How Long Can I Drive With Low Coolant?

The coolant is very important for your engine to work properly. But if my coolant level is low, how long can I drive with low coolant? The answer may surprise you! Read on to know more about this in the article below.

The primary function of the coolant system in a car is to regulate the engine, increase temperature, reducing fuel consumption. 

When your coolant level is low, it gets little time to cool down in the radiator before it gets pumped into the radiator, This can make your engine’s cooling inefficient, overheating it. 

Older vehicles often have this problem of poor cooling since they are prone to experiencing coolant leaks. This article will discuss how long one should drive with a low coolant quantity and other questions surrounding the same. 


How Long Can I Drive With Low Coolant


How Safe Is It To Drive With Low Engine Coolant?

Driving with low engine coolant can lead to the formation of air bubbles in the system, which can cause damage to your engine. The internal combustion unit of the engine produces much heat, which can even get to temperatures as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The quantity of coolant in the engine can drop due to a leaking hose pipe. Delay in fixing the problem can cause some engine components to malfunction. 


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What Happens if You Drive With Low Coolant?

You should never drive if your engine coolant level is low or zero. Firestone complete AutoCare outlines a list of possible occurrences if one drives with low coolant in their vehicle.

Overheating of the engine

Coolant helps pull away heat from the engine. Hence, low quantities of coolant may be insufficient to prevent heating in the engine. Using an overheated engine over prolonged periods can cause permanent damage, for instance, pistons welding to the cylinders.

Malfunctioning of the Air conditioning System 

The coolant in your vehicle helps manage hot airflow into the cabin. You may notice hot air coming from your automobile A/C vents if your coolant is low and your vehicle’s air conditioning system is turned on.

Strange odor in the vehicle

If you can sense a strange sweet-smelling odor in your vehicle, it is because of a coolant leak in your vehicle. This odor is due to the presence of glycol, a syrupy, viscous liquid that aids in the regulation of water’s freezing and boiling points. Strange odors can generally be a symptom of automotive problems, but they aren’t always the case. 


How Long Can I Drive With Low Coolant


Faulty Coolant Level Sensor

Sometimes it might not be the low coolant but a faulty coolant sensor. Malfunctioning the coolant sensor can cause the low coolant light to turn on even when it might not be the case. 

Blown head gasket

If the coolant is low, the head gasket of the engine block may burn out. When this happens, you may notice smoke from the tailpipe or engine, loss of output, engine knocking noise, or reduced efficiency. One can identify a blown head gasket by checking the end of the oil dipstick. If one notices milky liquid or bubbles, the gasket has blown. One must immediately call a mechanic and get this issue rectified.

Engine block

Driving your vehicle with low engine coolant may not be a problem in the summers. However, it does become an issue when it is freezing outside. The coolant will freeze into an ice-like substance when the temperatures drop. A frozen coolant can mainly be observed in cars that use regular tap water without an anti-freeze. Adding equal parts of coolant and water is recommended to prevent this problem. 


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How Long After Adding Coolant Can I Drive?

Mcnally institute says that one should let their engine cool for 15 minutes before beginning to drive. An excellent engine would push the temperature gauge back towards normal. 

How Long Does It Take for the Coolant To Run Through the Engine?

If the car engine is not cooled for a long time, the performance is likely to deteriorate. You may not be able to solve the problem just by tackling it, and you may need an expert. After the engine has cooled, you can access the cooling system monitor.


How Long Can I Drive With Low Coolant


How Long Can I Drive If My Coolant Level is Low?

One cannot drive for very long with low engine coolant. The warning light will immediately flash in case of a low coolant level as the engine will start to overheat, a constant distraction for the driver. Moreover, there can be chances of leakage. 

If you suspect any leakage, you can quickly identify coolants as they are dyed with bright green color. If and when your dashboards thermometer starts showing high temperatures and you know that you haven’t refilled the coolant in a while, stop the car immediately. One may consider using a pipe sealant to seal the small leaks in the hosepipes immediately.

Immediately get the reservoir filled with clean water in an emergency and get to the nearest mechanic. Not doing so will cause the engine to overheat and lead to a complete stall or even a piston seizure. 

As per autovfix, It is possible to run the vehicle’s engine for about 15 seconds but no more than that. Even though the coolant is not circulating (because of the thermostat), it still does the job of absorbing heat from the aluminum body of the car, because it’s specific heat is higher. Therefore running the engine for more than 15 seconds can cause a lot of damage.


You might also like to read: How Long Can I Drive With A Blown Head Gasket?


In the End

It is not advisable to run your car with low coolant since this can even lead to engine damage. 

Did we answer your questions surrounding engine coolant satisfactorily? Let us know your thoughts and experiences with the same in the comments section. 

We would also love to know if you have any specific topics for us to write about; feel free to share them with us. Consider sharing this article with friends and family who are likely to reap benefits from this.

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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