Best Radiator Fluids Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Radiator fluids, also known as coolant/antifreeze, is one of the most important, yet least understood fluids circulating in your engine. Unless you drive an old Volkswagen Bug with an air-cooled engine, you have coolant/antifreeze circulating in your engine. If you have a liquid-cooled: motorcycle, ATV, UTV, riding mower, zero-turn, tractor… anything powered by an internal combustion engine that is liquid-cooled, read on! You need this stuff, and you need to understand it. The most important thing we can say, bottom line up front, is: read your owner’s manual, and follow its recommendations for antifreeze/coolant, and for recommended change times and mileages.
- Nissan 999MP-L25500P
- Best for Nissan
- Ford VC-3DIL-B
- Ford quality
- Mopar 68048953AB
- Mopar performance
It’s hard to develop a list of “best” products when a formulation of antifreeze/coolant that’s excellent for one car may actually damage another. We are presenting below a list of excellent products that will do a great job in the vehicles they are designed for. Read on as we discuss some of this with every product reviewed below. Remember that the metal, alloys, hoses, gaskets and seals are engineered differently from model to model, and the recommended coolant/antifreeze is designed to chemically interact with the particular materials used in your car. Long-term use of the wrong coolant/antifreeze can be devastating. That said, all the products that follow are high-quality mixtures that are approved by the automakers for their various applications. Read on to learn more about the…
10 Best Radiator Fluids
1. Nissan 999MP-L25500P
This Nissan Blue 999MP-L25500P Antifreeze/Coolant is an advanced formulation using P-HOAT (phosphated hybrid organic acid technology) chemistry to provide corrosion protection for your Nissan's engine.
When properly matched with the vehicle, this antifreeze/coolant will last up to 10 years or 135,000 miles. It may be suitable for other late-model Asian makes such as Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki or Mazda. Check your owner's manual for details.
Cost and value
This Nissan 999MP-L25500P Antifreeze/Coolant product is not inexpensive, but consider the expense of cooling system and engine repairs, and you'll agree that it's cheap insurance against trouble. We like that it's widely available, and you don't have to spend a lot of time searching for the correct antifreeze for your Nissan or Infiniti.
Distinctive blue for identification
Used in specific makes
2. Ford VC-3DIL-B
This Ford product is ready-to-use, do not add water, it is a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze/coolant and purified water which will protect your engine down to -34°F (-37°C) and up to 265°F (129°C).
Late-model Fords and some GM
This orange coolant meets Ford's specifications for some cars since 2010 and all Fords since 2013. It also meets GM's GM 6277M specification for late model GM cars using orange DEX-COOL. Repeat after us: check your owner's manual.
Cost and value
This convenient premix product is a good value for your recent model Ford and some GM cars.
Use in late model Fords
Good in some GM products
Not for use in older cars
3. Mopar 68048953AB
HOAT stands for Hybrid Organic Acid Technology. These antifreeze/coolant products use organic acids, not including 2-ethylhexanoic acid, but including some silicates to protect your aluminum engine parts. HOAT coolant/antifreeze was used by many European car manufacturers and also North American manufacturers like Chrysler and Ford in the mid about the 2002-2013 range. A HOAT antifreeze/coolant should be changed every five years or 150,000 miles and in accordance with your owner's manual.
This is the coolant/antifreeze that your Chrysler product came from the factory with between about 2002-2013. Continue using what your car was designed for! In no circumstance should you use green, IAT fluid in your newer car. The silicates and phosphates are likely to damage your engine.
Cost and value
This coolant/antifreeze is a good value for your recent model Chrysler product. Use it in accordance with your owner's manual.
Mopar factory protection
2002-2012 model years
Do not mix with any other chemistry fluids
4. Ford VC-7-B
This antifreeze/coolant will keep your Ford product protected at the level it came out of the factory. This is a concentrated antifreeze/coolant, it must be diluted with water (ideally deionized water) to the appropriate mix based on your ambient temperatures. A 50/50 mix generally prevents freezing down to -34 degrees F, and boiling up to 265 degrees F. Ford has been making cars for a long, long, time. We are confident their products are excellent.
