Uses propylene glycol as opposed to ethylene glycol, making it less toxic than other antifreezes. Protects from -26°F to 256°F. Wide range of uses, from motorcycles and high-performance cars to street vehicles. Phosphate-free.
Costs nearly twice the price of other antifreezes.
OAT engine coolant works to protect aluminum. 5 year/150,000 mile protection. Available as either a 50/50 premix or a concentrate. Free from nitrate, amine, and phosphate.
Limited application in that it is recommended for foreign vehicles requiring OAT engine coolant.
10 year or 150,000 mile money-back guarantee should you have issues with the product. Ships as a 50/50 premix, so no mixing needed. Includes a bittering agent.
Only works with specific cars and trucks. Pricier than other options.
Contains a bittering agent. Ships as a 50/50 premix. For use in a wide range of foreign and domestic cars and light trucks. Effective for 5 years/150,000 miles. Silicate-free. Good to -34°F.
Not available as a concentrate.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
While car antifreeze may seem secondary to oil and gas when it comes to the fluids you put in your vehicle, it’s a vital element to your vehicle’s operation. This is especially true in northern climates where extreme cold can quickly freeze fluids, resulting in burst hoses and other damage to your engine. A quality antifreeze can also help to protect your engine from corrosion and can help improve your gas mileage.
When shopping for car antifreeze, you will quickly discover a wide variety of brands and types. This may leave you with a number of questions. Do you need premixed antifreeze or a concentrated antifreeze? What are the different colors for? Are additives important? Would a particular antifreeze even work in your vehicle? For these reasons and more, choosing the right antifreeze can be challenging.
In our buying guide, we answer all of these questions to help you find the right antifreeze for your vehicle and environment. We also highlight a number of brands that we feel rise above the rest in terms of quality, features, and cost.
One of the first choices you will need to weigh is whether a premixed antifreeze or a concentrated antifreeze is right for you.
While it may sound counterintuitive, all antifreeze must be mixed with water before it can be put in your car. Some brands are sold as a concentrate that you mix your own water. Others ship as a premix; water has already been added.
Premixed formulas are convenient, and the standard blending ratio — 50/50 water to antifreeze — is recommended for colder climates. Concentrated formulas are made for those who wish to blend their own antifreeze mixtures. For example, in warmer regions where winter temperatures aren’t so extreme, a 70/30 ratio of water to antifreeze often works well and can save you money.
While antifreeze is made largely from glycol (due to its high boiling and low freezing points), the glycol is available in two different types: ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.
If you live where temperatures can plunge below zero in the winter, you’re going to want an antifreeze that lives up to its name. Antifreezes are rated to a variety of low temperatures that vary by brand or type. Some 50/50 blends are specifically formulated to stay in liquid form at temperatures as low as -50ºF, while most have minimum temperatures closer to -25ºF or -35ºF.
Check the antifreeze container or listing to verify what temperature it is rated for, and buy with your climate in mind.
Antifreeze in your vehicle will break down or become contaminated over time. This longevity can vary from brand to brand.
The standard is 5 years per 150,000 miles, but various antifreezes can range from 3 to 10 years and 50,000 to 150,000 miles before you will need to change them. To further complicate the issue, your own vehicle will have a maintenance schedule that may specify when antifreeze should be changed.
Using your maintenance schedule and the antifreeze brand recommendations, set up a schedule for when the antifreeze should be flushed from your vehicle and replaced. You should also keep an eye on the antifreeze, testing it for temperature ratings (inexpensive testers are easily found) and visually inspecting it for a muddy consistency that indicates it should be changed.
Some antifreezes are designed to meet the needs of specific brands of vehicles. Check the container or listing carefully to verify that an antifreeze can be used in your brand of vehicle.
About 40% of all vehicular breakdowns are caused by some form of failure in the antifreeze or coolant system.
One unique aspect of antifreeze is the variety of colors you can find it in. This is more than an aesthetic feature — the coloring here actually signifies different types of antifreeze. The two most common colors are green and orange.
A third type of antifreeze that is common is a hybrid OAT (HOAT), also known as G-05. It is available in a variety of colors.
Your best bet is to check your owner’s manual to verify what type and color you should be using in your vehicle.
Around 5% of a typical antifreeze is made up of additives or inhibitors that perform a variety of functions such as fighting corrosion and lubrication. Because these are often proprietary, manufacturers are not required to list them unless they are environmentally harmful. The two primary additives that we’ve mentioned — phosphates and silicates — are used in green antifreeze to protect iron, aluminum, and elements such as water pumps within the cooling system of your engine.
Another widely used additive is bittering agents, which are used to dissuade pets and children from drinking the antifreeze.
We’ve mentioned antifreeze’s toxicity several times, so this feature should be no surprise. Ensure that whatever antifreeze you buy has an effective childproof cap.
Ethylene glycol used in antifreeze and coolants can be extremely toxic, with as little as 3 ounces posing a lethal threat to a human adult.
There’s not a very wide price range involved when you are comparing the majority of antifreezes, which allows you to focus on brand name and antifreeze type.
Inexpensive: Most products start out around $15 per gallon. At lower price points, you will find more general antifreezes, usually with lower longevity and few special additives or features.
Mid-range: In the $20 to $25 per gallon range, you will find antifreezes that can go longer before having to be replaced, in addition to those that are geared towards more extreme temperatures.
Expensive: The most expensive antifreezes are often “high-performing” antifreezes that cost up to $30 per gallon or more. Antifreezes geared towards specific vehicles also fall into this range.
The primary job of antifreeze is to keep liquids within your engine from freezing and bursting hoses, pipes, and other coolant system features.
Due to the sheer number of choices you have, buying antifreeze can be a challenging process. As such, we wanted to include a few additional antifreezes here that we recommend.
Zerex Engine Coolant/Antifreeze is a best-selling option for use with Asian vehicles such as those produced by Toyota and Scion. It sells as a 50/50 premix and is guaranteed for five years or 150,000 miles.
MaxLife Valvoline Universal Antifreeze/Coolant is also a 50/50 premix that is for use with all makes and models of cars and light-duty trucks.
Finally, ACDelco Dex Cool Antifreeze offers decent value for a concentrate that you will need to mix with water yourself. This antifreeze is both silicate- and phosphate-free.
Q. Can I combine antifreeze colors?
A. While some antifreezes specifically state that they are safe to mix with all colors of antifreeze, this is not always the case. Mixing colors will usually end in one of several ways, none of them beneficial.
At the very least, you can dilute the additives that protect your cooling system. This leaves the additives either less effective or cuts down on the longevity of the antifreeze.
Mixing colors can also create a thick gel, which will flow poorly or not at all through your cooling system, causing the engine to overheat and damaging everything from water pumps and radiators to engine gaskets and heads.
Q. How should I dispose of antifreeze?
A. As all antifreeze is toxic to a certain extent, it should be handled with care when using and discarding it. When filling your radiator, promptly clean up any spills and hose the area down. Cat litter can be used to soak up antifreeze and can then be swept up and thrown away.
To properly dispose of antifreeze, contact your local garage or hazardous waste disposal office to find specific ways to deal with antifreeze in your area.
Q. Do I need to check my coolant level frequently?
A. You should check your coolant level about as often as you clean your radiator — at least once a year. In newer vehicles, you can usually do this without having to open the radiator simply by checking the level in the radiator reserve tank. Add antifreeze — of the correct color — to top up the fluid level to the “full” line on the reserve if necessary.
Be sure that the engine is cold when you check the levels of any fluids.
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.