Is Dex-Cool Bad? 5 Good Things to Know About GM’s Orange Coolant!

Dex-Cool became the coolant GM used in all of its cars in 1996, and it quickly became a controversial change. Before we get into if Dex-Cool is bad or not, it’s important that you understand the story of Dex-Cool:

The Story of Dex-Cool

The Story of Dex-Cool: The Coolant That Put General Motors in Hot Water • Cars Simplified

As mentioned in the video above, the DexCool formula didn’t play well with every type of cooling system, and certain scenarios could cause coolant issues as well.

Vehicles with DexCool had issues besides the coolant that got blamed on the coolant, but considering the coolant blame-free wouldn’t have been an accurate approach, either.

When Did GM Stop Using Dex-Cool?

General Motors still uses Dex-Cool today, but it isn’t causing the problems it used to! The companies involved in the production of the cars and coolant are tight-lipped about what changes have been made to the coolant formulation, if any, but the Dex Cool we have today isn’t going away any time soon.

Does Dex-Cool Need to be Diluted?

Just like traditional green coolant, if it’s a bottle of 50/50 or “premix” Dex-Cool, then it should not have water added to it. If it is pure, full strength, or concentrate, then it will need to be diluted. For most people, 50/50 dilution is the best ratio. Watering it down too much or pouring in full strength coolant with no water can cause cooling system issues!

The important take-away: read the label! It will tell you how to deal with the coolant, and if it’s unreadable, it has probably been through a lot and might have expired, been refilled with something else, or could be an old formulation. If you can’t tell what it is or how to use it, dispose of it properly.

Can Dex-Cool Mix With Regular Antifreeze?

It may mix without immediate issue, but it will cause problems eventually. You may have seen a bottle of coolant claim “for all makes and models”, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean “mixes with any coolant”! If you are not sure what coolant is in your car already, the best course of action is to flush the entire cooling system and fill it with one type of coolant, as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

The short answer: no. The long answer: if you’re lucky, yes with a catch, if not, no, you may experience cooling issues right away. People with knowledge of the coolant’s properties may know how to mix it with other coolants, but there isn’t any beneficial reason to mix coolants.

Dex-Cool Coolant Color?

Dex-Cool is typically orange, but because color depends on a number of conditions, it may appear red, reddish-orange, or even yellow sometimes. Plus, additives can change the color of the coolant, leading to improper identification, so it’s important to keep track of what coolant you use and what you add so you don’t run into trouble!

If you’re not sure what color the coolant is in your cooling system, it is best to not risk mixing incompatible coolants, so flush it out completely, and put in the right coolant/antifreeze.

Final Thoughts on Dex Cool

While there is a lot of bad press about Dex Cool, but you may notice it is all centered around old articles and the first cars that got it. The coolant today, one way or another, is “fixed”, and can be used properly in vehicles without issue. General Motors still fills vehicles up with DexCool in the factory, and if there were still issues with it, the bad press would be overwhelming.

Is Dex-Cool a Bad Coolant, displaying an AC Delco coolant bottle, photo of dex-cool mud, a temperature icon, and a 2006 Pontiac GTO.

If you liked this article, consider reading our explanation of the different types of brake pads, or how to protect your car’s weatherstripping!

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