Understanding the impact of cold temperatures on car engine coolants

Understanding the impact of cold temperatures on car engine coolants Understanding the impact of cold temperatures on car engine coolants

Coolant analysis is often overlooked by industries in their preventive maintenance. While coolants keep engines running smoothly and are formulated to function effectively in extreme temperatures, it is essential to be informed about their impact.


Let’s understand this impact and take a deep dive into the steps involved in ensuring the coolant’s effectiveness and the measures that are essential to mitigating any negative effects.


Effect of cold temperatures on coolant:

Proper freeze protection is needed when it's cold

Freezing can result in cracking and damage to the engine block and/or cooler, allowing coolant and lubricant to mix, and when it does, further damage to the asset will occur, leading to a costly, unpredictable repair.


Cold temperatures weaken the coolant's protection against corrosion and cavitation. In frigid conditions, a poorly formulated or maintained coolant may become too thick and viscous. Viscosity impedes the coolant's ability to absorb and dissipate heat efficiently, resulting in increased engine operating temperatures.


Mitigating issues in cold temperatures:

1) Finding the Right Glycol Mixture

Dilution and testing of the coolant ensure proper freeze protection and properties. Water by itself has a freeze point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but using only water or too much water dilution will reduce other coolant protection properties, leading to system corrosion and lower-than-desirable pH control. Too much glycol can slow down coolant flow within the system, and an oversaturation of corrosion inhibitors can result in precipitation concerns. Lubricant not reaching proper temperatures can affect the engine adversely.


2) Regular testing of the cooling system to avoid problems

Around 40% or so of preventable engine failures occur due to the cooling system not functioning properly. Most concerns with the cooling system result from improper maintenance of the cooling system and coolant in service. Test engine coolants twice a year, ideally before the start of winter and summer.


Understanding coolant analysis

Proper coolant testing and analysis can determine the health of the cooling system and fluids. Such thorough testing identifies problems within the cooling system that can impact the engine's performance or lead to premature engine failures, such as combustion gas leaks, electrical ground problems, localized overheating issues, and air leaks. To maintain the cooling system and help identify maintenance concerns properly, results and recommendations will be helpful.


Sign up for a quality coolant analysis program!

A quality coolant analysis program can help save money on repairs, machinery downtime, and replacements. Coolant analysis is not just about testing the coolant. It monitors the system’s overall health and allows users to act before further damage or engine failure occurs.



To conclude, it is important to take the right steps not to let winter temperatures keep your equipment out of service. Instead, take a coolant sample today to take the guesswork out of knowing if the coolant in the system meets the requirements for properly protecting your cooling system.

This article was written by Chevron technologists in collaboration with industry experts and global thought leaders.

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