Burning Coolant: Is It Normal? What To Do? (Explained!)

While coolant plays a vital role in the engine’s operation, a coolant can also have a lot of problems. One of these problems is the kerning coolant. A lot of drivers have reported that they have a burning coolant. 

So is burning coolant normal and what can you do about it? An engine coolant does burn off and it is normal. If your coolant is burning, you can just add a normal coolant and then top it off. 

Some of the car drivers would contemplate whether a burning coolant is a bad thing or a good thing. Some car drivers would already panic and be bothered if their coolant is burning or if they are smelling a coolant that is burning. There are also some car drivers who ignore it and they do not do anything about it and regard it as normal. 

So with that, this article will cover all about burning coolant and whether burning coolant is normal and what we have to do about it. This is extra important because a burning coolant might seem very dangerous and it is important to learn more about it first. 

So without further ado, let us get started. Stay and keep reading!

Burning Coolant

Does Engine Coolant Burn Off?

Yes, engine coolant does burn off. The coolant of a vehicle can either burn on a hot surface or leak at some point. If you want to know if your vehicle is losing coolant, there are some tests that a mechanic can do to check if your vehicle is burning coolant or losing coolant. 

If there is no leak in your vehicle, there can be two more causes, and these are common. The first is the heater core leak and the head gasket leak. If your exhaust is looking more like a volcano and puffing out white smoke, this can be a sign that you’re burning coolant in your vehicle’s motor. 

Is Burning Coolant Bad?

Yes, if your coolant is burning, it can be bad. Your engine needs coolant, and if you are burning off the coolant, this is not good for your engine. 

Your engine can overheat and get damaged. Also, if you are burning coolant, this can signify something more wrong with your vehicle. 

Will Coolant Catch Fire?

Yes, your coolant can catch on fire. It can auto-ignite, and a lot of people have seen it. If the engine is around six hundred fifty (650) to seven hundred fifty (75) degrees Fahrenheit, then your coolant can be on fire. 

Causes Of Burning Coolant

A lot of car drivers have been asking about the causes of a burning coolant. There are about two very common reasons why you are burning coolant. The first is a busted head gasket, and the second is a fault in your radiator hose. 

1. You Might Have A Busted Head Gasket

If your head gasket has gone wrong, then you will have to get it fixed or replaced. This is a costly component. 

The labor is also costly. So a lot of people are not fixing it because of the cost. 

2. Your Radiator Hose Might Be Damaged

If you are lucky, then you might just be dealing with your radiator hose. You must have it fixed. Consult an expert if you cannot do it yourself.

coolant that is burning

Symptoms Of Burning Coolant

A lot of drivers do not notice that they are already burning coolant. So with that, here are some of its symptoms. 

1. There Is A Milky Build-Up Under Oil Cap

If your head gasket is blown, you must check the oil filler cap. If the gasket is in place and intact, the oil should be dry and have a little bit of oil inside. However, if there is a milky brownish yellow substance inside, you might have a gasket leak, and you might already be burning coolant. 

2. There Will Be A Visible Tailpipe Smoke

The head gasket makes sure that there is a proper coolant flow into the coolant channels of the engine. If there’s a leak in your head gasket, this can cause burning coolant, and the coolant will seep into the combustion chambers. 

There, the coolant will burn up together with the gasoline. If the coolant gets burned, it will create a white or grey-colored smoke coming from the tailpipe. Likewise, if the coolant is burning in the engine, it will create a white or grey-colored smoke coming from the tailpipe. 

3. You Will Have A Rough Idle

Your engine is designed to maintain a high-pressure level inside all the cylinders for maximum power and efficiency. If your head gasket fails, your engine will not hold any pressure properly. If you have a rough idea, it can also be because of a bad head gasket. 

What To Do When Your Coolant Is Burning?

If you have a very mild leak and it is causing a coolant burn, you can add fresh coolant or add a little water and keep it full. You can even make a proper mix of 50% antifreeze and 50% water. 

So you need to find out first the leading cause why your coolant is burning. There can be many reasons for that. With that, you will know what to do. 

How Long Does It Take For Coolant To Burn Off?

It can be left for about one or two hours, and it will burn off. Some will take fewer, and some will take longer. This is only the average.

Is It Ok If You Spill Coolant?

No. If you have accidentally spilled some coolant in your engine, you need to clean it up as soon as you can. Coolant is toxic, and you need to clean it up as soon as you can. You do not want animals and plants to die because of their toxicity.

What Do You Do If You Spill Antifreeze?

If you spill antifreeze while working in your vehicle, you need to clean the spill and then spray some water in the area. You can prevent the pets from drinking the fluid. You also need to keep the pets away from the area of the spill until it is thoroughly cleaned. 

Do not let animals near the area of the spill. Use an absorbent material. Pour sawdust, baking soda, or some other absorbent material on the spill as soon as you can. 

Let the material absorb the antifreeze. Pick up the absorbent material and discard it. Then clean the spilled area. Dispose of the antifreeze properly.

Can Spilled Coolant Cause Smoke?

The cause of white exhaust smoke from your vehicle is common, especially on cold days. It can be because of condensation. 

Have your vehicle inspected by an expert. A spilled coolant can cause smoke but not all the time, and it is pretty unlikely too. 

Burning Coolant Smell

Antifreeze can leak from your vehicle, and it can produce a strong smell. That pungent smell will be taken to the next level. There will be a sweet burning coolant smell in the air.

 You must do something if you smell burning coolant. It can create severe damage to your vehicle, and no driver would want that. 

Burning Coolant Smoke

If white smoke comes out of your exhaust, it might mean that you have a blown head gasket. You might also have a crack in the head or a crack in the engine block. 

Burning Coolant Smoke Color

If there is a black burning coolant smoke appearing, the vehicle can be burning coolant or too much fuel. This can be a cause of a clogged air filter or a malfunctioning fuel injection system. You can also have a blocked manifold or some other issues. 


In summary, a lot of car drivers have reported that they have burning coolant. Coolant is badly needed by our vehicle, and without coolant, your engine can get severely damaged. 

Burning coolant is regular if it is due to evaporation. But some reasons are not typical. So have the vehicle checked as soon as you can.

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Image credits – Canva

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My name is Hank, and I've been in the automotive industry for 27 years. I've been working in my own auto repair shop for the last 13 years, and now I want to help you here, on my blog. Let me know if you have any questions. Read more