Home Cooling System What Does Antifreeze Smell Like – It’s Not What You Think!

What Does Antifreeze Smell Like – It’s Not What You Think!

by Kelvin Yates

Do you have an antifreeze leak that is quite difficult to track and you are trying to learn what does antifreeze smell like? If this is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover in this topic where we will learn everything you need to know when it comes to antifreeze in general.

Learning this stuff can sometimes be a true lifesaver. Knowing how something smells, like in this example with the antifreeze, will help you diagnose your car quickly and effectively. The next thing you do is diagnose the leak and secure it with a clamp. A clamp is worth $1. This work at a shop is worth $300. So, which you would choose? To fix the problem by yourself and call it a day for $1 or pay $300 to a mechanic?

I bet that most of you would choose to fix problems like these by yourself. At least these are the things that do not require a huge mechanical knowledge But before you learn this stuff you need to understand how the cooling system works and where to look for your problem. But don’t worry because we are going to teach you everything you need to know.

First, we will learn what is antifreeze and why it is so important. After, we will learn how the cooling system works and know the possible leak spots. Later we will learn what does antifreeze smell like and how to tell if your car is leaking antifreeze. Then we will learn how you can fix leak spots in your cooling system. So, if you want to learn more, follow along till the end.

What Is Antifreeze, And Why Does It Have A Smell?

So, before we delve into explaining what does antifreeze smell like. Let’s first start from the basics and learn what antifreeze is in general terms. This will be of great importance for beginners who are starting to wrench and don’t have a lot of experience working on cars.

Antifreeze is also known as coolant. These terms are basically interchangeable and you will come across antifreeze, sometimes you will see a sticker with coolant. It’s the same deal.

Nevertheless, the coolant is a solution that is helping your car to deal with the cooling. Without coolant, the engine would perform really badly. More on this we are going to explain in the following chapter where we will learn why it is so important.

Antifreeze is a solution that is usually made out of ethylene glycol. Unlike other fluids, this is an organic compound that has a very distinctive smell. But what does antifreeze smell like? We will cover that later in the chapter.

The important thing is that this antifreeze solution is working really well in internal combustion engines and delivers proper cooling in the internals of the engine. Unlike water that often tends to boil or freeze. Coolant is much more sustainable and a better application for these cooling systems in general.

Coolant has been with us for ages. The first ethylene glycol solutions were brought up in 1926 and the first solutions were marketed as permanent antifreeze. This solution was revolutionary and brought a big change in the car-making industry for its endurance.

In recent years, there was a new solution on the market also known as propylene glycol. A less toxic solution than the ethylene glycol solution. But what does antifreeze smell like? We will get there in a bit.

Why Is Antifreeze So Important?

Before we learn what does antifreeze smell like. Let’s first cover the importance of this fluid. As you know this fluid is of great importance and will mean the world for you if you are driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

This is the case because the antifreeze or coolant has some properties that aid the work of the engine in general. These solutions with ethylene glycol or propylene glycol have some characteristics that make them resistant to hot temperatures as well as to freezing.

Let’s make a comparison to water. Water as you know freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Coolant, on the other hand, doesn’t freeze in winter.

What Does Antifreeze Smell Like

If you pour water instead of coolant, your engine block will freeze in the winter and the block will crack. Destroying the engine in the process. That’s why coolant is so important for you as a car owner and making sure that the coolant health is in check is of great importance.

In addition to this, coolant has a much better heat-dissipating capability than water. Meaning that it takes the heat out of the block and improves the cooling characteristics. If you are running clean water, the water will start to boil if you run the car too hard. Not an ideal thing.

So, you can see why antifreeze is such an important fluid for your vehicle. It helps cool the engine when it’s hot but it also doesn’t allow it to freeze in the winter. In addition to this, it has some anti-corrosive characteristics that prevent the engine block to rust and rubber hoses to crack. But what does antifreeze smell like? We will get there in a bit.

How The Cooling System Works

Another thing that we want to discuss before what does antifreeze smell like is the topic of how does the cooling system works. This is extremely useful if you think that you have a leak in your system and it will help you locate the problem much quicker. So, let’s elaborate.

The cooling system is a circulating system that circulates the coolant inside and outside of the block. The core of this system is the water pump that makes this possible. The water pump spins and moves the coolant around.

All this movement is made possible after the thermostat opens. The thermostat is a device installed on the engine block that opens after the block is up to temperature. This is very important. Operating temperature is the key to good engine work.

Then the coolant moves into the radiator and then again back into the engine. There are lower and upper radiator hoses that are in charge of this task. The radiator helps the cooling of the antifreeze with the help of the air drag that the car is getting when you are driving it on the road. If the radiator can’t keep up, there are fans that kick in and help the cooling of the antifreeze.

Overall, simple system. Whenever you have leaks, these are the components that you need to pay attention to. Later in the article, we are going to learn more about these leaks and how to locate them. Now let’s cover the types of antifreeze and then we will cover what does antifreeze smell like.

Types Of Antifreeze, And How Does It Affect Their Smell?

