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Is It Normal for Coolant Level to Drop? How Much Is Normal?

It can be tricky business, taking care of a car. Especially for new owners. And unlike humans, cars can’t speak. So, they tend to communicate their problems through signals and warnings and it is essential to recognize those to keep your car in good condition at all times.

Is it normal for coolant level to drop?

It is normal for the coolant level to drop when the engine temperature reaches extreme level. This occurs because the water element present in the coolant gradually begins to evaporate which results in the coolant level dropping. This can be fixed by topping up the coolant level in the coolant tent.

The coolant level may not necessarily always drop in the same way, this can vary due to temperature, condition of your car and a few other factors. So, knowing what to expect during which period can make it a whole lot easier to maintain both your car and it’s coolant level.

Coolant level to drop over time:

The coolant level can drop over time but this happens mainly with cars that have been running for a very long time but again this loss in coolant level should be slight.

If it is dropping day by day, that’s alarming and needs to be examined. The coolant level will also most likely rise once you have shut off the engine of your car, but it should not reach the point of overflowing.

Coolant level drops overnight:

It is not common for coolant levels to drop overnight, especially if you live somewhere with a colder climate.

If you begin to notice a drop in the coolant level from the previous night that means there is a great chance that there is an either internal or external leakage in your car which is causing the massive drop in the coolant level.

Coolant level drops in cold weather:

Coolant level might drop when the weather is colder because the fluid is made up of a huge percentage of water, so when the temperature drops, coolant tends to contract.

This is more likely to happen if the car is left unused and in a cold place for a few days. But most of the time, the coolant level will start to go back to it’s normal level once the car gets heated up.

Coolant level drops when the engine is hot:

Coolant level is unlikely to drop when the engine is hot. The heat of the running engine will cause the coolant liquid to expand, causing it to reach high or the maximum coolant level.

However, if your engine begins to get extremely overheated then the water in the coolant will evaporate and begin to cause a drop in the coolant level.

Coolant level drops when engine is revved:

The coolant level will actually rise when the engine is revved due to the heat causing the liquid inside to expand.

So, it is best not to fill the coolant tank to the maximum level because once the engine is revved up, it will cause the coolant to spill out as the space in the coolant tank isn’t enough to fit it.

Coolant level drops but no leak:

If coolant level is dropping even though there are no leaks, that indicates that either the water in the coolant is escaping in the form of steam due to overheating or this can be caused due to a blown head gasket, a fractured cylinder head, damaged cylinder bores or a manifold leak.

How much coolant loss is normal?

If the coolant level drops about 0.25” in around 4 months than it is completely normal. It means by the end of the year your coolant level will drop only by 1”. This will also indicate that the car engine is in good condition and functioning well with no leakages or damages.

The slight drop in coolant level is nothing to get alarmed over but if it is rapidly decreasing, that means there is a bigger problem that needs to be fixed in your car.

This can be any internal or external leaks or sometimes even the tiniest hair-line crack can cause the loss in coolant levels. So, keeping an eye on the coolant level can be beneficial as you will know if the car has any other issues earlier on before any more damage can happen.

But as mentioned, the normal drop in coolant level isn’t something to fuss or get worried about and usually indicates the car is in great working condition.

What causes the coolant level to drop?

Coolant level dropping is not unusual but to a certain extent. If you notice the coolant level dropping rapidly in a matter of days or hours then there is definitely some malfunction in the car’s engine and needs to be checked as soon as possible because the longer you wait the worse the damage will be.

Here are some reasons that might be causing the drop in coolant levels:

Leaks:

A common reason for coolant level dropping is due to leaks or cracks. The leaks in the cooling system are known to affect the coolant level such as if there was a leak in the hoses, radiator or radiator cap, it will cause the coolant levels to drop rapidly.

A few indications of this are the rising temperature gauge, the smell of antifreeze, problems with the heater or you might notice an increase in the fuel consumption.

If this happens, it is best to take the car directly to the mechanic and have the leaks checked and fixed.

Filling with low amount:

Coolant levels can also sometimes be low if you are topping it up with very little coolant into the coolant tank. This can have detrimental effects on your car’s overall engine because low level of coolant has the potential to cause engine damage.

And once the engine is damaged, you need to spend a lot of money to either fix or even replace it in some cases.

How long does coolant last in a car?

It can vary depending on car and also the coolant but the average time a coolant will last before it needs a proper coolant flush is either two years or 30,000 miles whichever comes first for silicate coolants.

And it can last up to almost five years or 100,000 miles for an extended drain coolant. The color of your coolant will let you know what type it is.

Silicate coolants come in green and the extended drain coolants will come in either gold or orange. After your coolant has worked for that long, it is best to do a complete coolant flush.

This is done by pushing antifreeze through the cooling system to help clear and cleanse out all the left-over old antifreeze and other contaminants that have probably built-up over the years the cars have been used.

Do coolant levels fluctuate?

Coolant levels can fluctuate. This fluctuation in the coolant level is usually caused by temperature, as it can change the volume of the coolant level quite drastically.

Therefore, when the temperature is extremely hot, there will be an expansion in the coolant level which in turn will create a pressure within the system and as the radiator becomes full, the excess hot coolant will start to overflow in the reservoir.

And when the coolant cools down, it will have the exactly opposite reaction. The coolant will contract due to the lowered temperature and create a vacuum which will cause the coolant to be drawn back into the radiator and system.

Does my coolant reservoir need to be full?

The coolant reservoir of your car should be at the very least 30% full at all times. Your coolant tank will come with a minimum and maximum fill line which helps you check how much coolant is present in the tank and if it is toeing the minimum or maximum line.

The coolant level can rise and fall due to temperature and altitude and for that reason the coolant overflow tank is added to be able to hold in the coolant in the reservoir.

Also, it is best to avoid filling the coolant tank to the brim, this will cause the excess coolant to spill when it expands from heat.

Conclusion:

Slight drop in the coolant level as you use your car for months is not alarming and considered to be normal. A 1” drop in the coolant level after a year of driving is pretty standard. However, if there is a rapid drop in the coolant level, it is best to get it checked by a mechanic.