Water Instead of Antifreeze: Will It Work or Ruin the Car?

What happens if water is poured into the cooling installation?

Is it possible to do this, and if so, in what cases? A cooling installation, a radiator, antifreeze – all these terms are probably familiar to every driver, as well as the fact that a modern internal combustion engine cannot do without effective cooling. Is it possible to use water for this purpose?

Water Instead of Antifreeze: Will It Work or Ruin the Car? photo 2

Indeed, water as a coolant was used at the dawn of the automobile industry, and water have been poured into the cooling systems of some unpretentious engines for a very long time. First, it is cheap, and second, it is affordable. But a hundred years ago, engineers realized that water, as a coolant, was inefficient and not all-season and began working on a new composition. So, there was invented a special cooling liquid named for its ability not to freeze at low temperatures.

Antifreeze is a special mixture of water, ethylene glycol (or propylene glycol) and a complex of special additives (anti-corrosion, anti-foam, color, etc.). Thus, antifreeze does not freeze at low temperatures and has a higher boiling point than water, as well as different lubricating and anti-corrosion properties. In other words, it is more versatile and effective than water. Therefore, modern engines are designed with cooling installations working with antifreeze. Moreover, modern antifreeze can be of several types (G11, G12, G12+ and G13). You need to use the one recommended by a car manufacturer.

What happens if the cooling installation is filled with water? There will be no immediate reaction from the engine. It will start up, work, and perhaps even be able to run for a while. But in this case, both the cooling system and the power unit are at risk. The water will begin to boil at 100°С, what threatens to ruptured pipes, leaks and breakages of the expansion tank. Metal parts of the cooling system will begin to rust from contact with water and will also have a characteristic plaque from scale. If it happens during the cold months, then pieces of ice can seriously damage a technical filling of the hood compartment.

Therefore, you cannot use water in the cooling system of modern engines instead of antifreeze!

However, each rule has its own exceptions. They are here, too. No car is insured against breakdowns, and a cooling system can also fail. Even a banal antifreeze leak can cause a lot of trouble. Therefore, if you notice that a coolant level has fallen seriously, then you can add some water to get to the service station. It is better to use distilled water (sold at gas stations, in tool shops, and sometimes in regular supermarkets), but you can also use regular liquid in an emergency. In any case, it is much better than driving with an «empty» cooling installation. Well, after fixing the failure, it is recommended to wash the entire system and fill it with a coolant according to a manufacturer's instructions.

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