Why You Should Check Your Coolant Before Winter

A person changing their vehicle's coolant.

Winter is quickly approaching, and many people across the country are already beginning to bundle up and stay warm. While it’s important to prepare yourself for winter, preparing your car for the cold weather ahead is also essential. 

Following your vehicle’s specific maintenance schedule is often considered the most critical step to take when it comes to protecting your vehicle. But smaller maintenance tasks like checking your engine coolant can also play a key role in keeping your engine healthy throughout the frigid fall and winter months. 

To help you prepare your vehicle this winter, learn about engine coolant before winter and the steps you can take to change it on your own.

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The Importance of Checking Your Coolant Before Winter

To ensure you get the most out of your vehicle, stay up-to-date on all its maintenance needs and check your coolant. Your owner’s manual contains your maintenance schedule on how often you should change your coolant, with most vehicles typically recommending every two years or 30,000 miles.

But why is coolant important? While primarily used to help keep your engine from overheating, such as in the summer months, coolant also helps in keeping your engine from freezing. It also acts as antifreeze in the winter months to help keep your engine running efficiently.

Does My Car Need Antifreeze in the Winter?

While your engine coolant contains antifreeze, these liquids are not the same thing. Antifreeze is an ethylene glycol-based liquid that does not freeze or boil easily, while engine coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and distilled water. When added to water, the ethylene glycol in antifreeze lowers the freezing temperature of your engine and raises the boiling point, allowing the liquid to circulate through the engine bay regardless of the season.

Engine coolant is typically a 50/50 split of antifreeze and distilled water, but some mixtures are made of a 70/30 antifreeze and water. To find out which one your car needs, check your owner’s manual or visit a nearby certified repair facility.

How to Change Your Coolant

While checking and changing your coolant is essential, it is also a task you can do at home. First, make sure the engine is completely cool and put on protective eyewear and gloves. Next, identify the coolant reservoir and remove the cap to inspect the car coolant. Coolants come in red, green, blue, or yellow, so check to see your color. If you notice that your coolant looks ‘rusty’ or if it has debris floating in it, it’s best to take the car to a local repair facility or ASE Certified mechanic

If the liquid is colorless and there’s no rusty residue, you can change your coolant on your own. However, it’s vital that you do not mix coolant or use coolant that is not recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer as it could potentially lead to more extensive engine issues.  

To change your coolant, follow these simple steps below: 

  1. Put on protective eyewear and gloves.
  2. Next, similar to changing your car’s tires, raise the car using a jack and stands. Once the vehicle is secure, using your owner’s manual, locate the radiator. 
  3. Once located, place a container directly under the radiator to catch any coolant that will be drained. This is important as coolant is toxic to both you and the environment and will need to be disposed of properly.
  4. Next, remove or open the radiator drain plug or bolt (depending on the type) and wait for all the coolant to drain into the placed container. Once empty, replace the plug or bolt and safely dispose of the toxic drained coolant following.
  5. Now that the radiator is empty, it is time to rinse out the system. To do this, you will need to pour rinsing fluid into the reservoir. Next, drain the system again in the same way you did with the coolant, reserving the drained fluid in a sealed container to dispose of responsibly.
  6. After the radiator is rinsed and the plug or bolt is replaced, you can now fill the coolant reservoir with your new coolant. Be aware, as bubbles of air in the cooling system can form when replacing your coolant. To help, it’s recommended to run the engine for a few minutes with the coolant reservoir cap off. Once ready, allow your engine to cool completely before replacing the coolant reservoir cap.
  7. After the reservoir cap has been replaced, your car is ready to go! All you need to do is clean up any spilled coolant and wash your gloves and hands thoroughly. You will also need to dispose of the toxic coolant that you drained from your radiator by following instructions from your local officials.

Protect Your Vehicle This Winter with Endurance

Save on your car, truck, or SUV’s preventative maintenance needs this winter with a vehicle protection plan like EnduranceAdvantage™. Get comprehensive breakdown protection for your car’s most vital components and with up to $3,500 in regular maintenance coverage. That means routine services such as oil and filter changes, engine diagnostic exams, and more are all covered at no additional cost to you. EnduranceAdvantage customers also have access to even more coverage and savings with several special, one-time services, including a brake pad/shoe replacement, and cooling system maintenance. 

For more information about any Endurance protection plan, call 866.918.1438 or request a free online quote. Our Learning Center can also provide you with more resources and information from our auto experts to help you keep your vehicle running for longer.

A Vehicle Service Contract (VSC) is often referred to as an “auto warranty” or an “extended car warranty,” but it is not a warranty. A VSC does, however, provide repair coverage for your vehicle after the manufacturer’s car warranty expires. A VSC is a contract between you and a VSC provider or administrator that states what is a covered repair and what is not. Not all vehicles qualify for coverage; Endurance does not offer VSCs in California.