What Does Coolant Taste Like? Know The Consequences

Coolant is a significant fluid in virtually all gasoline and diesel engine-powered vehicles. The fluid helps to protect the engine from freezing under cold weather and also prevents it from overheating.

The chemical formation of coolant is orchestrated to lower the freezing point of water by keeping the liquid below 32° Fahrenheit. Besides protecting the vehicle’s engine from freezing, the liquid also serves as a lubricant, enabling the vehicle’s moving parts to work smoothly.

One major characteristic of coolant is its unique taste. You may be wondering, “What does coolant taste like?” This article provides an accurate answer and the effect of tasting coolant.

what does antifreeze taste like

What Does Coolant Taste Like?

What does antifreeze taste like? Coolant (antifreeze) has a sweet taste. Its taste is like a mixture of salt, sugar, and vinegar. This is because the major active ingredient in coolant is ethylene glycol, which generally tastes sweet. However, this is not an approval to taste coolant as an experiment.

The fluid is designed for use in vehicles and not for human consumption. Adults may not easily fall victim of tasting antifreeze, but it is common to have children mistakenly ingest the fluid due to curiosity at times.

The common reasons why most people may ingest coolant is due to the antifreeze sweet taste and a miss up in the storage container. If you keep the coolant in a different container than its original one, it may be easy to miss things up, especially for a kid.

Therefore, it is very important that you store coolant in its originally designated container at all times. That being said, knowing the effect of tasting coolant is vital in case someone around you mistakenly gulped some of it unknowingly.

Whether you or anyone mistakenly swallowed antifreeze, do not panic. The subsequent sections unveil what happens when you taste coolant, the symptoms of ingesting the liquid into the human body, and the treatment.

What Happens If I Taste Coolant?

Is antifreeze clear and sweet? Yes! But it can be harmful. If you mistakenly taste coolant, the chemical composition of the fluid can alter the normal functionality of your lung, kidney, brain, and ultimately the nervous system. This effect occurs as your body gradually breaks down the fluid progressively within a couple of hours.

Coolant ingestion can lead to organ damage within 24 – 72 hours if not treated as soon as possible. In most cases, taking in antifreeze can result in respiratory issues such as fast breathing.

If you’re asking, “What ingredient in antifreeze is poisonous?” The ethylene glycol and methanol in coolant make the fluid toxic to the human body, especially when swallowed in large quantities.

However, if you or anyone accidentally ingests coolant, ensure to see a medical doctor for treatment as an emergency. Delaying the treatment of coolant consumption in the human system can cause serious health challenges; hence, you shouldn’t treat this issue with levity.

What Does Coolant Smell Like?

does coolant have a smell

Does coolant have a smell? Of course, coolant has a unique sweet, fruity smell. The odor can linger for several hours if the fluid is spilled or leaks into an area. In other words, it is easy to know when there’s a coolant leak somewhere in your car.

Besides seeing puddles underneath your vehicle, the sweet smell of coolant is one of the primary signs of knowing your car leaks somewhere. If you notice this smell or white smoke in your vehicle, inspect the engine compartment to identify the location of the leak and fix it ASAP.

If you can’t fix the leak personally, kindly contact an expert auto mechanic to fix it. Meanwhile, failure to fix the leaking coolant can result in more severe consequences in the long run. Overheating is one of the major challenges you will most likely battle with if you fail to fix the coolant leak.

Why Do Alcoholics Drink Antifreeze?

Alcoholics drink antifreeze because they can consume it as a substitute for alcohol, and it is relatively cheap. The ethanol in antifreeze has a similar effect on the human body, just like wine or beer; hence, alcoholics can use the liquid to satisfy their desire to get high.

However, the high from antifreeze is relatively short-lived but can be quite intense. Alcohol addicts do not mind the effects of the liquid they ingest as long as they get the desired satisfaction for the moment. This can be detrimental to their health in the long run.

Ingesting antifreeze may not kill the consumer immediately but can lead to fatal kidney failure. Unfortunately, the sweet taste of antifreeze makes it appealing to humans and animals.

However, temporary satisfaction can result in permanent damage to the organ in the long run. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid its consumption.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Humans

Antifreeze ingestion symptoms occur gradually over a period of time in the human body; hence, there may be no instant effect in most cases. As a result, you may likely overlook the situation since the consumer appears to be alright at the moment.

Unfortunately, as the body breaks down the fluid, the chemical is gradually converted into other toxic substances such as; acetone, glycol aldehyde, glyoxylic acid, formaldehyde, and glycolic acid.

As the liquid goes through metabolism, the body will start to react. However, the time frame for early symptoms depends on the quantity of antifreeze that was ingested.

Meanwhile, according to ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, severe symptoms will likely occur after 12 hours of ingestion. Some of the common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in humans include the following;

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Grogginess
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to urinate
  • Convulsions

Besides the symptoms above, a victim of antifreeze ingestion can also lose consciousness and even get into a coma if quick medical treatment is not provided within the shortest possible time.

Primary Treatment for Antifreeze Poisoning

The primary treatment for antifreeze ingestion poisoning depends on the quantity of the fluid taken in, the time it was ingested, and the severity of the symptoms at the point of treatment.

However, a patient can be given antidotes such as ethanol and fomepizole to prevent the body from further breaking down the chemical into toxic metabolites.

Although antidote therapy cannot remove toxins that have already accumulated inside the kidneys, it can assist in stopping further kidney damage. After that, the doctor may concentrate on bringing the patient’s blood pH levels back to normal, perhaps by injecting a bicarbonate solution.

A doctor might advise hemodialysis to eliminate harmful metabolites and unmetabolized antifreeze from the bloodstream. To do this, a tube is placed with a needle into the patient’s arm during hemodialysis.

The dialysis machine is connected to the tube. The blood from the patient passes down the tube and into the machine, which removes waste and toxins. The filtered blood then returns to the person’s arm through a different tube.


Coolant ingestion can be very harmful to the human body. Despite its sweet flavor, the fluid is highly toxic. Ethylene glycol, in particular, can cause serious harm when ingested, leading to symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, kidney failure, and even death. For pets, the ingestion can be fatal even in smaller quantities. This deceptive taste, therefore, can lead to tragic accidents.

However, if detected early, applying quick antidotes can help to stop the metabolism of the chemicals in the antifreeze, thereby making further treatment easy. If you are asking yet, “What does coolant taste like?” Virtually all you need to know about the fluid’s taste, smell, ingestion symptoms, and treatment have been unveiled above in this article. Taking precautions when dealing with chemical substances like antifreeze is very important.

Ensure to keep the coolant container far from the reach of always curious children. Also, avoid storing antifreeze in unlabeled containers so that it is not mistaken for any other edible liquid like a beverage. I am not a Doctor or Medical Specialist; my remarks are added to the article from reliable research and practical example.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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