Millions of vehicles
Motorcraft antifreeze/coolant made to this specification will fit literally millions of Ford vehicles of the road today. Check you owner's manual for exact fitment and change requirements. Do not mix this fluid with any other chemistry.
Cost and value
This is a premium quality product and it comes at a higher price. If it's what you need, it is worth every penny as protection for your investment.
2002-2011 Fords (some earlier and later)
Concentrate, must be mixed before use
5. Valvoline Zerex ZX001
This is good ol' lemon-lime fluorescent glowing green radiator fluid. It is approved in 1996 and older GM vehicles, 2002 and older Ford vehicles, and 2001 and older Chrysler products. We use it in our 1939 Ford tractor. Don't put this in anything newer than what you see above! It is not compatible with later vehicles. Consult your owner's manual!
It will do the job
This stuff will do the job, but you do need to change it ever couple of years or 30,000 miles or so to keep up its protective qualities. Don't try to stretch it any further, it loses its corrosion protection capabilities pretty quick, which the reason for the frequent service interval.
Cost and value
This is a less complex product, and tends to be a wee bit cheaper than the later, more advanced chemistry coolant/antifreezes. But you do have to change it more often, so over the life of your vehicle it might cost you more. Regardless, as we keep saying, consult your owner's manual. If this is the one you need, it's the one you need.
Good in older vehicles
Protects to at least -34 degrees F
Must be changed frequently
6. Mercedes Benz Q1030004
This is a HOAT coolant antifreeze, G48-type coolant, specified on Mercedes-Benz DBL 7700.20, Page 325.0. It can be used with all G05 (earlier Mercedes products) type fluids. It's also cross-compatible on these specifications: BMW N600-69.0, Caterpillar SEBU6250-12, Opel/General Motors B040-0240, Saab 6901599 and Audi Porsche, Seat, Skoda, VW: TL-774-C.
This antifreeze/coolant is the one delivered/used in mostly European cars. Except Caterpillar in the list above. Go figure. But, always check your vehicles documentation for the correct fluid to use. For example, this G48 fluid, according to the charts, should (emphasize should) be compatible with the G05 coolant antifreeze used in mid-2000s Fords and Chryslers. Why you'd want to buy antifreeze for your 15-year-old Ford at the Mercedes dealer, we don't know, but it could be done.
Cost and value
Once again, if this is the fluid you need, you need it. Cost, as you might guess, is a bit higher than average. It's not premixed, however, so you are really buying twice as much finished fluid when compared to 50/50 premix. European cars use specific antifreeze formulations, just as Asian cars do. Don't try to go too far afield when selecting a coolant. It's your car you're protecting. Give it a long happy life to keep you and your family happy too!
Backwards compatible with G05
Distinguishing blue color
HOAT chemistry slows corrosion
7. Valvoline MaxLife 719005
This Valvoline product is billed as compatible with all cars, and all types of antifreeze. Being a proprietary mix, it's difficult to tell exactly what's in it, though they do say they have Alugard Plus, and aluminum corrosion preventative in it. We can't figure out what Alugard Plus is, though, so we have to take their word for it.
But there's more
The Valvoline company recommends this for high-mileage cars, claiming to lubricate seals and gaskets as well. We are going to repeat our mantra: check your vehicle's owner's manual. You always want a high quality coolant/antifreeze circulating in your cooling system, that's certain. Don't hedge, and don't try to save money by using tap water in the summer. Tap water will promote scale and corrosion. If your system leaks, get it diagnosed and repaired, then refill your system with the correct fluid.
Cost and value
This was a little more expensive than some, but not too out of line in the cost department. It is available as both concentrate and 50/50 premix.
Universal for all vehicles
Compatible with all colors
Mix or concentrate available
Long service life
May not be as universal as claimed
8. Toyota 00272SLLC2
This Toyota 00272SLLC2 Engine Coolant/Antifreeze is going to be the right mix for your Toyota or Lexus, going back to the 1990s. Toyota has been using the p-HOAT chemistry in their engines since then. Toyota has become a perennial contender in NASCAR racing lately, they must know something about performance.
