Can I Use Water Instead of Coolant in my Car?

Can I Use Water Instead of Coolant in my Car?

Can I Use Water Instead of Coolant in my Car

Most automobile owners have used water instead of coolant in the radiator. Isn’t it?

Technically, water can be used in emergencies but it is strictly not recommended by vehicle manufacturers. Water is not a long-term solution in both extreme summer and weather conditions.

With high mineral content, water acts as a host to many serious problems. It can cause rust, cracks, and overheating. Whereas coolant wipes away the heat produced from the combustion.  

Different types of coolants from different brands are available in the market. Read this article to know what coolant is and which coolant you should buy for your automobile or truck.

What is Coolant?

In simple words, Coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze used to remove excess heat by pumping around the system. A coolant also helps adjust and balance the engine temperature. They contain

  • ethylene glycol
  • propylene glycol, and 
  • Methanol.

Do you know what the role of coolant is? Yes, of course, it is used to lower the engine temperature!

Sometimes Engine coolant is also referred to as “antifreeze” and is poured into the car radiator. It serves different purposes in winter and summer.

In winter, coolant prevents liquid from freezing and cracking in the radiator. Whereas it prevents radiator overheating in summer. 

How does the Coolant Work?

When you drive an automobile, the engine creates a lot of heat during the combustion process. This heat needs to be cooled down consistently otherwise it can create a complete motor failure.

The antifreeze directly flows into the passages of the engine block and cylinder heads. Its function is to absorb the heat while passing through the engine to the radiator. It slowly moves to the thin tubes of the radiator. There is also a blowing fan in the radiator. In a nutshell, this circulation process helps to remove excess heat from the system.

Different types of Coolants

There are three types of antifreeze that have been specifically made for different engine types. They are 

  1.  Inorganic acid technology (IAT).
  2. Organic acid technology (OAT).
  3. Hybrid organic acid technology (HOAT).

Read in detail to know which coolant works best for your automobile.

#1. Inorganic acid technology (IAT)

IATs work best for older model cars manufactured before the mid-1990s. It contains anti-corrosion properties that protect metal parts of the system such as the engine, radiator, and other elements as well. It is bright green in color and needs to be replaced after every two years or after 30,000 miles.

#2. Organic Acid Technology (Oat)

OAT is a widely used coolant in most newly manufactured cars. The major benefit is this coolant suits almost all car types. The color of OAT coolant may vary from orange to dark green. It consists of corrosion inhibitors and other additives that prevent the engine and radiator from rusting. It’s way better than IAT and lasts for around 5 years or a minimum of 150,000 miles.

#3. Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)

HOAT is the upgraded version of OAT and has been formulated for luxurious cars. HOAT is usually a dense orange or yellow color. The mixture not only prevents the radiator from corrosion but also protects aluminum elements in the engine. You need to change HOAT coolant after every 5 years or 150,000 miles.

Do’s & Don’ts of Changing Coolants

  1. Don’t switch to another type of radiator fluid without the recommendation of a car expert.
  2. Do Check your car user manual to know which coolant is best for your car.
  3. Do not try mixing different types of coolants with each other. It will even make the performance poorer. 
  4. For concentrated antifreeze, you need to formulate a mixture with distilled water. Use 1:1 proportion in summers. For extremely cold climates, use 60%-70% of coolant and the rest water. 

Important Note: Be very careful when using antifreeze! As the fluid contains some hazardous chemicals and causes damage if inhaled into the body. The attractive colors may seem like some sort of aerated drink. Keep them away from kids and pets.

Coolant Versus Water: Why you should not use water?

Three factors are often compared that explain why coolant should not be replaced with water.

#1. Boiling Point

The boiling point of water is comparatively lower than the working temperature of the automobile. That means there are probably high chances of your vehicle getting overheated. The water will evaporate in summer or get frozen in winter. Your car will stop working and you will have to let it cool off the vehicle very frequently. Also, over usage of water in the radiation can cause corrosion in the engine.

#2. Freezing Point

Are you living in an extremely cold climate? Then the water is definitely going to freeze in the radiator and you’ll have to switch to coolant sooner or later. We suggest before it damages your radiator and engine, it’s better to always pour suitable coolant into your vehicle.

#3. Corrosion Problems

Whether you are using normal running water or distilled water, there are different minerals that will form a layer of deposits in the radiator. It will prevent the radiator from working properly. The rust will form faster. To avoid all such risks, it’s better to use antifreeze which already contains anti-rust properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use water instead of Coolant in an emergency?

Though we don’t recommend it. You should always carry extra coolant in your car. But still, water can be used in an emergency.

How do I know which coolant is best for my car or truck?

Take out your car manual or service handbook, you’ll get the desired information about coolant specifications. The other way is to notice the color of the coolant and check when the car is cold. 
If the coolant is green in color, then it belongs to the Inorganic Additive Technology category and prevents metal corrosion.

How to pour Water into a Car Radiator?

In emergency situations, when using water in the radiator is the only option     
Although it is preferable to use as little water as you can, you may face some urgent situations in which you have to put water in the radiator. If you still carry this question: can I use water instead of coolant in an emergency? Your answer is conditional yes. If you’re stuck without any antifreeze, probably you want to know how you should put the water in. Here’s how to do it:
1.  Never do this when the outside temperature is really low.

What is the problem with using water in the cooling system?

FYI, Water freezes at 0°C and can cause serious damage in winter conditions such as cracks and warps in your automobile engine. In summer, the operating temperature of car engines reaches beyond 100°C. Whereas the boiling temperature of the water is 100°C which evaporates and causes overheating in the engine.

Wrapping up

A right antifreeze as recommended in the car manual serves various functions according to climate. It raises the boiling point in summer and lowers the freezing point of water in winter. So overall it does its job perfectly while maintaining the temperature of the engine, and prevents your engine from depositing build-up and corrosion.

In an emergency, if you have to use plain water, then make sure you choose to use distilled water that contains low minerals. But we suggest you keep a backup of suitable coolant.

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