How Long Can You Drive A Car Without Coolant? (Explained!)

Coolant is one of the most important fluids in your vehicle. Your vehicle will need coolant because, without coolant, your vehicle can overheat and will suffer from breakdown and severe damages. As a car driver, it is essential for you to know the importance of your coolant for your vehicle. 

So how long can you drive a car without coolant? You can drive your car without coolant for a few miles and it will still run and operate. But even just one minute of running a car without coolant can do damage to your vehicle. 

There is no question that coolant is vital to maintain the optimum performance of your vehicle and maintain its good working condition. Without coolant, your vehicle will not have the ability to cool down and your vehicle will experience damages. With that, it must be clear to you how important your coolant is for your vehicle.

So without coolant, what would happen? Can you drive with no coolant? These are the most common questions car drivers ask in terms of coolant and its effect on the vehicle. If you want to know the answer, keep reading. 

In this article, you will know if you can drive your vehicle without coolant. Let us get started. 

How Long Can You Drive A Car Without Coolant

Can You Drive A Car Without Coolant?

In a moving vehicle, the moving parts can cause heat inside the engine. This heat can cause wear and tear in the metal of your vehicles. That is why every vehicle has a cooling system. 

It will be performed by a mixture of water and antifreeze or coolant. The cooling system will utilize the coolant so that it can remove the heat that is caused by the combustion engine. This is to ensure that your engine will be safe at an operating temperature. 

So if you will drive your car without coolant, that is within your choice, but it will do nothing good for your engine. The coolant will circulate your vehicle, and it will take away the heat from the component of your engine. 

In return, it will keep the temperature of your engine within normal parameters. So if your vehicle has no coolant, the heat will not be removed, and this will cause your engine to overheat and then break down. 

How Long Can You Run An Engine Without Coolant?

If your vehicle has no coolant, you must not drive your vehicle anymore. You can run for a few miles but even for just one minute, driving your vehicle with no coolant can already do some severe damage to your vehicle. You can drive a long way, but the consequence to your vehicle is not good. 

What Happens When You Run A Car For Longer Than That?

You already know the importance of a coolant for your engine. If you drive your engine with a very low coolant or no coolant at all, you will have to take many risks. Driving without coolant for a long time definitely does some severe damage to your engine’s primary and secondary components. 

If your vehicle has no coolant, the best idea is not to drive and have your vehicle pull over. Driving your vehicle with no coolant for just a few minutes can already cost you a lot of repairs. 

Many modern vehicles can detect and monitor the level of your coolant and the temperature of your vehicle. If your vehicle has no coolant in your cooling system, it will damage your vehicle and cause overheating to your engine. 

How To Recognize You Don’t Have Coolant In Your Car?

Vehicles have a feature that will let you know that your coolant level is getting low. But if your vehicle doesn’t have this feature, you can observe these symptoms to know if your car is low on coolant or does not have any coolant at all. 

1. Dashboard Warning Light

If you’re running low on coolant or have no coolant at all, your vehicle can notify you on the dashboard. But, as mentioned, not all vehicles have this feature. 

2. Sharp Sweet Smell

Your coolant has a distinct and sweet smell. If your car is low on coolant and your vehicle is leaking coolant, you can notice a distinct sweet smell. This can indicate that there’s a leak, which is why your coolant is running low.

3. Poor Fuel Economy

If your vehicle is burning fuel a lot quicker than usual, you might have no coolant in your engine. With the right temperature, your vehicle can efficiently burn fuel. However, if the temperature of your engine changes, your vehicle will not burn fuel efficiently.

4. Rise In Your Temperature Gauge

You might notice an increase in your temperature gauge, which can be because of an increase in your engine’s temperature. 

5. Internal Heating

You might notice that your heater is blowing hot air instead of cold air, and it might not be working at all. 

6. Automatic Engine Cut Off

Modern vehicles have an automatic engine cut-off feature. If you have a low coolant, your engine will overheat. This feature will then automatically shut off your engine and prevent your engine from damaging your vehicle. 

What To Do When You Run Out Of Coolant?

Your coolant reservoir is connected to your radiator. It will allow the coolant to flow back and forth. If your coolant reservoir is empty, you cannot refill it. You have to check the level of your coolant in the radiator. 

Wait until your radiator has cooled down. You must not open your radiator if it is hot. Turn the radiator cap counterclockwise. 

Do not press it. Do not release build-up pressure. Push down the cap and turn it counterclockwise. 

Take the cap away, and then check the level of the coolant of the radiator. It must not be lower than the bottom of the neck of the radiator. 

If you notice that your coolant is low or you have no coolant at all, just add your coolant. Clean the spill if there are spills. Next, replace the radiator cap and then top off the coolant reservoir. 


In summary, coolant cleans your vehicle and keeps your engine from overheating. With that, it is vital to ensure that your vehicle has enough coolant. 

If you have no coolant, your vehicle can get damaged. Therefore, you must not drive your vehicle if it has no coolant.



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