’re concerned about your engine coolant or under-bonnet area, it’s a wise option to let the experts handle it.
Get in touch with the friendly team at your local Kwik Fit and be sure to book in for one of our many safety checks. For problems relating to antifreeze, we’d recommend opting for our Winter Safety Check, variety of Engine Treatments, Vehicle Safety Check, or simply a service.
Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.
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