What Happens if You Run a Car Without Coolant? (Explained!)

Coolant is a vital fluid, and you can find this in the hood of your vehicle. And people want to know what would happen if they ran their car without coolant. If you wish to find the answer too, keep reading to know about it. 

So what happens if you run a car without coolant? Without coolant, the engine of your vehicle will not last for about a few minutes without experiencing a breakdown. It will be accompanied by significant damages. 

With that, coolant is a vital part of your vehicle. In this article, we will be talking about coolant and its importance to your engine. Let us get started.

What Happens if You Run a Car Without Coolant

What Happens If You Run A Car With No Coolant?

Engines are exciting machines. There are pistons in your engine, and there is a metal shell surrounding every piston. These metal shells have thousands of explosions every minute. 

This causes a lot of heat, and over time, the heat will cause damages, tears, and wear on your engine. And so, this is why coolant is critical. The coolant is a combination of antifreeze and water. 

The cooling system will be using coolant so that it can remove the heat that is from your combustion engine. This will make your engine safe at operating temperature. So if you will run your vehicle without coolant, that is not good. 

The coolant will be circling inside your vehicle. It will remove heat from different vehicle components so that your vehicle can perform and work well in operating temperatures and standard components. So without coolant, nothing will remove the heat. 

As a result, the heat will then circulate in your engine, and it will overheat and eventually lead to a breakdown. The following are the damages that can happen to your vehicle. 

1. There Will Be Damages To The Components Of Your Engine. 

If your vehicle’s engine overheats, especially on an old vehicle, these old vehicles do not have features that can alert the driver of the overheating. As a result, the engine will be getting a lot of severe damages. There can also be some permanent damages. 

2. There Will Be Warnings And Dashboard Lights.

Your temperature gauge will shoot up. This means that you have an issue. 

There is also a warning from your vehicle’s central computer, which will notify you of a problem with your cooling system. You can also be on the verge of overheating. 

3. There Will Be An Engine Cut-Off.

On new vehicles, the central computer will monitor the engine’s temperature. Then, it will automatically turn off the engine so that there will be prevention of severe damages to your engine. It will also disconnect the ignition from the engine while it is cooling down. 

Can I Drive With An Empty Coolant?

Yes, you can drive your vehicle with an empty coolant, but you will have significant damages. There’ll never be a good outcome from driving a car without coolant. 

The coolant on your vehicle will circulate into the engine. This is important because your coolant will keep and maintain a good and proper working temperature in different parts of your car. 

Is It Bad To Run A Car With No Coolant?

Yes, it is wrong. Nothing good will come out of driving a car without coolant. 

The coolant will circulate into your vehicle and will remove any heat from your engine. This will keep your engine in operating temperatures within normal parameters. 

car with no coolant

How Long Can You Run A Car Without Coolant?

If your vehicle is running low in coolant, you can drive it for some time. But it will depend on the level of your coolant. If you have a low coolant, but it is still above the minimum, you might be able to drive your car for days, but if it is below the minimum, do not drive your vehicle. 

No Coolant In Car Symptoms

If you have no coolant in your car, there will be manifestations of symptoms. Here are some of them. 

1. There Will Be Warning Lights On Your Dashboard. 

If your vehicle is running low on coolant, you will experience that your dashboard will light up like a Christmas tree. Your temperature gauge will shoot up. 

You can also have your check engine light turn on too. So if you see that your dashboard light is on, incredibly the temperature light, this means that your coolant is low. 

2. There Will Be A Cut-Off In Your Automatic Engine.

If your vehicle has an automatic engine cut-off component, then your vehicle will automatically cut off. That is a good thing, though. 

This feature will prevent damages to your engine if your vehicle starts. So you cannot drive your car unless it cools down. 

3. There Will Be Leakage. 

You will know that your vehicle is running out of coolant because you will notice a colored liquid on the road or in your driveway. Have a check under your vehicle for any leaks. 

4. There Will Be A Smell. 

Coolant has a smell. If you smell coolant, then your coolant might be leaking. 

Will The Engine Light Come On If The Coolant Is Low?

If you have a low coolant in your vehicle, this will trigger the malfunction illumination light or MIL, also known as check engine light. This is because a low coolant can affect the internal temperature of your engine. 

How Long Can A Diesel Engine Run Without Coolant?

Driving your vehicle without a coolant or a low coolant will be risky. It can cause damage to the primary and the secondary components of your engine. It’s best not to drive your vehicle. 

If you drive your vehicle for a few minutes, it can lead to severe damages to your engine, and you will have repairs. There are modern cars and brand-new cars that have cut-off features. It will detect a lack of coolant. 

It’ll also monitor the temperature of your engine. If there is a low coolant in your vehicle’s cooling system, it will cause an increase in the temperature of your engine. 


In summary, coolant is essential in your engine. Many car drivers might not know its importance, but it is essential to your vehicle. 

The coolant will prevent any overheating. So you must not drive your vehicle without 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