The effects of using the wrong coolant in your car Complete Guide

Are you concerned about what could happen if you use the wrong coolant on your car?

Read on to understand the possible adverse effects of using the wrong type of coolant, and find out what best suits your car. You don’t want to take any risks with your beloved car, do you?


This guide will cover the potential effects of using the wrong coolant in a vehicle. It is critical to know what type of coolant is recommended for your car, as many modern cars require special coolants that do not work in all models.

This document will provide an overview of the types and properties of different fluids, as well as offer several tips for choosing and maintaining your car’s cooling system. We will also provide advice on how to dispose of any hazardous materials so you can keep your vehicle running safely.

With more information on how to properly take care of your car’s cooling system, you can ensure an efficient and reliable performance from your car without putting yourself at risk.

Importance of using the correct type of coolant

It’s very important to use the right type of coolant in your car, truck, or SUV. Using the wrong one can introduce contaminants that can damage your vehicles cooling system. It can also reduce the life span of many components including the engine and other parts of the cooling system. Contaminants added to a closed system such as that used in modern cars can cause problems in radiator and water pump seals, resulting in costly repairs later on. Different types of coolant offer different levels of protection, which is why it is important to use the recommended one for your vehicle’s make and model.

There are a few key things you need to know when selecting coolant for your vehicle:

  • You need to select a compatible type based on what type has already been used in your car.
  • Always check with your manufacturer’s recommendations for using their specific type or brand of coolant
  • Choose a coolant specifically designed for heavy duty vehicles and commercial fleet applications if appropriate.
  • Make sure that you follow regular maintenance practices as advised by your owner’s manual. Keep up with all scheduled inspections to ensure that there are no leaks present, as even small amounts of contamination from outside sources can quickly reduce cooling system effectiveness over time.

Overview of the effects of using the wrong coolant in your car

Fortunately, the consequences of using the wrong coolant in your car are usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, it is important to be aware of them in order to prevent permanent damage or unsafe driving conditions. Generally speaking, when you use coolant that’s not specifically designed for your make and model or year of car, the performance of your vehicle may suffer.

Using a wrong coolant can potentially cause three distinct problems:

  1. System Overheating: The wrong kind of coolant won’t transfer heat as efficiently and may cause the cooling system to overheat.
  2. Internal Damage: Contamination due to an incompatible mix of different types of coolants can lead to rust, corrosion and deposits that can clog up and damage internal components over time.
  3. System Failure: Incorrectly mixed coolants may react with certain metals within the system that can lead to blockages, bursting hoses or seals that can compromise system functions and eventually cause it to fail altogether.

It’s also worth noting that incorrect mixing can affect whether or not a vehicle is road legal – be sure to check what kind of coolant you need before refilling!

Types of Engine Coolant

When you are choosing the right coolant for your vehicle, you need to be aware of the different types of coolants and their varying levels of protection. There are four main types available on the market today: Organic Acid Technology (OAT) coolants, Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) coolants, traditional Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT) antifreeze/coolant, and silicate-free IAT coolants.

Organic Acid Technology (OAT) Coolant – OAT technology is a form of ethylene glycol-based automotive engine coolant that includes organic acid. It has superior heat transfer protection and can last up to five years or 150,000 miles before requiring a full system flush and replacement. It is compatible with all types of aluminum radiator water pumps, dissolves easily in water, is polyglycol chemistry based rather than glycerin-based like IAT fluids and it reduces sediment build up in radiators and water jackets while protecting against cavitations due to its superior lubricity properties. OAT antifreeze is predominantly made up of ethylene glycol formulated with two organic acid additives; sebacate and 2-ethylhexanoic acids.

Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) Coolant – Hybrid OAT technology is a form of ethylene glycol-based automotive engine coolant that includes an additional organic chemistry for extended life performance. It has superior heat transfer protection and can last up to six years or 150,000 miles before needing a full system flush by an automotive technician certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). It provides superior corrosion protection because it contains both organics acids as well as inhibitors such as phosphate to support certain alloys in aluminum radiators. HOAT antifreeze is also predominantly made up from ethylene glycol but it also: features nitrite-free formulations; offers enhanced compatibility with seals commonly found on aluminum radiators; and helps reduce buildups of mineral deposits in radiators due to its superior lubricity properties.

Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT) Antifreeze/Coolant – Traditional IAT antifreeze/coolant is a form of ethylene glycol-based automotive engine coolant that includes inorganic additives. It has superior heat transfer protection and can last up to three years or 50,000 miles before requiring a full system flush and replacement. It is compatible with all types of aluminum radiator water pumps, dissolves easily in water, and provides superior corrosion protection due to its superior lubricity properties. IAT antifreeze is predominantly made up from ethylene glycol formulated with inorganic additives such as silicate, borate, nitrate, and phosphate.

Inorganic Acid Technology (IAT)

Inorganic Acid Technology (IAT), also known as conventional coolants, is the most common type of coolant used today. It was developed as a replacement for earlier products such as sulfated based anti-freeze. IAT contains silicates, which act to prevent corrosion inside of cooling systems by forming a protective layer on cooling system components.

This type of coolant is recommended for most vehicles with aluminum cooling systems, including those with an aluminum radiator, water pump, and heater core. However, if neglected over time it may cause these components to corrode due to the presence of corrosive minerals in the coolant and acidity buildup from contaminants in the system.

To ensure optimal performance and longevity of IAT it must be changed every 2 years or 24 thousand miles (whichever comes first) with an IAT specific antifreeze/coolant fluid containing nitrite/amine additives to protect against liner pitting and cylinder head corrosion.

Organic Acid Technology (OAT)

Organic Acid Technology (OAT) coolants are created from different synthetic chemicals and carboxylate acid salts. They are still a hybrid, but last longer than IAT and HOAT coolants. Many manufacturers use OAT for newly manufactured cars.

The recommended replacement interval for OAT coolant is recommended at five years or 150,000 kilometers, however each vehicle should be checked individually. Because some OAT coolants contain phosphate additives, making it sensitive to aluminum and magnesium components, it should not be added to any cooling system unless the percent of phosphates is checked beforehand. Using the wrong type of coolant can damage materials such as seals and gaskets in your engine cooling system leading to costly repairs.

There are two main types of OAT coolants; Dex-Cool- extended life antifreeze/coolant made by General Motors and a fully formulated extended antifreeze/coolant which can be purchased at automotive stores.

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Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)

While Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant (ELC) will work in some applications, many modern vehicle manufacturers use Hybrid Organic Acid Technology or HOAT. HOAT coolants generally include a variety of additives in addition to traditional antifreeze components and have the ability to resist corrosion and cavitation in high temperature automotive cooling systems. This type of fluid typically has more complex formulas than other coolants and generally contains silicates, borate, phosphate, and organic acids like sebacate or 2-EHA.

It is important to note that not all HOAT coolants are created equal. If a vehicle manufacturer specifically calls for it, you must use the correct fluid for that application. If you decide to switch brands or grades of coolant, be sure it meets the exact specifications required by the vehicle manufacturer to ensure optimal protection and performance.

Effects of Using the Wrong Coolant

When the wrong type of coolant, or coolant additives, get into the cooling system, it can lead to several different problems. In some cases, these problems are minor and easily solved, while in others they may indicate a much larger issue and require extensive repairs. This section will discuss three of the most common effects of using an incorrect coolant in your car’s engine.

The first effect is decreased efficiency due to a decrease in flow rate. When non-antifreeze coolants are added to the system, they tend to gum up and slow down the flow of water and antifreeze within the engine’s cooling system. This increase in resistance reduces the amount of heat which can move through the system which leads to a decrease in overall performance from you’re vehicle.

The second effect is corrosion due to acid attacks from incompatible additives in non-compatible coolants. These acid attacks degrade metal components within your engine and cause them to deteriorate over time. If left untreated for too long this corrosion can lead to catastrophic failure being suffered within your engine and costly repair bills which may be necessary if the issue is not fixed quickly enough.

Finally is an increase of stress on other vehicle components such as pumps or hoses thanks to increased debris build up that comes with using non-compatible coolants. This debris can clog your radiator hoses as well as your pump impellers leading to both reduced power output as well as overheating issues if they are not regularly de-clogged using cleaning chemicals or services offered by mechanics or automotive repair shops.The use of wrong coolants can also lead accumulation minerals such rust particles or other compounds which can result in degrading performance levels for these employees over time if not dealt with promptly enough by either service personnel or yourself when possible.

Corrosion and Rust

Using the wrong coolant in your car, or not refilling the coolant when needed, can have extremely damaging effects on your vehicle. The antifreeze serves an important function of maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the cooling system and preventing the buildup of rust and corrosion.

