Vehicle manufacturers have used a wide selection of extended-life coolants over the years. Every one of those coolants also has different colors and chemical formulas. On the market, you can find green coolants, orange coolants, blue coolants, yellow coolants, red coolants, and even those colored pink. These differences in colors and formula can also cause confusion among vehicle owners and car technicians. Without clear guidance from the manufacturers, people are confused about the type of antifreeze they need to use on the cooling systems, especially on late-model vehicles.
This article will not attempt to provide you with a complete list of compatible OEM coolants and the colors that can be used on each model from the vehicle manufacturers. This is because the list will be very long. After all, each manufacturer will have specifications, including the type of corrosion protection the coolants have, the chemical compatibility, and the service life. You can usually check out the requirements from your vehicle’s manual or look for the label on the reservoir of the cooling system. The owner’s manual will also notify you about the coolant chemistry compatible with your vehicle. For instance, coolants with hybrid OAT formulation can be used for Ford and Chrysler vehicles.
You should also not judge the coolant chemistry based on the color of the coolant itself because the similar color in coolants does not mean that both have similar chemistry. Meanwhile, some coolants have different colors but are formulated with the same chemistry. Furthermore, the colors of your coolant can also change depending on the coolant color used to top off the system.
The discussion for coolants can also get more confusing when we get to the detail and specification of each type of coolant.
Types of Coolant
The types of antifreeze can be divided into three categories:
GREEN Antifreeze. This original universal formula was used until the introduction of modern coolants with the extended-life formulation and is mostly used in North America. This type of antifreeze uses fast-acting silicate and corrosion inhibitors formulated with phosphate. These chemicals have been proven to provide temporary protection for metallic material surfaces. This type of antifreeze is also suitable for any vehicle, given that the chemistry formulation is suitable for Asian and European cars. But, the application should always refer to the vehicle’s manual since some vehicles will strictly require the usage of hybrid OAT coolants. The downside of this antifreeze is that the corrosion inhibitors have a short usage, which will need to be changed after 30,000 miles of travel or three years of usage. Some newer types have claimed they can be used for up to 50 miles of travel.
OAT-Based Extended-Life Coolants. OAT, or Organic Acid Technology, is a coolant formulation that uses sebacate and 2-ethyl hexanoic acid (2-HEA), and other organic acids to form the liquid. This coolant does not use silicates or phosphate, except in the pink-colored extended life coolant from Toyota that uses a small amount of phosphate for the antifreeze formulation. This type of coolant is usually colored slightly differently to make it easier to distinguish them from the green antifreeze popular in North America. For instance, the OAT coolant from GM is colored orange, while Volkswagen and Audi colored the coolant pink. Meanwhile, Honda also has an extended life OAT-coolant colored dark green, but the liquid does not have 2-ethyl hexanoic acid (2-HEA).
OAT-coolant also has corrosion inhibitors in the liquid, but the usage is usually much longer compared to the ones that are being used in traditional green coolants. As a result, you can usually use the OAT coolant for up to 150,000 miles of travel or five years of usage. This means you should change the coolant after five years even though the odometer is lower than 150,000 miles.
On newer vehicles that use aluminum and cast iron as the material for the components, the usage of OAT corrosion inhibitors is excellent for providing long-term protection for the metallic materials. But, this type of coolant may not be the best choice for cooling systems in older vehicles that use copper or brass materials for the heater core and the radiators. Green formula antifreeze is usually suitable and recommended if you have an older vehicle.
Hybrid OAT Coolants. This type of coolant normally uses different types of organic acids but without the usage of 2-EHA. Usually, the manufacturer will add a small number of silicates to the liquid, which will provide excellent quick-acting protection for the components that are made from aluminum. Various European and Asian vehicle manufacturers use Hybrid OAT coolants for their products. Ford and Chrysler also use this type of coolant for some of their cars. Some of the market antifreeze might be sold with different colors than the OEM coolants, but the liquid will still be suitable if the chemistry is correct.
One problem that might occur from using this type of antifreeze is that the silicate can get dropped out of the liquid formulation. As a result, the particle will have an abrasive effect on the metallic material inside the cooling system. This will usually cause a faster-worn condition on the seals around the water pump and the plastic impellers. Other components that might get affected are the plastic radiator end tanks and the metal heater core. Some manufacturers avoid this problem by using stabilizers to prevent the dropping out of silicate from the solution. Some also tried to lower the number of silicates used in the coolant. Late-model vehicles with newer diesel engines usually require you to use the HOAT coolant that has a low silicate formula.
