Mechanic put in wrong color coolant. Problem?

My Mom took her 2001 Toyota Camry to her mechanic to have the radiator hoses replaced and flushed and refilled. We SPECIFICALLY requested Toyota coolant. The shop charged my Mom $333, and when she got it home, I noticed the coolant is green. I called, and the shop owner said he uses a coolant compatible with Toyota vehicles. I’m not so sure. Her car is very low mileage and in good condition. Do you think we should demand that he replace the coolant?

You might want to check the receipt and see what you were actually charged for. Green ethylene glycol coolant is pretty cheap but you should ONLY use it with other ethylene glycol based coolants. AFAIK, the neon green stuff isn’t universal. Prestone and other companies makes a “universal” formula that is usually yellow. If anything, demand to see the containers containing their “compatible” coolant and take pictures and do research on whatever they use to see if it truly is compatible.

$333 for a flush and refill with new hoses sounds outrageous anyway.

Well yes you should, especially if you specifically requested it. The garage purposefully put the wrong coolant in the car. The only reason to do that is…well, I can’t think of a good reason to. I would expect that they would flush the system and install the correct fluid for your cooling system.

If I go to a restaurant and order the NY steak medium-rare and they bring me a pork chop well-done I would expect them to take back the pork chop and bring me what I ordered/paid for.

We SPECIFICALLY requested Toyota coolant.

But did you request Toyota brand coolant?

All true, but if the system was flushed and filled with fresh ‘universal’ coolant I might just leave it in. Find out EXACTLY what type/brand of coolant was used, see if it’s guaranteed to work in all cars. If it is, I’d ask for a partial refund or credit for future work, but I’d leave the green in.

Putting in a different coolant to an EMPTY system is perfectly fine.
MIXING coolants, however, is where you run into troubles.
you MUST find out exactly which coolant they put in…you can leave it in there…but they need to clearly label that, near the reservoir, so that no one mixes wrong in the future.

Toyota brand coolant is either red or pink, if I’m not mistaken. Long life is red, super long life is pink

Even the aftermarket coolants that meet Toyota specs aren’t green

This shop almost certainly used super generic universal green

Go back and insist on getting what you requested

Have them drain the block and radiator. And then refill with Toyota brand coolant, long life, I believe. Have the shop send one of their guys to pick up the coolant from the toyota dealer, if necessary. They should absorb the cost, and not charge you one red cent for their mistake . . . or poor judgment, if you want to word it nicely

Another thought . . . maybe the shop took this route, BECAUSE the customer was a lady, and presumably not car savvy. And if she’s older, they thought she might not double check.


Pull-quote from a March 2011 CarTalk thread:

Good morning, I am the tech manager at Prestone coolants. We make coolant suitable for your toyota. It is called Prestone extended life coolant. You need to drain and flush out your current coolant first. Then you can use our concentrated coolant mixed 50/50 with inexpensive distilled water available at any grocery store. Let me know if you need further instructions.

A follow-up question was (basically), “Why does your gallon of 50% cost as much as your gallon of 100%?”

No answer.

I put Peak Global as a replacement for dexcool, I think it is green, and am glad I did it. Ask them what coolant they used, They won’t mind answering.

@insightful thinking of orange juice in regard to your question, there was light orange juice, they just added water to regular orange juice and charged more. Whatever the market will bear comes to mind!
Now maybe they used distilled water in the 50% and people are paying for the luxury of not having to worry about mixing stuff.

Agree with db4690, Toyota coolant is RED and these guys put in generic green because it is cheaper.

When I go to the roach coach at lunch and ask for a patty melt and fries, I expect to get what I paid for, not a tuna melt and fries

Even though they’re both going in my belly, I want what I paid for

Coolant issues aside for a moment, if this shop has performed services in the past I wonder if they’re also deviating on the type of motor oil being used, transmission fluid, and so on.

Shops can lie, do you check the differential fluid in an oil change? Yes every time, looking at the plug tells me no, Did you use the recommended 5 w 30? yes of course, mechanic on the side, we only have 10 w 30. I have aftermarket swaybarlinks, can you make sure to grease them with the oil change (did not happen), Yes we grease everything, Not to dis everyone, but I have not always gotten a truthful response. I pay a little extra to go to a shop I trust, as it is right across from where I work, or get my bud a certified mechanic who works at a dealership,inconvenient but cheaper who works after hours at at his home.

Agree with db4690, Toyota coolant is RED and these guys put in generic green because it is cheaper.

Well yes, technically it is, and a shop owner/manager has a responsibility to the business to keep material costs as low as practically possible.

Having said that, it’s poor service, short-sighted, dishonest, and possibly negligent to use the wrong coolant in a car in an attempt to save $3 by using substandard coolant on a $300+ job. Why oh why so many shops try to use a generic coolant instead of always replacing with factory fill is still beyond me. I have yet to hear a compelling reason to do so.

Maybe they’re also installing $2 oil filters and use multipurpose atf for every vehicle . . .