When incorrect coolant is used, rust and corrosion will start to form on vital components like hoses, radiators and engine blocks which over time can reduce performance, damage the engine and cause it to fail. Corrosion contributed to by using the wrong coolant can damage rubber parts like hoses, gaskets, seals and plastic components like wiring connectors as well.

In addition to this buildup, while some modern cars have been designed to be compatible with any color antifreeze/coolant in terms of function (“universal”), not all are; so it is essential that you use only the right one for your car!

Blockages and Clogging

Using an incompatible coolant in your car can often lead to blockages or clogging of the cooling system. This can occur if the wrong coolant or mixture of coolants enters the cooling system, causing deposits and corrosion.

Some incompatible coolants may not mix with the engine’s lubricants properly and form a gel-like substance that impedes proper flow of liquids, leading to a rapid build up of heat or pressure caused by blockages in the system. In some cases, these blockages can lead to engine parts melting or even catching on fire if left unattended for too long.

To avoid this issue altogether, always ensure that you use the type of coolant specified by your car’s manufacturer.

Overheating or Underheating

Using the wrong coolant can mean that your engine runs too cool or too hot. Too much coolant can mean the engine does not heat up properly, whereas not enough can lead to overheating. Overheating and underheating can produce a variety of symptoms including increased fuel consumption, strange noises and poor performance.

If overheating, it may cause the gasket to blow, which could damage other components of the engine. Further dangers include a build-up of sludge which can block up crucial components like water pumps or heaters, meaning they cannot regulate temperatures as they should. When running too cold the engine has a tendency to burn off oil because it is not reaching its optimum temperature quickly enough. Oil loss at this stage is particularly dangerous as further wear and tear will occur.

It’s important to remember that these effects vary in severity depending on how much you misdiagnosed when adding your coolant- if you simply added conventional instead of long life then you may suffer from less severe side effects such as reduced efficiency than if you had mistakenly added diesel anti-freeze -which is designed for Diesel engines and may contain additives which are damaging to petrol engines-. As a general rule, always refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to fill-ups; auto shops should be able to advise on suitable alternatives if needed.

What Happens if You put the Wrong Coolant in Your Car?


After examining the effects of using the wrong coolant in your car, it is clear that neglecting to use the specific coolant indicated by your manufacturer can have serious consequences. Not only can it damage various components of your vehicle, but ignoring the standard of care could even lead to dangerous outcomes.

It is important that you carefully select the coolant used in your vehicle and ensure that it meets your manufacturer’s specifications. Ensure you are using both a proper concentration of coolant and addressing any routine maintenance needed for optimal performance. Taking necessary precautions and following these guidelines can help increase the life expectancy of your vehicle and its parts.

Remember, if you’re ever unsure about what kind of coolant to use, consult with a trusted automotive professional or with your car’s owner’s manual.

Recap of the effects of using the wrong coolant in your car

When coolant, or antifreeze, isn’t changed regularly, it can cause a number of issues with your car. The most common problem associated with old coolant is corrosion which occurs when acidity levels are too high in the coolant. This corrosion affects engine components such as pistons, gaskets and water pumps, leading to premature wear and tear or even complete failure of these parts. In addition to preventing corrosion, regular coolant changes help maintain a stable pH balance, which has an important anti-freeze function in the system.

If you are using the wrong type of coolant for your car model it can also lead to long-term damage to your vehicle’s cooling system. If a glycol-based coolant is used where an ethylene glycol one should be used instead you may run into problems such as damaged rubber seals and gaskets due to incompatible chemical reactions between them. Another common side effect of using incorrect antifreeze is silicates or phosphate deposits that form when these chemicals start breaking down at high temperatures over time. Doing this will result in the blockage in small passages of the engine, resulting in overheating and engine damage.

Importance of using the correct coolant

Coolant serves two main purposes: to help keep your engine running at optimal temperatures and to protect against corrosion. Therefore, it is extremely important that the correct type of coolant be used for your car.

For instance, some vehicles require a coolant that contains a specific amount of silicate; other vehicles require a low-silicate, extended-life type of coolant. Using the wrong coolant in your car can cause permanent damage, including electrolyte leakage and cylinder head destruction.

Additionally, using the wrong cooling system design for your particular vehicle can wreak havoc on its effectiveness by reducing cooling system flow rate or introducing air pockets into the system which hinder its ability to both heat up and cool down properly.

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