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Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? #5446325 06/04/20 06:37 PM
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RamFan Online Sleepy OP
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As someone who tries to be environmentally conscious when possible, I started dabbling around and looking into the differences between Polyethylene and Ethylene coolants. Yes I know it's a closed system and environmental exposure is minimal. However, in the U.S. alone there are roughly 250mm registered vehicles with 270mm registered drivers. Let's assume most coolant systems hold an average of 5gal, we're talking about 1.25B gallons of coolant on roadways. If annually there are 6mm accidents, and let's say 40% end up with a cracked radiator, we're looking at roughly 500mm gallons of spilled coolant.

Based on what I can find, there doesn't seem to be a difference between the two from a compatibility standpoint. When it comes to practicality, there are some physical differences between the two with regards to heat transfer and freeze rating. But even then, it's not that different. For example, Prestone Extended Life has a freeze rating of -34*F and boilover rating of 265*F in a 50/50 mixture. Meanwhile, Prestone LowTox has a freeze rating of -26*F and a boilover rating of 229*F in a 50/50 mixture.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446336 06/04/20 06:52 PM
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It's pretty simple performance wise it's pretty much a wash, so ethylene glycol became the standard in cars as it's easier and cheaper to manufacture. The toxicity issue is a non-issue today as all regular ethylene glycol coolant sold in the US since 2013 (and earlier in some states) comes with a bittering agent added to avoid poisoning animals.

https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2013-02-15/antifreeze-manufacturers-agree-bittering-agent-addition#:~:text=Antifreeze%20and%20engine%20coolant%20are,appeals%20to%20animals%20and%20children.&text=Seventeen%20states%20currently%20require%20adding,ethylene%20glycol%2C%20usually%20denatonium%20benzoate.

Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446347 06/04/20 07:03 PM
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most dont have 20qt cooling systems.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446355 06/04/20 07:14 PM
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As a guy who designed cooling systems 40 yrs ago, I'd say losing 36 degrees F on the boil point is a really big issue.

Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446366 06/04/20 07:35 PM
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I was under the impression from an article I read ages ago that there is bacteria in the soil that does a fairly handy job 'eating' up most kinds of coolant types these days. I also don't think they use much if any lead in the radiators to make heavy metals an issue either.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: nascarnation] #5446374 06/04/20 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by nascarnation
As a guy who designed cooling systems 40 yrs ago, I'd say losing 36 degrees F on the boil point is a really big issue.

Add a lot more pressure to the system to compensate?


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: nascarnation] #5446390 06/04/20 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by nascarnation
As a guy who designed cooling systems 40 yrs ago, I'd say losing 36 degrees F on the boil point is a really big issue.

And losing 8F in freeze protection in Canada, a big deal.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: Chris142] #5446408 06/04/20 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris142
Originally Posted by nascarnation
As a guy who designed cooling systems 40 yrs ago, I'd say losing 36 degrees F on the boil point is a really big issue.

Add a lot more pressure to the system to compensate?


Seems like everywhere I go there is at least one car/truck, whatever that reeks of coolant. I would much rather have those vehicles moving rather than broke down because they will all somehow be on the road ahead of me with a gaggle of rubberneckers.

Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446437 06/04/20 09:05 PM
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Does the regular green coolant have the embittering agent in it too?


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446440 06/04/20 09:08 PM
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I looked up both Prestone and Sierra LowTox coolants that are propylene glycol

In both cases, the 50/50 freezing point is -26F

Prestone's boiling point is listed as 259F
Sierra's boiling point is listed as 256F

Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446449 06/04/20 09:24 PM
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I don't think you mean polyethylene glycol, instead you mean propylene glycol.

One thing is that ethylene glycol doesn't have a very long environmental residence time, it breaks down in soil rather quickly so it isn't quite the boogie monster you may think it is. Yes it is highly toxic to canines but less so to humans.

One of the biggest reasons it is used is probably the ease of synthesis as compared to propylene glycol.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: motor_oil_madman] #5446451 06/04/20 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by motor_oil_madman
Does the regular green coolant have the embittering agent in it too?

It's not "embittering" it is just bittering. And yes all ethylene glycol coolants have a bittering agent.


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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: kschachn] #5446650 06/05/20 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by kschachn
I don't think you mean polyethylene glycol, instead you mean propylene glycol.

One thing is that ethylene glycol doesn't have a very long environmental residence time, it breaks down in soil rather quickly so it isn't quite the boogie monster you may think it is. Yes it is highly toxic to canines but less so to humans.

Yep.. Humans can ingest it in small quantities before it kills them. Especially if you put it in soup.
Watch your soup gents!

Last edited by BMWTurboDzl; 06/05/20 07:11 AM.

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Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: RamFan] #5446722 06/05/20 08:42 AM
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I brought up this topic with a trusted mechanic some years ago when I had Sierra coolant in my 89 Accord. He explained to me that once the coolant has spent 30,000+ miles inside your engine it picks up more than enough combustion byproducts to be plenty toxic. My city water treatment people once told me it's actually OK to dump used coolant into one of your home drains or down the toilet because the water treatment process will degrade and remove it.

Re: Why isn't Polyethylene Glycol standard? [Re: DBMaster] #5446734 06/05/20 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by nascarnation
As a guy who designed cooling systems 40 yrs ago, I'd say losing 36 degrees F on the boil point is a really big issue.

Is is though? Considering you could up the ratio to 55/45 or 60/40 and boost that number. Heck, the FL22 that comes in my CX-5 is already 55/45.

Originally Posted by ctechbob
I was under the impression from an article I read ages ago that there is bacteria in the soil that does a fairly handy job 'eating' up most kinds of coolant types these days.

You know, I think you're right. I too vaguely remember reading this in years past.

Originally Posted by Danno
And losing 8F in freeze protection in Canada, a big deal.

Again, when you can simply change the ratio, is it really that detrimental?

Originally Posted by DBMaster
I brought up this topic with a trusted mechanic some years ago when I had Sierra coolant in my 89 Accord. He explained to me that once the coolant has spent 30,000+ miles inside your engine it picks up more than enough combustion byproducts to be plenty toxic.

Interesting point, I hadn't considered that.

Originally Posted by kschachn
I don't think you mean polyethylene glycol, instead you mean propylene glycol.

Oh jeeze, you're right.
crackmeup

Thanks for all the responses!

Last edited by RamFan; 06/05/20 09:08 AM.

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