The old 50/50 Antifreeze Scam

Posted On: Friday - September 6th 2019 5:50PM MST
In Topics: 
  Cars  Curmudgeonry  Scams

From a post about female stupidity involving making babies we move swiftly to a post about male stupidity involving keeping the vehicle engine cooled. Yes, there's plenty of male stupidity out there, ladies, so don't feel that Peak Stupidity is picking on your sex.

This scam is really about laziness as much as stupidity, and it's really not a scam in the sense of some of the posts with the Scams Topic Key, such as computer-tech support scam. It is more like the government lottos, what I called a "tax on stupidity".

Antifreeze comes pure in gallon bottles. Next to those pure ones, in about every store I've seen antifreeze, there are just as many that are labelled a 50/50 mix (antifreeze and water). It's not a true scam, as, yes, they are labeled clearly. (I may have just once grabbed one by accident and learned the hard way.) The thing is that the 50/50 mix is usually 2 bucks less than the pure stuff, but that is out of about $11 to $13. Let's generously call it 20% off even for the mix. Yet, you're getting 1/2 as much antifreeze. Let's do the math: You're paying 60% more for stuff you can mix yourself. It's just water, man.

The car doesn't need or even want pure antifreeze.* Even if you need to top off the radiator at Starbucks, and go in for a liter of water to mix evenly with your pure antifreeze you likely still come out ahead. Your car however, doesn't need that pure, spring-fed Starbucks water.

Oh, you say, it's gotta be mixed right? Big deal. Check the manual if you're changing out the fluid. Most take a couple of gallons. Then you can just pour the whole bottle, then fill the bottle up with water from the hose and pour it in (or, even more easily, just pour water in until it's full). If it doesn't take a full 2 gallons, then use the marks on the antifreeze bottle and put half of the capacity in, then fill up with water. If you've got a case of a slow loss of fluid that you just don't have time to check out the cause of, mix up your own bottle of 1/2 and 1/2. Top it off with this mix.

What, is your time worth too much? If you are doing well enough that your 5 extra minutes are worth 6 or 8 bucks, then just bring your Maserati into the dealer - they'll take care of EVERYTHING.

I'm telling you - 50/50 is a scam, man!

* The thermal properties of water (cp - heat capacitance, and k - thermal conductivity) and it's lower viscosity, make it a BETTER heat transfer fluid than the ethylene glycol antifreeze, it so happens. It's just that, per its name, we use it to lower the freezing point of the mixture. An advantage of pure antifreeze is just that its boiling point is in the upper 300 deg F, while the 50/50 mixture's is only about 20 degrees about the 212 F of pure water. If your coolant system is working right, this is apparently not important.

Why we don't simply use just water in warm climates is that the antifreeze inhibits corrosion, which you'd get much of with pure water.

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