Now let’s learn the types of antifreeze that are out there. Then we will learn what does antifreeze smell like. So, what are the different types of this solution? Let’s elaborate.

IAT – Inorganic Acid Technology

Before we cover what does antifreeze smell like let’s discuss the different type of technologies for producing antifreeze. The first type of antifreeze are the solutions that are ethylene glycol-based. These solutions were introduced in 1926 and were used until recently as the standard solutions in automobiles.

These coolants are green or blue in color. These are the coolants that are recommended for vehicles that are produced up to the ’90s before the OATs were introduced. And that we are going to cover next.

OAT – Organic Acid Technology

So, what does antifreeze smell like? We will get to that in a bit. Let’s first learn the second type of antifreeze and that is the OAT. Also known as organic acid technology.

This new technology revolutionized the automotive coolant industry and brought a lot of innovations. These coolants are specifically formulated to be nontoxic. Unlike the IAT that we covered above. In addition to this, the OAT coolants also use many protective compounds that reduce the damage to the cooling system.

These coolants are mostly red in color. Sometimes they also tend to come in other colors like orange, purple and blue. Depending much on the manufacturer. But what does antifreeze smell like? We will get to that in a bit.

HOAT – Mix Of Both Inorganic And Organic

Now before we learn what does antifreeze smell like. Let’s discuss the last type of antifreeze and that is the HOAT. Also known as Hybrid Organic Acid Technology. This technology has both of both worlds, meaning that it uses IAT and OAT combined.

This coolant in most cases is yellow or orange in color. Now, let’s move on to the next bit and that is what does antifreeze smell like?

What Does Antifreeze Smell Like?

So, what does antifreeze smell like? The short answer to this question is that it smell sweet it also tastes sweet. But that doesn’t mean that you want to taste it unless you want to poison yourself.

When antifreeze leaks out it produces a strong sweet smell. So whenever you sense a smell like this in your car it means that your car is leaking antifreeze from somewhere. This means that you need to react and make sure that you fix the problem. Why I’m saying this?

Well, I’m saying this because your car will not perform well and it is highly likely that it will begin to overheat. And once a car starts to overheat. You will have problems with head gasket failures and other issues.

So, we learned what does antifreeze smell like and what are the potential dangers of leaking antifreeze. But what if I tell you that there are even more dangers out there? Yup, that’s right. Coolant is a hazardous material.

Wherever coolant is leaking, there will be some harm to the environment. If the coolant leaks on the grass, the grass will simply burn and die.

If the coolant is leaking close to a water source, you can pollute your water and possibly harm yourself.

Not to mention that animals can also get killed if they taste the antifreeze. As we can recall, antifreeze tastes very sweet and a lot of small animals and even your dog or a cat will get attracted to it.

Animals even with a few sips from the antifreeze can get killed quite quickly. Especially if you don’t know why they react weirdly and produce symptoms. So, in this situation, learn what does antifreeze smell like and learn if your car is leaking coolant.

How To Know If Your Car Is Leaking Antifreeze; Common Signs

We learned what does antifreeze smell like, now let’s learn the common signs of an antifreeze leak.

The first sign of leaking antifreeze is probably that strong sweet smell coming from the engine bay. As we learned, antifreeze smells sweet and when there is a leak, you will experience this smell. Depending much on where it leaks and if it evaporates whenever is in touch with the engine block. In this case, the smell is even stronger.

The second sign of leaking coolant is probably the level of coolant in the coolant overfill tank. Whenever you notice how you are losing coolant in this tank, you should make sure that you top off the coolant and then move on to diagnosing the problem with losing coolant. And that is something that we are going to cover next.

What Does Antifreeze Smell Like

The third common symptom of losing coolant is the temperature warning that you will get on the dash. If this is the case, you will get a warning that the temperatures are getting into the red zone and also that the coolant is down.

The fourth symptom is probably the visible leaks of coolant on the ground of your parking spot. These leaks are not like oil. They are mostly colored as the color of your coolant. Rub your finger on the puddle and give it a smell test. If it smells sweet and is not that oily like engine oil or other fluids in your car, then this is probably coolant.

Also, visible leaks on the hoses are also present when you are losing coolant as well as white stains on the side of the block is the coolant is escaping through the head gasket. We learned what does antifreeze smell like, now let’s see how to fix the leaks.

How To Find Leaks In Your Cooling System?

We learned what does antifreeze smell like, now let’s see who you can find leaks in your system. This is important if you want to find leaks and prevent the coolant from leaking in the future.

The first thing you need to do is to check the heater core hoses and see if the coolant is leaking from there. They are the most notorious for leaking and causing that sweet smell inside of your cabin. They require a lot of work to be replaced and a lot of money since this work will likely take a few hours at the shop.

Another place where the coolant can leak is the hoses. More precisely where there are clamps. These hoses know to rot out after many years of use and the clamp to weaken. Thus, allowing coolant to escape and cause leaks.

If you suspect that the coolant hoses are leaking, make sure that you inspect them with a flashlight. If they are leaking, replace the clamps or the hoses if needed. The hoses are called, upper radiator hose and lower radiator hose. There are two of them in general.

