Color-Coded Confusion

Don't be confused by color-coded coolants.

Pellet responds, citing the differences between the inorganic and organic technologies. "Conventional coolants contain things like sodium silicate and sodium phosphate—these materials work by forming a solid coating on the cooling system. They're designed to gel, but they're designed to do it in an orderly fashion. If the product gets too old—if it goes beyond its shelf life, if it has become overheated, gelation can occur," he explains.

"Having said that, organic additive chemistry, which does not contain any of these, will not and cannot gel, nor is it intended to," he says. "It protects in a totally different way. It reacts chemically with an area that needs protection, but it doesn't react with everything. More to the point, mixing organic additives with conventional inhibitors will not cause the conventional inhibitors to gel."


Another term that seems to get tossed around in the coolant arena is this idea of a "universal" antifreeze.

"Universal coolant was a term that was used early on as a coolant that could be used in any application, and it was probably true back in the 90's and before," Pellet says. "I don't think it is as applicable in this decade as it has been in the past. In order to be universal, you'd have to be able to meet the varying requirements of the different OEMs.

"If you have a set of specifications that say 'absolutely no silicate,' and then you have other specifications that say 'we demand silicate if you're going to get full protection for your engine,' you cannot have a coolant that meets both of these specifications, because they're contradictory. So in that sense, you really can't have a universal coolant," he says.

Penray's Gresmer concurs, citing the dual meaning of the term among suppliers. "It certainly is confusing. If you go to Ford or Chrysler or Mercedes-Benz and say 'we want to use universal antifreeze,' they will tell you that is the 2705 technology in yellow." This is in reference to a specific European technology for automotive and light truck applications that is a specific yellow color.

On the other hand, explains Gresmer, "If you go to Peak, or one of the many marketers out there of antifreeze, and say 'what does the word universal mean to you?' they'll say, 'that means our antifreeze can be used with every different type of antifreeze out there.' And that's hogwash; there is no such thing."


If your technicians are still confused, there are options. Chevron offers a website for training on all aspects of cooling system maintenance including frequently asked coolant questions,

"The course covers the various cooling system parts that need protection, how the coolant protects these parts, and how the end user maintains the parts the coolant is maintaining—how do you go about testing the coolant that's in there to find out if what's in there is good, and doing what you're hoping it's doing?" Pellet says.

Penray offers training as well in the way of two programs. "One is 'What Color is Your Coolant?'" Gresmer says. "We talk about all the coolants that are out there, and the effects that it has when you mix them."

Penray's other program offers fleets a chance to get their hands on a shop 'cheat sheet' for coolant-related questions. The 'Never Lose Your Cool' program offers a one-day in-house training seminar on all types of cooling solutions. "Each participant gets a laminated 'Solutions' card," explains Gresmer. "On that card, it's got all the different colors of coolants that are available, and a chart to say 'if your coolant is this color, here's the path you need to follow for checking, maintaining, and keeping your coolant current.'"

For more information, contact Gresmer at


If Penray's Aroyan can leave fleets with one piece of advice, it's this: "Look at the antifreeze spec', regardless of the color," he says. "The color is not going to be an issue, as long as the antifreeze meets the ESTM B6210 or the TMC RP 329A. If we look at the price of the engine, and the price of a truck, everything went up. Fuel pricing went up; insurance went up. You invest a lot of money in your truck, and you want to keep that truck running, so please: pay attention to the coolant."

We Recommend