The HOAT coolant can be used for up to 150,000 miles of travel or about five years of service life.
The Recommended Antifreeze for Your Vehicle
You should always refer to your vehicle’s manual to find out the type of antifreeze you should use for the cooling system. Your vehicle manufacturer might also recommend the correct type of antifreeze, especially if your vehicle is still under the warranty period.
For instance, Dex-Cool or other similar antifreeze that can meet the specifications of GM6277M, SAE J1034, ASTM D3306, J814, J1941, or ATA RP-302B can be used on General Motors vehicles. You might also need to check the Federal Specification A-A-870A.
For Ford vehicles, the antifreeze specifications are included in the Ford WSS-M97B51-A1.
Meanwhile, Chrysler’s vehicles produced in 2001 or more recently should use coolants that can meet the Chrysler MS9769 specifications. It would help if you also used the HOAT coolants.
Ensure you always check the owner’s manual for your vehicle to find the correct type of coolant that is suitable for your vehicle.
If your vehicle’s warranty period has run out, you might be able to use the same type of antifreeze with a similar specification that the manufacturer used. But, you might also be able to switch to “Universal Coolants” that have been formulated to match all vehicle models.
While the usage of universal coolant might contradict the explanation from different types of antifreeze requirements, some universal coolant products are manufactured to be suitable for any coolant. Some manufacturers have also claimed that their products can safely be used on any vehicle.
The innovation behind the universal coolant is to eliminate the confusion that might occur when a vehicle owner needs to choose the correct type of coolant they have to use. The universal coolants will only have one basic product that can be used on any vehicle. This is, of course, a much simpler solution for the cooling system.
But, not everyone will agree with the usage of universal coolants, which is why we still mostly see three basic types of coolants available in the market:
- The traditional green coolants should be used for older vehicles and vehicle owners who want to reduce the budget for cooling system maintenance.
- The extended-life product is produced with OAT-based coolant.
- The hybrid OAT should suit newer vehicles from Ford, Chrysler, and other European manufacturers.
Universal coolants still offer the best advantage compared to other products because they will not confuse which product should be used on each type of vehicle. Suppliers will also only require less space to stock the coolants. The usage will also benefit vehicle owners because they will only be required to get the same type of antifreeze to be used on any vehicle they have.
Universal cooling manufacturers have also claimed that the products use a chemistry formula compatible with foreign or domestic cooling systems. You can also mix the universal coolants with every OAT or hybrid OAT coolant type.
The service life of extended-life OAT or hybrid OAT coolant will also not be affected if you top off the cooling system with a universal coolant. You can still use your coolant for up to 150,000 miles of travel or five years of service life. Meanwhile, if you top off your traditional green coolant with universal coolant, you can still use your coolant for up to 3 years or 50,000 miles of travel.
But ensure you can fully drain the cooling system if you want to refill it with a universal coolant. This is to ensure that there are no contaminants on the components. This process will also maximize the service life of the universal coolant. If you drain the radiator, about a third of the old coolant can stay inside the block.
If you previously used the traditional green coolant for the system, using the universal coolant will not be able to give you extended protection, and it will still be the same as the original coolant.
You should also note that the usage of universal coolants and extended-life coolants will still need to be changed over time. This is because the corrosion inhibitor’s quality will get reduced over time, and the coolant has to be changed to replenish the inhibitor. Generally, most coolants must be replaced after five years of service life. Corrosion problems might occur if you use the old coolant longer than you should.
New Coolant Type of Chrysler Vehicles from Model Year 2013
In the past, Chrysler has used the G-05 Hybrid OAT coolant with a low silicate formulation. The company will change the coolant formula for vehicles produced in 2013 after using the same coolant for over a decade.
Chrysler will now use a new coolant formulation with straight OAT coolant with orange color. This is different from the Dex-Cool that GM uses. The new coolant from Chrysler will not have 2-EHA since that compound can damage the silicone gaskets and seals. This coolant can be used for up to 10 years of service life or 150,000 miles of travel. The company will fill all new cars and light trucks with this coolant.