I got the blues, baby
January 25, 2008 2:30 PM   Subscribe

1. Is blue antifreeze special? 2. If the coolant reservoir is half-full, can I keep driving until I can get what I need?

My 2001 Saab 9-3 info panel is telling me to check the coolant level. I opened the hood and the clear coolant reservoir is half-full, and is blue-colored.

In reading on the web, there appears to be numerous warnings about not putting in any color of coolant but what is in the reservoir. For example, mixing orange Dexcool with anything but orange Dexcool will cause cats and dogs to rain from the sky, that sort of thing.

The Saab book also says to take to use "official Saab antifreeze" which I assume I would need to pay the dealer a premium for putting it in.

• If I go to the local auto supplies store, will I find that the blue antifreeze/coolant they sell will work in my car?

• It doesn't seem there's a leak, as far as I can tell — can I keep driving until I get what I need?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
It's complicated. I would go with the blue, and I bet it is available at the auto parts store.
posted by caddis at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Blue antifreeze tends to be the default. The colour is added to help you see the level and to make it less likely you'll drink it. The Saab variety is probably just a rebranded version of a fairly high-grade regular product.

It's unlikely that what's in there is the original Saab antifreeze, unless you bought the car from new and haven't refilled it since 2001.

My advice is just to go with anything blue. Avoid the Dexcool unless you plan to completely empty the reservoir first.

It's possible that the reservoir sensor is wrognly calibrated or misaligned or something - it probably shouldn't produce a warning when the reservoir is half-full, although I'm no expert on Saabs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: If I go to the local auto supplies store, will I find that the blue antifreeze/coolant they sell will work in my car?

Yes. At the very least, they can pull up the specs and tell you exactly what you need and you won't need to go to the dealer.

It doesn't seem there's a leak, as far as I can tell — can I keep driving until I get what I need?

I would drive it straight to the auto parts store. Bad things might happen, and you don't want to take the chance. And run the heater, no matter the temperature outside, as it draws a little heat away from the engine.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:50 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Use the blue coolant in a Saab with blue coolant. If there's coolant in your reservoir you're O.K. to drive, just watch your temp. Is the coolant level up to the "full" line on your reservoir? If so, no worries, it's your coolant level sensor acting up, just push the clear button on your dash display and make plans to replace your reservoir. If your coolant is indeed below the "full" mark you need to find the leak. Check your oil, any white foam? If not, it could be seeping at a hose clamp, they tend to loosen over time and can be tightened with a screwdriver. Your head could need to be re-torqued, there was a problem with the later 900SE's and the early 9-3's, I'm not sure if your model year is affected, though. If so, ten minutes with a torque wrench will fix it. If you don't live where it's cold, you could top off your reservoir with some water and keep an eye on it.
Saabnet is the place to go for all your Saab related questions.
posted by Floydd at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your main concern when picking engine coolants is the base composition.

Ethylene Glycol was the popular mixture until a few years recent. Propylene Glycol is common now and was the mixture when the GM DEXCOOL problems started coming up. The choice to go with the PG mixture is that it is easier on the environment and isn't as lethal when ingested.

Technically, you should stick to the same composition if you're going to top off your reservoir. I'm sure people have mixed them without problems (reading about car issues on the internet tends to magnify problems), but if you have the time to pick the one you want, definitely pick the same formulation.

Now, the color means nothing. Ford likes to use gold coolant, Toyota likes red, Honda likes green or gold or maybe yellow? You should be able to find out either from your manual or by calling the dealership what the current stuff in your car is (if it's still the OEM fill).

If you go to Wal-Mart, most of what is on the shelf is probably PG. When I did a coolant flush a few years ago I had to go buy some Zerex G05 at Autozone because it was the only EG mixture I could find at local retailers.

Always remember to cut down coolant at least 50/50 with water (if it isn't already premixed).
posted by skwillz at 4:27 PM on January 25, 2008

Ford likes to use gold coolant, Toyota likes red, Honda likes green or gold or maybe yellow?

Really? I have a Focus and the antifreeze is sort of brown/gold. The dealership assured me that it's normal, that it just comes in that color, and I haven't had any problems, but I'd never seen antifreeze like that. I'm familiar with green, pink, and blue. If you can assure me that it's supposed to be gold, I'll feel much better. I was worried I should drain it and start over.
posted by Violet Hour at 4:55 PM on January 25, 2008


As long as nobody has done a change on your coolant (or as long as the dealership has done the work), it should be yellow/gold. Ford's Motorcraft Premium Coolant is indeed yellow/gold brand new and will tend to darken slightly over time.
posted by skwillz at 4:59 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Oh, and be sure you're dealing with the actual engine coolant reservoir. Note that the windshield washer reservoir is also under the hood, and typically contains a blue liquid. That's usually an alcohol/water mixture that comes in gallon jugs.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:29 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Saab antifreeze is blue from the dealership. I drive the exact same model/year as Blazecock. Seconding everything Floydd said. Saabnet is indeed your friend. I've never had a problem come up that wasn't addressed somewhere on their board.
posted by The GoBotSodomizer at 5:41 PM on January 25, 2008

Your main concern when picking engine coolants is the base composition.

Not any more. The new "high tech" ones are all about the additives. (nit pick)
posted by caddis at 6:25 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Just to say that they are not all the same, an should not be treated as such without checking. As an example, I know for a fact that the VW/Audi antifreeze (kind of pinky colour) does not mix at all well with the blue style (traditional) stuff. So be sure to check whether standard, off the shelf, anti-freeze (which is usually blue) is ok with the other blue. My guess is it will be fine.

The main concern is absolutely the base composition, as some of these compositions are not compatible. Not that your engine will explode if you put the wrong one in, but the long term effectiveness may be reduced if not rectified at the earliest convenient time. The advantages of each particular one, however, are about the additives.

As far as I am aware, all blue antifreeze is the same stuff. All Yellow is the same stuff, etc. Just not necessarily the same stuff as the blue stuff, etc. Some manufacturers colour the antifreeze just to encourage you to buy their own stuff, some manufacturers actually mean it. Some of the coolants mix, some of them don't (I think, from memory, that the VW/Audi stuff loses its anti-corrosive properties if mixed with other stuff, which is very bad in an aluminium engine if not remedied).

As for driving the car, unless it is extremely hot (ie well above 30degrees C) you will be fine completely ignoring the fact your reservoir is not full as long as you can actually see the water level through the cap. The worst that will happen is the temp gauge will sit a bit higher than normal, in which case turn on the heater with the fan full blast, or ignore it unless it gets near the red. Cars are nowhere near as sensitive to water level as you think - the cooling system is hugely overspecified. If it gets near the red, stop, turn the engine off and wait for it to cool, then carry on.
posted by Brockles at 7:30 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 PM on January 26, 2008

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