What’s the Difference Between Coolant and Freon?
You may assume that your car’s coolant and Freon (sometimes called refrigerant) are the same type of chemical and serve the same purpose. However, while they are both undoubtedly crucial for a vehicle’s health, these two fluids serve different purposes and are not interchangeable.
At Endurance, we know how important it is to keep your vehicle on a regular maintenance schedule. If you don’t, it can affect the way your car runs and even how long it will last. Infrequent maintenance can also sometimes void your manufacturer’s warranty, extended warranty, or auto protection plan.
To help you better understand these key differences and explain why checking these fluids often is crucial, let’s take a closer look at exactly what coolant and Freon are and how they help your vehicle run properly.
What Is Coolant?
Many vehicles have a combustion engine, which uses small, controlled explosions to power your car forward. If these explosions are left unchecked, you can run the risk of overheating your engine, which is why coolant was designed.
Apart from this primary function, coolant also helps lubricate your vehicle’s various components, which helps protect against possible damage.
The Purpose of Coolant
The coolant system that keeps your vehicle’s engine cool is complex and constantly working as you drive. While the engine is on, your vehicle’s water pump powers the coolant system and continually moves coolant from the engine to the radiator.
As it travels throughout the engine, the coolant absorbs the heat given off before making its way to the radiator. Here, the coolant is cooled by the outside air entering through your vehicle’s grill while driving. From this point, the coolant then returns to its original starting and will continue this loop for as long as your vehicle’s engine is running.
To protect itself from overheating, your engine has an internal thermostat located under your vehicle’s hood that tracks the temperature of the coolant liquid. If the temperature reaches a certain threshold, the thermostat will direct the coolant back to the engine to absorb more heat before returning to the radiator for cooling.
While primarily used to avoid overheating, coolant liquid also contains antifreeze, protecting your engine from freezing and providing a barrier against rust and other potential contaminants. However, as with most liquids inside your vehicle, you will likely need to replace the coolant. If you are unsure when you should replace the coolant within your vehicle, check your owner’s manual. You may also visit your local repair shop, as many mechanics will test for this if/when you bring your vehicle in for a milestone check-up.
It is also important to know that most modern combustion engines use this type of coolant system. That’s because older vehicles used an air coolant system, so if your vehicle is an older make/model year, check back with your owner’s manual or a certified mechanic before attempting any DIY maintenance to your coolant system.
What Is Freon?
While coolant your engine cool, Freon is the primary component used to keep you and other passengers cool with your vehicle’s air conditioning system. Originally called R-12 Freon, this form of the chemical was found to cause ozone damage, resulting in the Environmental Protection Agency outlawing it in 1994. Since then, vehicles have used the more common R-134a Freon.
The Purpose of Freon
Within your air conditioning system is a component known as the air conditioning or A/C compressor. This piece of equipment compresses the Freon gas into a liquefied state before moving it to a condenser. Here, the hot Freon is exposed to outside air entering from the vehicle grill, cooling it before being converted into a gas.
In this stage, the newly formed Freon absorbs heat within the air conditioning system, ensuring that only cool air is left behind. The results of this process can be seen when you activate your A/C, as this newly cooled air cool air is what is sent back into the cabin via the HVAC system of your vehicle.
If you begin to notice any troubles with your A/C, such as it suddenly blowing warm air, you may need to refill your Freon.
Key Differences Between Coolant and Freon
While coolant and Freon may serve similar purposes in that both help avoid overheating, they work in different areas of the vehicle and are thus not interchangeable. Instead, coolant is designed to keep your engine cool and will remain in a liquid state within its system. On the other hand, Freon is a gas that is converted into a liquid and then back into a gas before creating the cool air you feel in the cabin when your car’s A/C is on.
Replacing the coolant in your vehicle will not result in cold air from your A/C system. Likewise, replacing Freon will not help to cool off your engine or other parts under the hood.
For a quick breakdown, here are just a few of the key differences summarized:
- Freon removes heat from a car’s cabin, whereas coolant removes heat from the engine
- Freon switches between being in a gaseous and liquid state, whereas coolant remains a liquid throughout its process
- Coolant will not affect your A/C temperature
- Freon will not cool your engine
- Coolant contains antifreeze, unlike Freon
Along with these differences, both components need to be replaced at different intervals, depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer. Following your owner’s manual is the best way to help ensure you stay on a proper maintenance schedule for your vehicle.
Save Money On Auto Repairs and Maintenance
Regular maintenance and upkeep on fluids like coolant and Freon can help the longevity of your car and keep unexpected repairs or maintenance to a minimum. After your vehicle’s factory warranty has expired, a vehicle protection plan could help you save thousands of dollars and have more peace of mind on the road.
Endurance breakdown protection could be just what you need with a range of coverage options and customizable plans. Whether you are looking for lower-level protection or nearly bumper-to-bumper coverage, there’s a plan to suit your needs and budget. Contact us online to receive a free, no-obligation quote or call at 1-866-918-1438.
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Since opening her ASE Certified repair shop in 1979, Ayers Automotive Repairs, Nikki has devoted much of her professional life to providing dependable, trustworthy auto repair services in her local community. Her team of certified technicians has helped thousands of car owners for over 40 years by offering various services from general repairs to handicapped vehicles.