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How Long Can I Drive A Car Without Coolant?

By now, you probably know that your car engine becomes quite hot when your car is running. If there is nothing to cool it down, engine parts can overheat and get damaged. That is why every engine uses a fluid called a ‘coolant’ that circulates around the engine, preventing overheating.

But what happens if you run out of car coolant? Is it safe to continue driving your car at that point? If you’ve had these questions pop up in your mind, you’re not alone. And we’re here to give you the correct answer.

First, let us understand what a coolant does.

What does an engine coolant do?

A vehicle coolant performs three very important functions:

  1. It prevents your engine parts from freezing when it’s cold
  2. It prevents overheating at very high internal temperatures, and
  3. It lubricates the engine components when your car is running.

What are the components of a coolant?

Car engine coolants are a combination of a special fluid called antifreeze and water. You can get antifreeze fluid separately, but it must then be mixed with water to form the coolant. However, please make sure this mixing is done by your trusted mechanic as they know the proper ratios.

The safest option is to buy a pre-mixed car coolant, which will already contain the right combination of antifreeze and water.

Vehicle coolants also usually contain some other additives to prevent corrosion and rust formation inside your engine.

What happens when my car is low on coolant?

If your car is low on coolant, you will immediately see some warning signs.

  • The coolant warning light on your dashboard will come on, indicating there is something wrong
  • Your temperature gauge will be higher than usual. This means your engine is not being cooled down enough and has become very hot.
  • If you own a modern car, it may have an automatic engine shut-off. If this mechanism is present, your car engine will automatically stop when it becomes dangerously hot.
  • If you don’t have an auto shut-off, then you may notice steam or smoke coming out from under the bonnet, along with a sweet smell.

Whenever this happens, head to the nearest petrol station or service center and top up your car coolant. Your car manual or mechanic can tell you how to pick the best engine coolant for your car.

What happens if I drive my car with no coolant?

If you ignore these signs and continue to drive your car without coolant, your engine parts will get badly damaged – maybe even permanently – due to overheating. That is why it is very dangerous to drive your car when you are low on coolant.

How often should I get my car coolant checked?

As your engine runs, your coolant slowly gets used up. The water evaporates, and the anti-corrosion additives will expire. That’s why your service center will recommend you do a ‘coolant flush’ every so often.

During a coolant flush, your car’s engine and radiator system will be flushed out, removing any build-up of old coolant, dirt or rust. After this, your car mechanic will fill up your car with fresh coolant.

Conclusion: Never drive your car without coolant

So, in summation, it is best not to drive your car without coolant. If you discover that you are running low and there is no gas station nearby, then it is recommended that you should call for assistance. Do not continue to drive as you may end up permanently damaging your engine.