Halfway to the moon
Toyota claims a 100,000 mile life for their antifreeze/coolant, not a bad rating. You could drive halfway to the moon before looking around to get your car's cooling system serviced. Might be hard in space. But get your system serviced on time, you won't have a problem finding a shop to do it here on Earth.
Cost and value
This antifreeze/coolant is expensive, and it's premixed, so it's not like a 2-for-1 deal. Still, if it makes it to the 100,000 mile mark, it's be a decent value. If you are running a Toyota or a Lexus, this is definitely the coolant/antifreeze you need. You'll want to protect your investment by always using the correct fluids.
Works in all Toyotas
Stops freezing to -34 degrees F
9. Valvoline Zerex G-05
The Valvoline Zerex G-05 Antifreeze/Coolant, available in both concentrate and 50/50 mix packaging, and 1-gallon jugs to 55-gallon barrels, is approved by a bunch of manufacturers of both vehicles and engines: Chrysler, Cummins, Ford, John Deere, Mercedes-Benz, Case-New Holland, Mack, Navistar, Detroit Diesel, and Paccar, to name a few.
Zerex G-05 is formulated using a phosphate-free hybrid organic acid technology to prevent corrosion in modern car and truck engines, both gasoline and diesel powered. This ensures a long, trouble-free life for your vehicle's cooling system.
Cost and value
The cost of this product is moderate, particularly in comparison to some of the premium automaker-branded formulations. It's useful across many vehicles, we'd rate it a good value.
Approved by many manufacturers
OK in both gas and diesel engines
Make sure you know if you're buying 50/50 or concentrate
10. ACDelco 12346290
DEX-Cool's formulas has been adopted by Ford and Chrysler since about 2013. Check your owner's manual for what you need. DEX-Cool is even OK in older GM products that used IAT green from the factory. You must observe the old 30,000 mile or two year life on those older cars, though. However you choose to go, you know you need a good quality coolant/antifreeze in your system. Remember, not only does it prevent corrosion and carry away waste heat, your coolant/antifreeze prevents the liquid in your radiator freezing, keeping it liquid down to -34 degrees F, at a 50/50 mix.
ACDelco 12346290 DEX-Cool Coolant Antifreeze comes undiluted so you can choose your mixture for the ambient conditions. 50/50 mix protects from freezing down to -34 degrees F; more concentrated mixtures will allow safe vehicles operations in even the coldest polar vortex conditions. It will keep you from boiling over as well. With a 15-20 psi radiator cap installed, it will raise the boiling point in your radiator to 265 degrees F. That's a great safety margin.
Cost and value
ACDelco 12346290 DEX-Cool Coolant Antifreeze is not that expensive, considering it's not diluted, and mixing it 50/50 basically gives you two gallons for the price of one. We rate it a good value for that reason.
For the latest cars
Corrosion and boil-over protection
Backwards compatible in GM cars
Toxic to pets
Criteria Used in Choosing the Best Radiator Fluids
We looked at antifreeze/coolant technology in our journey through this list. They all use ethylene glycol, ditethylene glycol, and/or propylene glycol as the major component that carries heat away. after that comes additives to prevent corrosion. In your daddy’s day, that 351 Windsor engine had a cast iron block and heads, and the IAT technology antifreeze bonded well with the cast iron surfaces. That bonding process is called passivating. The silicates in the antifreeze formed a non-reactive surface layer, passivating the iron. As gas mileage requirements increased, the automakers started saving weight by using more aluminum. One of the places to do that was the heads. Aluminum heads, formerly a racing innovation, became mainstream. Accessories such as water pumps, went to aluminum as well.
Now the IAT antifreeze wasn’t good enough… it didn’t protect the aluminum very well. Thats when the OAT, or organic acid technology antifreeze came along. There have been further refinements and tweaks, like the newer HOAT, hybrid organic acid technology, and the p-HOAT, phosphated hybrid organic acid technology. You don’t need to sort it all out (unless your a garage geek, like we are), just follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual for what you need, or work with a service professional for your car’s needs.