Agree. There is a reason why the colors are different. I would go back and demand Toyota brand coolant. They can play semantics all they want…if you say you want Toyota coolant, it means just that. It does not mean " equvalant" as most brands will will say that or " compatable" on the label. If they refuse to put Toyota coolant in the car, tell them you will take all your future business elseware, then do it. You will have to judge for yourself if it’s worth another pay out to change the coolant elsewhere. I would be PO’d.

With all due respect to the excellent advice, there are a lot of qualifiers, like “might” “maybe” “perhaps”…but I gurantee one thing. If any of us explicitly told a mechanic we wanted “x” used to service a car and they used “y” because it was cheaper for them and they completly disregarded our preference, we all would be more then a little PO’d too.

I agree with @db4690 and whether one brand or not is suitable is not the issue. $333 is enough to gurantee they used the best Vodka made and of your preference.

“tell them you will take all your future business elseware, then do it.”


I may have told this story before . . . a few years ago, I went to O’Reilly to buy a chrome lug nut, because the end cap part of it was broken off. But the threads were fine. And the threads on the stud were fine. The lugnut screwed onto the stud just fine. It was just the endcap that fell off. Those 2 things are important

They sold me a lug nut, and I headed home to replace it

I quickly noticed there was a problem, when I was installing it, so I removed it. But it was too late. The threads on the stud were now damaged. I inspected the o’reilly lugnut and realized that the part was a dud. There was a casting error, I suppose, because the female threads weren’t cut properly

I headed back to the store. I showed them their defective lug nut, the receipt. I stated their defective part damaged my stud, and now they owed me another lugnut and a stud. I stated I would not be paying for the stud. They showed me the box of lugnuts. Every single one was a dud, with bad threads. Not one. Not several. Every single one. All of them. I advised them to either return that box or throw it away. They did not care.

They also said they would not give me a stud for free. I told them to get the regional manager on the phone. I saw them dial the number and carry on a brief conversation. The answer was still no, and the phone was hung up

They recognized me, because I’d often gotten parts there. I told them if they didn’t give me the stud for free, they would lose me as a customer

They didn’t budge. They refunded my money for the part, and I left, never to return

I now go out of my way to avoid that place

I bought a lugnut and stud at another store. I inspected both parts carefully and screwed the lugnut onto the stud, just to be sure

I realize I should have inspected the first lugnut. That’s on me. But the store wasn’t willing to eat the cost of a stud, to make up for the damage their bad part caused. That’s on them


That’s ridiculous on the part of O’Reillys especially considering the entire box of lugs was defective.
How much would that one stud have cost them in the name of customer relations? Pennies…

Someone running the machine at the lug nut factory must have used the same taps sans coolant and cutting oil to cut 3 million lugs and to hxxx with what the threads look like.
I wonder how many of those shoddily threaded lugs were sold across the U.S. :neutral:


“How much would that one stud have cost them in the name of customer relations? Pennies…”

That was my reasoning, and I told them that verbally, but they clearly wanted to lose a customer

I have not set foot in that store ever since. Might have been a year, already. I drive past there every time I head to the grocery store. And every time, I think about what a bunch of fools they were. I gladly go out of my way to get my auto parts somewhere else


There ARE different types of coolant additive, and they perform the task of corrosion inhibition differently. There are coolants with phosphates, which encourage internal surfaces to protect themselves from corrosion by forming an oxide coating, much like the way the copper skin on the Statue of Liberty protects itself by forming a copper oxide coating, and there are coolants with silicates, which coat the internal surfaces. There are also organic acid coolant additives (OATs and HOATs), designed to more effectively encourage the oxide layer to form. And there are hybrids (the H in HOAT stands for “hybrid”). Some have both silicates and phosphates.

Toyota’s red coolant (pink when mixed 50/50 with water) is a phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor.

I recommend that coolants never be mixed, and that the recommended additive only be used. The reason is because the coolant chosen by the manufacturer takes into consideration the materials that the engine and all components washed/cooled/lubricated with the coolant as well as the designers of these various parts taking into consideration the coolant approved my their company when selecting the materials that the engine parts will be made from. A material selected for phosphate-based coolant will not necessarily be properly protected by a silicate-based fluid, and an engine designed for compatibility with silicate inhibitors will not necessarily stand up to phosphate inhibitors. Some of the additives in OATs have also been known to congeal with some other coolants and form useless goop.

The bottom line is that this guy should NOT have done what he did. You specified Toyota coolant, the prudent and smart thing to do, and he used something else to pad his profit margin… and cheated you in the process. And at what he charged, the hoses should have come with 18 caret gold braided sheathing. He should absolutely drain the system entirely and refill it with the correct fluid… at no extra charge. Ore refund your money 100% and let you get it done right elsewhere.

Be sure he knows that his response will be spread amongst all of your family members, your coworkers, and described in that letter to the editor you’re going to write. And if he refuses, let him know that his response will be documented in your formal complaint to your state’s Atty General’s Office of Consumer Protection.