Another thing that can cause leaks is the water pump gasket. Some engines run these pumps internally while some are external. Depending on the engine. Coolant can also leak internally and externally.

The last place that can cause a leak is the head gasket. Usually when the head gasket is leaking it will cause an internal leak. And you will experience white smoke coming out from the exhaust also low coolant levels will be present.

We learned what does antifreeze smell like, now let’s see what is the cost to fix the leak.

Cost To Fix Leaks In Your System; What Does Antifreeze Smell Like

Now after we learned what does antifreeze smell like and how to diagnose a leak, let’s discuss more on the costs involved to fix this leak in your system. And this cost largely depends much on the place where the coolant is leaking. We will start from the simplest thing and then we will move on to the more expensive fixes.

The simplest thing that can cause the car to leak coolant is a clamp on the hoses. These clamps know to fail and make the car lose coolant. The solution for this problem is to replace the clamps and the hoses if they are damaged.

Luckily a clamp will only cost you a few dollars and a hose is about $50 in the worst case. Just make sure that you find the right one for your vehicle.

The second most expensive repair is to replace a water pump and the water pump gasket. If the water pump is internal the repair will be very expensive. And could cost $800 or more to fix. If the water pump is on the outside, this problem can be sorted out for $300 or less. That’s why getting a car with a better serviceable engine is the way to go when it comes to these repairs.

The most expensive things to do are the heater core hoses and the head gasket. When the head gasket needs to be replaced, you can expect to pay even $1,000 or even more in some instances. But why is this the case?

This is the case because a lot of components need to come out and the engine head has to be resurfaced. This work is very labor-intensive. We learned what does antifreeze smell like, now let’s see if you can mix antifreeze.

Can I Mix Antifreeze Of Different Types?

We learned what does antifreeze smell like and how to locate a leak in your car. Now let’s see if you can pour a different antifreeze in your vehicle than the stock one? What will happen in this situation?

Well, it won’t change much. Except than mixing some colors together. I mixed coolant once and there was basically no difference in the performance of the car. I drove it like that for about 500 miles.

After that, I addressed my coolant leak and made sure that there is no leaks in my system. Then I flushed the coolant with an original G12 red color coolant.

So, if you are in a tight situation and you need to pour some coolant of different color, don’t be afraid to do so if this is your only option. It is better to protect the engine from overheating than to bother with whether or not the color of the coolant is the same. That’s my two cents on this topic.

We learned what does antifreeze smell like now let’s learn when it is the right time to flush the coolant.

When Is The Right Time To Flush The Antifreeze?

We covered what does antifreeze smell like and whether or not you can mix antifreeze of different color. Now let’s see what is the right time to flush the antifreeze?

What Does Antifreeze Smell Like

The right time to flush the antifreeze is once every 2 years or so. Or once every year if you drive a lot. As you know, this fluid starts to degrade after long use and will show its downside sooner or later. So, it is best to replace it every 2 years or so to make sure that everything is all right with the cooling system and you don’t have to learn what does antifreeze smell like.

Antifreeze: What You Need to Know

  • Antifreeze prevents engine overheating by flowing outside air through the radiator and preventing the cooling system’s water from freezing in winter.
  • Failure to use antifreeze can lead to costly repairs such as a cracked head gasket or warped cylinders.
  • The sweet scent of antifreeze may be detected through heating vents if there is a leak in the cooling system.
  • If you suspect an antifreeze leak, take your vehicle to a trusted service center to be diagnosed by professionals.
  • Common signs of an antifreeze leak include low coolant level, overheating, unusual smell, splashes of liquid on the pavement, and radiator rust.
  • To find the source of the leak, park the car on clean pavement, check for fluid drippage and dampness underneath the car, and search for discoloration around the recovery-tank cap, radiator cap, and nearby hoses.
  • If the smell of antifreeze is more prominent on the inside than outside, it’s likely that the source of the leak comes from inside the engine.
  • Routinely changing your antifreeze is the best way to prevent leaks; different types of coolant require different replacement schedules, consult the manual or check the color and consistency of the liquid to determine when it’s time to flush and replace the coolant.
  • The easiest problems to fix will involve the hose and its clamps, but a leaking head gasket can lead to engine failure.
  • Being mindful of antifreeze performance is crucial even if you don’t suspect a leak, as it gradually loses its anti-corrosive qualities and can lead to rust, blockages, and coolant leaks.

Conclusion To What Does Antifreeze Smell Like

In this article, we covered what is antifreeze and the different types of antifreeze that are out there. Then we learned what does antifreeze smell like and we learned that it smells sweet. So, if you are sensing a sweet smell in your car, then it’s probably the antifreeze that is leaking from somewhere.

After, we learned from where could possibly the antifreeze leak and what could cause this leak. We also learned how to diagnose the problem and the cost to fix this problem with the antifreeze leaking. After fixing the problem you will not ask yourself the question of what does antifreeze smell like. Some fixes are more expensive, but that is the price to pay sometimes.

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