How to Choose an Antifreeze

Winter is not just about white trees, snowflakes and other Christmas images outside the car window. This is also the dirt on the windows, streaks from the wipers and the problem of choosing washer fluid.

Windshield washer fluid should not contain methanol – everyone knows this. It is too poisonous and harmful. And all available washer fluids are sold without it.

However, the “useful” liquids we buy stink like a real poison. Sometimes, the driver's eyes start watering and his head begins to hurt. “What’s the matter, gentlemen?” we asked our chemist friends. We attended a small lecture not on chemistry but on stereotypes.

In many cases, windscreen wipers can be ineffective without washer fluid. That is why the fluid issue is so important In many cases, windscreen wipers can be ineffective without washer fluid. That is why the fluid issue is so important

Three alcohols and one legend

An antifreeze may be based on one of the three alcohols: ethanol, methanol and isopropanol. The first is a component of vodka. It is expensive because of excise taxes. The second is terribly poisonous, although it is cheap and very fluid in the cold. The third is expensive, but it is not vodka or poison… Therefore, all washer fluids are officially produced on the basis of isopropanol. They also contain water (about 60-70 %), a few detergents and flavorings, with the help of which manufacturers hope to dissipate a strong smell of isopropanol. As a rule, it turns out poorly.

But the one that hurt the most in this story is that according to chemists, methanol is no more toxic than isopropanol. Under some conditions, isopropanol is even more dangerous than methanol. Moreover, methanol harms the body only when it gets inside the body. In this case, it would be worth banning another half-dozen automotive liquids: antifreezes, brake fluids and oils can also be consumed if desired.

In severe frost, an antifreeze based on isopropanol becomes viscous and modern wipers do not apply it to the windshield. But those who still have wipers with usual spray nozzles are lucky In severe frost, an antifreeze based on isopropanol becomes viscous and modern wipers do not apply it to the windshield. But those who still have wipers with usual spray nozzles are lucky

There are other important advantages of methyl alcohol – it does not have that strong smell. Moreover, methanol has fluidity twice as good as ethanol and five times as good as isopropanol at -20°C. Finally, methyl alcohol is not harmful to rubber products, paint and lacquer coating of the car.

It is interesting that antifreezes based on this terrible methyl alcohol are on the open market in Europe. Apparently, the safety of transport is put above the probability of liquid poisoning.

Choosing an antifreeze

When choosing washer fluids, you should not focus on the presence of a specific substance in it. Consider other properties of the liquid.

Crystallization temperature. It rarely freezes below -20°C, but keep in mind that, figuratively speaking, the temperature of the windshield is lower than that of the surrounding air. The water contained in the antifreeze often has time to freeze on the glass before the wipers sweep it down. It is desirable to have a margin of 10-14°C between the temperatures indicated on the bottle and the actual frost.

Try to smell the liquid. Sometimes the smell is simply unbearable, so this is actually an important circumstance. If the liquid does not have a strong smell or smells just with a flavor, there is a high probability that it is based on methanol. This is the preferred option for a period of particularly low temperatures or for a trip to the Northern countries.

Frost resistance of an antifreeze should be at least 15-20°C. You should not increase this figure by diluting it with water. Frost resistance of an antifreeze should be at least 15-20°C. You should not increase this figure by diluting it with water.
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