All the additives in the antifreeze/coolant are what makes the difference in how it acts in your car. The mixtures used are proprietary, the ingredients not generally listed on the label. If you want to get an idea how it works (and you need something to put you to sleep), read US patent #3,291,741, Antifreeze Composition. Or, just follow your owner’s manual. Boy, we say that a lot, don’t we? But it couldn’t be truer. You vehicle, its engine, and its cooling system are united as a system of systems, if you will. All parts need to be operating well to keep it together as a harmonious whole. All the little things need to come together, and those antifreeze additives are an important one. If they are not correct, your car’s trouble-free life could be shortened.
We looked at specificity, or how specific a product was to its application. And they are, as it turns out, all highly specific. They are designed and formulated to meet manufacturer’s stringent requirements. Even the so-called universal fluids are meet requirements in various ways, or may have restrictions on use that keep it within parameters.
Ethylene glycol, the major component of many antifreeze/coolant mixtures, has a sweet taste. It was not unusual for an animal, usual a family pet, to encounter spilled antifreeze in the garage, driveway, or street, and lap it up like a treat. Within a few hours they’d be dead, poisoned by that same sweet substance. In some cases, children encountered antifreeze and suffered the same fate. In order to defeat that possibility, manufacturers, under pressure from state governments and animal rights groups, agreed to begin putting a bitterant (a substance with a very bitter, disagreeable taste) in antifreeze. The substance chosen is called denatonium benzoate. Since 2013, all antifreeze sold in the US has included it, eliminating risk to thousands of animals and children.
The product life in the engine has a lot to to with the technology and the additives. The old school IAT green antifreeze lasted about 2 years or 30,000 miles. The agent in the antifreeze that passivated the metal inside the engine lost effectiveness in that time/mileage frame. The antifreeze then needed to be replaced. The newer technology coolant/antifreeze fluids have corrosion preventative additives that just last longer, which allows the maintenance period to be extended. It’s not unusual to see antifreeze/coolants that are in the car when delivered from the manufacturer that have a design lifetime of 10 years or 150,000 miles. And when it does come time to replace them, they need to be replaced with radiator fluids with the same specification, to give the same life into the future.
We are strong believers in value, and yeah, that’s why we do what we do, helping you find them. Every one of these antifreeze/coolants will do its job and do it well. You can watch for value where you have two radiator fluids that will work in the same vehicle, but one’s a little cheaper. You can also save by watching the price of concentrate vs. 50/50 premix. If you buy a gallon of concentrate for $30, you’re getting two gallons of 50/50 mix. If you pay anything more than $30 divided by 2, or $15, for a gallon of premix, you’re better off paying for the premix. Of course, if all you need is a gallon of premix to keep around for topping off your car’s cooling system, then that might be the simple, easy way to go. There are a million ways to fill a radiator!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is engine coolant/antifreeze?
A: Engine coolant, also called antifreeze, is a colored liquid that serves two purposes in your car’s engine. It is mixed with water, usually a 50/50 mix. Its primary purpose is carrying away heat that is generated inside your engine. Its secondary purpose is preventing corrosion inside the car’s cooling system, and its third purpose is to prevent the coolant from freezing when the ambient temperature dips below that point. All three of these things are critical to good performance and trouble-free operation. Don’t skimp on the basics when it comes to servicing your car.
Q: How does engine antifreeze work?
A: The major portion of antifreeze is a chemical called ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol not only depresses the freezing point of water, but also elevates its boiling point. Pressure inside the car’s cooling system further elevates the boiling point of the mixture. The circulating mix carries heat from the hot areas of the engine interior to the radiator, where airflow carries the heat away. The radiator cap allows the pressure inside your cooling system to rise by raising the pressure to 15-20 psi before venting. The additional pressure raises the boiling point of your radiator fluid even further. Expect a boiling point around 265 degrees F with a 20 psi cap and a 50/50 mix of ethylene glycol-based antifreeze.
Q: What makes each coolant/antifreeze type different?
