Does it matter what kind of antifreeze/coolant you buy? (I think it's amusing that anti-freeze and coolant are the same thing) In other words, should I dig through the manual and determine what kind of stuff I should get?
Ehh, if I remember correctly, you'd have to look it up anyway to get the right water/antifreeze mix. If you're dealing with really cold harsh tempatures, get one of those dealies to make sure you have the right specific gravity.
I hate looking things like that up but I'd rather look it up than bust my radiator.
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It's usually a 50/50 mix, brand typically doesn't matter but some cars do call for a special formulation e.g. GM cars with the orange DexCool crap. I think some Fords have a special formula too. Everyone else uses the radioactive-green-looking stuff.
Distilled water is preferable over tap water b/c of mineral deposits 'n stuff. Better yet buy premixed 50/50 and forget about it.
They are not. Anti-freeze is (or can be) part of the coolant mixture. In very hot environments it's not uncommon to use water all on its own as the coolant in a car.
That was in the Grapes of Wrath, but maybe antifreeze wasn't even invented then. But.... when you buy coolant, there is antifreeze in it. I get what you are saying though... they aren't identical.
Yes, it matters what you buy. RTFM.
I ended up buying exactly what was in the manual, although it wasn't that easy to find. I had to go specifically to an automotive store for it. But yes, my research indicated that it very much mattered, and apparently some other kinds are ok, but you have to drain it, and I don't want to drain the damn thing, so I just went with what in the manual, the orange Dexcools stuff. And yes it is a GM car.