Can I Use Regular Water Instead of Engine Coolant in My Car? - Dave's Automotive LLC. (2023)

Can I Use Regular Water Instead of Engine Coolant in My Car? - Dave's Automotive LLC. (1)

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Your antifreeze is low and you don't have any coolant on hand - are you wondering if maybe you could use water instead? You aren't alone! There are a lot of people out there who try to use water in place of antifreeze when they don't have any other options. These people more than likely live in warm clients that never get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and therefore feel that the water will never freeze. Although this may be tempting, it is definitely not something we would recommend - let's talk about why.

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First, let's define what coolant or antifreeze is. It is a 50/50 mix of water and additives which help to increase the water's freezing and boiling points. It also contains several additives that help protect the engine from corrosion. While you drive your vehicle, it relies on coolant to essentially regulate the temperature of the engine and prevent it from overheating.

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When your vehicle is low on coolant, typically due to a leak somewhere within the cooling system, engine damage can quickly occur due to overheating. This can lead you to expensive repairs bills, something you want to avoid. This is why coolant is so important and maintaining the system with the proper fluids is vital.

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Water by itself can't do the job of antifreeze due to its lack of boiling andfreezing point range and its inability to protect your vehicle's engine. Plus, it doesn't absorb heat as effectively. In the case of an absolute emergency, you can use water in your coolant rank. However, we highly suggest you get your vehicle into Dave's Automotive as soon as possible afterwards so that we can take a look at why your coolant is low and fill you back up with the proper fluids.

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Can you use regular water instead of coolant in my car? ›

While you can drive the car for a short time using water in place of the coolant, it won't effectively protect your engine. This means its essential to get the problem that caused a low coolant level fixed as soon as possible, and the radiator filled with a 50/50 ratio of coolant to water.

What happens if I use water instead of coolant? ›

If you were to just use water rather than the coolant mixture, high temperatures inside the motor would easily boil that water and cause it to evaporate, meaning you'd quickly have no coolant at all and the engine would easily overheat.

What can I use if I dont have engine coolant? ›

In general terms, if you HAVE to drive a car that's lost it's coolant, you can replace it with ordinary tap water or even water from a ditch or stream in an emergency, so as to travel a few miles, even a hundred miles, so long as it's above freezing.

Can I mix normal water with coolant? ›

The short answer is no; you can't mix tap water with engine coolant. Antifreeze should not be mixed with water replacing your engine coolant. Distilled water can work, but it is not ideal. Soft water is the best solution.

Can I use bottled water for car coolant? ›

You can't use water AS antifreeze, because antifreeze is what you add TO water to keep the water from freezing. Antifreeze is not too expensive. However, you can also use vodka.

How long can a car run without coolant? ›

If your car has a low coolant you can drive for some time. It really relies on the level of coolant. If it is low but it is above the minimum, you can drive your car for a few days. But if it is below the minimum, please do not even try to run your engine.

Does it hurt to leave bottled water in your car? ›

“The ignition temperatures of those items are about 400 degrees, so it would take some time to achieve that, and you need low humidity, dry heat, but it is possible that it would start a fire,” Symonds said. Experts say it's better to keep bottled water in a car inside a cooler or the trunk.

Can I use distilled water as coolant as emergency? ›

In a situation of emergency such as one where you cannot find an alternative, it is completely safe to substitute coolant for water. Water may have a lower boiling point than antifreeze but for the moment it can get the job done just fine.

Is Boiling water the same as distilled? ›

No, they aren't the same. Boiled water is simply water that has had the temperature increased until it reaches its boiling point. This kills a host of bacteria that can make a person sick. Distilled water is water that has been stripped of all impurities, including minerals and microorganisms.

Can you keep driving with low coolant? ›

Your engine could overheat.

Coolant helps pull heat away from the engine. So, without enough coolant, the engine could overheat or seize up. Continued use of an overheated engine could lead to permanent damage, such as pistons welding to the cylinders.

What are signs of low coolant? ›

What are The Warning Signs of Low Car Coolant?
  • Rising Temperature Gauge Inclining Towards Red. After driving your car for some time, you become familiar with the position of your temperature gauge when everything's okay. ...
  • Heater Not Working or Supplying Hot Air. ...
  • Poor Fuel Economy. ...
  • A Sweet Smell.
Oct 16, 2020

Can I drive with low coolant level? ›

Driving a car with low or no engine coolant is risky since it may cause damage to some of the secondary and even main components of the engine. In the situation that there is a lack of coolant, it's better to pull over.

How long can I drive with water in radiator? ›

Distilled water will be ok unless the temperature is freezing. Tap water will probably start to corrode parts of the cooling system if left in for any time. But if that's all you got, then it will be ok long enough to let you drive to a mechanic or change it out for antifreeze.

How long can you run an engine without coolant? ›

Not very long. Even driving gently you should expect things to start getting too hot within just a few minutes - probably less than 5 minutes if it's completely dry. If your car has an aluminum head, like many do, then you should expect the head to warp almost immediately upon overheating.

What happens if you drive too long without coolant? ›

Coolant helps pull heat away from the engine. So, without enough coolant, the engine could overheat or seize up. Continued use of an overheated engine could lead to permanent damage, such as pistons welding to the cylinders.

Will a car overheat with just water in the radiator? ›

Modern engines operate at higher temperatures. Running just water in your car's radiator will guarantee overheating and damage, including to your cylinder heads and engine block.

How often should you put water in your car radiator? ›

Coolant should be topped up whenever the level drops below the guide marks. When it comes to draining and changing the coolant altogether, manufacturers guidance also varies although this can be after a minimum of 30,000 miles depending on how old your car is.

Do cars naturally lose coolant over time? ›

How much coolant loss is normal? Providing that the engine is running well, with no leakages or damage, you can expect a coolant loss of 0.25% every four to six months. This means a loss of two to three ounces a year is completely normal.

Will an engine freeze without coolant? ›

An anti-freeze/coolant is of essence as it prevents the engine from freezing in the cold. If you don't use an anti-freeze/coolant in the cooling system of your car, it is more likely to freeze.


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