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My wife was speaking with a mechanic when she took the car in for a safety and emissions inspection this past week and the mechanic told her that we HAD to take our Ford Taurus to a Ford dealership or to one of their shops (she was at a chain) to add or replace antifreeze in our car, otherwise I would apparently ruin our radiator.

As this is the newest car I've ever owned, I don't know if this some peculiarity of newer vehicles or maybe something specific to Fords.

Can anyone provide some clarification?

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Did the mechanic tell her any more than that? Is your antifreeze gunky? Low? Did he recommend a flush? You'll ruin more than your radiator if you're low on or have rotten antifreeze. –  Cory Larson Mar 8 '11 at 2:16
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I recommend not going back to wherever or whoever told you that. So many auto service/parts outlets thrive on the ignorance of their customers. You have to be very careful. See John Gardeniers answer for the logical response to this. –  Captain Claptrap Mar 8 '11 at 2:38
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5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Antifreeze is a blend of several different ingredients: the antifreeze/coolant active ingredient, (mostly) water, corrosion inhibitors to prevent the water from rusting away the inside of your engine, and a secret blend of herbs and spices that's particular to each manufacturer.

There are several different choices for the active ingredient (ethylene glycol, methanol, propylene glycol); mixing them in your engine (by refilling with a different type) is probably a Bad Thing. Putting PG in a system designed for EG might be a problem too, even if the system had been flushed (and there's no such thing as a perfect flush.) However, the real fun starts when you mix (or mismatch) the corrosion inhibitors. Just don't do it. Wikipedia has some decent information on the subject...

Bottom line: You certainly don't have to go to a Ford dealership to get the right stuff... but getting the right stuff is, in fact, very important, no matter where you get it.

Oh, and the secret herbs and spices? Who the hell knows.

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Lets start with the fact that Ford doesn't make anti-freeze, they buy it in. It will have certain specs of course but so does all anti-freeze. It will also be made by one of the major producers of the product. If you can find the Ford specs you could compare it to other brands. Alternatively, contact the makers of different brands of anti-freeze and ask them about the compatibility of their products with that vehicle. You don't need to use a particular brand, only a compatible one.

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Late model Taurus do use a special coolant (usually orangish) which, unlike the standard biennial flush and change, is only serviced at around 90,000 miles or the kilometric equivalent. Use of common antifreezes (green and blue) will do damage. Use the recommended Ford coolant in the Taurus. You might have been advised to go to Ford for the obvious reason that you went where you did: because you cannot, or prefer not, to service your own car.

The only best place to take questions about your mechanic's advice--naturally--would be a Ford service department--there is no charge for asking a question. It sounds from here like your mechanic is truly knowledgeable; if he were a scoundrel, why not get keep the service to himself! If your Taurus is due for coolant service, it could well be that special equipment, say system recalibration or programming equipment or softwre, is not available to your and some other service shops.

This answer "inspired" by writer's own Taurus service manual; and direct admonition from Ford service and parts departments. If you can do your own coolant reservoir topping (but beware not to overfill), you can purchase the proper Motorcraft coolant for your car.

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The piece missed from your question - you seem to have assumed the reason the mechanic told you to go to a Ford dealer was because of the antifreeze.

A possible alternative is that only the Ford dealership is licenced to drain and refill your radiator - there may be warranties.

(I know, it doesn't answer the headline question, but may still be the correct answer to your situation)

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There's almost certainly no technical reason for that, but there may well be a weasely one. It may have to do with manufacturer recommendations, kickback, or even warranty conditions. And, like another answer said, it may not be about the fluid. You'd need to find out exactly what the person said and why to know what they meant.

Your (up to date) handbook should tell you what kind of fluids are required and appropriate for your engine.

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