Whether you do your own cooling system flushes or are just topping off your cooling system after a repair, using the right coolant is critical to the life of your car’s engine and all cooling system components. The recommended coolant for your car is listed in your owner’s manual. If you use the wrong coolant or mix two different types of coolant you can actually cause early water pump, radiator, heater pipes and heater core failure. That’s because corrosion inhibitors are designed to be compatible with the specific metals used in the engine and cooling system. Each inhibitor package also has to be compatible with the types of plastic and rubber used in seals, gaskets, and tubes used in your particular engine. If you mix coolants, the corrosion inhibitors in one type of coolant can be incompatible with the additive package of the coolant already in your car. The inhibitors in the added coolant can reduce the effectiveness or even cancel out the performance of the corrosion inhibitors of the old coolant. Worse yet, topping off or flushing with the wrong coolant can damage the plastic and rubber seals and gaskets used in late model engines. The damage may not show until you’ve racked up 5,000 or more miles. But when those parts fail, you probably won’t connect the dots and realize they failed because you used the wrong coolant.
If you can’t find the exact coolant for your engine at an auto parts store, buy it at the dealer. You may spend a whopping $10 more than you would for the “universal” coolant stocked at the auto parts store, but at least you’ll get the right coolant for your car. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Changing coolant prevents premature radiator and heater core failure. That said, make sure you know these ways you’re wasting money on your car.