A: All antifreeze starts with the basic chemical mentioned above, ethylene glycol. Whatever the color of what’s in the jug, blue, green, pink or orange, all of them have the same base. But, and this is a big but, then different chemicals are added to protect the engine’s internals from corrosion. Each car has different metals making up the engine, and different materials for seals. Different types of antifreeze/coolant react differently with those metals and other materials. Some won’t protect from corrosion, and some will actually damage your vehicles parts if used where they don’t belong.
In the old days, the color of coolant/antifreeze depended on the type of corrosion preventative chemicals used. That meant you could tell something about the type of coolant according to its color. Early coolants that used Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT), additives such as silicate, phosphate, borate, or nitrite appeared blue or green in color (you all know that fluorescent neon green color, we’re sure).
Later coolant/antifreeze chemistries use Organic Acid Technology (OAT). OAT mixes offer superior protection for cooling systems, by using chemicals such as (ready?) 2-ethylhexanoic acid. These antifreeze/coolants are generally orange in color, and they usually offer extended service life over IAT coolants. There are also hybrid IAT/OAT antifreeze/coolants. Read your owner’s manual or consult a service professional to make sure you get the right substance in your car.
Q: How often does my car need new antifreeze/coolant?
A: Follow your owner’s manual recommendations. Ethylene glycol has no life limit, but the corrosion preventatives do. Older technology coolants (IAT) remain effective against corrosion in your engine’s systems for about two years, or 60,000 miles, then should be replaced. Newer chemical technologies, such as the aforementioned organic acid technology (OAT) can extend the life of your antifreeze to 10 years or 300,000 miles, which amounts to the life of the car.
Important note! You can’t just pour coolant/antifreeze that’s labelled “7 years or 150,000 miles”, or any other high time/mileage figures and decide you are good to go! Your coolant/antifreeze and the materials in your engine form a system. If the contents of the antifreeze you use doesn’t match your engine’s internals, corrosion will occur. You’ll find yourself with a leaking cooling system, or worse, devastating damage to your engine internals. Always use the correct coolant/antifreeze.
Q: What’s in antifreeze coolant?
A: It depends on the formulation. Usually the primary ingredient is ethylene glycol, though diethylene glycol is used, and in some cases the not-so-good tasting propylene glycol is used to discourage children or animals from consuming it. Additives for corrosion protection are them put in: IAT (inorganic additive technology), OAT (organic acid technology), HOAT (hybrid organic acid technology, and p-HOAT (phosphated hybrid organic acid technology). Use only the chemistry specified for your car; never mix chemistries. If you are forced to in an emergency, you will need to flush your cooling system and refill it with the correct fluid.
Other components of modern antifreeze include coper corrosion inhibitors to protect the radiator, antifoaming agents, lubricants, and anticavitation agents. All these combine to protect and preserve the internal parts of your vehicle’s cooling system, including engine block, cylinder heads, gaskets, pumps, hoses, tanks, and radiator.
Q: What is Organic Acid Technology (OAT)?
A: OAT stands for Organic Acid Technology. OAT coolant/antifreeze contains additives such as 2-ethylhexanoic acid, sebacic acid, and other possible organic acids. These compounds passivate (seal the surface against corrosion) metals, and have a long life doing it. They may have a service life of up to five years or 150,000 miles.
Q: Do antifreeze/coolants colors mean anything?
A: The green color of the original IAT was a facet of the additives used, and a disodium fluorescein dye to add in locating leaks. Later formulations have been dyed different colors, but the proliferation of types of coolant/antifreeze has led to a situation where you cannot rely on color alone to decide if an antifreeze is correct for your vehicle or not. You must read the label and determine if it’s the correct fluid for your car.
Q: Where do I put coolant in my car’s system?
A: Usually, antifreeze/coolant is added in a plastic reservoir located in the engine compartment. It is normally made of translucent plastic, with fill lines on the side so you know when and how much fluid to add. Never open the radiator cap and add it directly there. That’s doubly true if the engine is hot, because releasing that pressure on a hot engine could cause it to instantly boil, yielding a geyser of hot antifreeze aimed at your face. That’s not good. Read your car’s owners manual for details and even more safety warnings.