Radiator fluid or coolant is vital to the proper functioning of your car. Effectively, when the thermostat recognizes that the engine has reached a certain temperature, it triggers the release of radiator fluid, which absorbs the heat that the engine gives off in order to cool it down, preventing it from overheating. Clearly, then, having the proper amount of radiator fluid in your car is essential to your engine’s ability to do its job. In this article, Part 1 explains how to check your car’s radiator fluid, and Part 2 walks through the process of adding radiator fluid once you’ve determined this is necessary.
Part 1 of 2: Checking the radiator fluid
Step 1: Let the car cool down. This an extremely important step to do before you start working with your car or check the radiator fluid.
The radiator fluid is part of a system that is airtight, so if you were to open the cap while the car is still hot, this would cause flash boiling and the steam released would result in serious burns to you.
Step 2: Raise the hood. Open the hood and prop it up using whatever method is equipped on your car.
Step 3: Locate the radiator cap. The cap should be a fairly visible and exposed metal cap on top of the radiator, connecting via a tube down into the engine compartment.
If you are lucky, yours will be labelled in some way, but if not and you are have some trouble finding it, consult your owner’s manual or look up the location online for your specific make and model.
Step 4: Carefully loosen the radiator cap. You should use gloves and shop rags to help you here.
Taking extra precautions will prevent any possible burns and minimize the damage should coolant overflow from within the system.
Step 5: Look for the max fill line. Once you have removed the cap, you should see some sort of marking indicating where the coolant level should be inside the tank.
If you’ve found the markings but the coolant is well below this, you need to add coolant to your system. Generally, the coolant level should be at or close to the top of the filler unit.
Step 6: Check the overflow tank. Cars also have overflow tanks that hold extra coolant as it heats up and expands, so you can remove the cap to check the coolant level here as well.
The level of fluid in the overflow tank is not necessarily an indicator of your radiator fluid level, so use the amount of fluid inside the filler unit on the radiator itself to determine whether you need to add more coolant or not.
Part 2 of 2: Adding radiator fluid to your car
Step 1: Purchase radiator fluid. You can go to your local automotive store to find coolant for sale.
As with anything, there are plenty of options and brands out there, so find one you like and go with it.
Usually, radiator fluid needs to be diluted 50/50 with water before it is added to your car. The good news is that there are plenty of pre-diluted options on the market so that you don’t have to worry about mixing the water and coolant yourself.
Step 2: Add radiator fluid. Open the radiator cap and add fluid until the level reaches the top of the filler neck.
You may want to use a funnel to prevent spillage. Coolant is dangerous to pets so be sure to clean up any mess you make.
Don’t add fluid to the overflow tank before you add it to the radiator itself first, but you can a dd it to the reservoir tank after the fact. You can fill the overflow tank up to about halfway if you don’t see any fill lines on the overflow tank itself.
Step 3: Replace the cap. Screw the cap back on and make sure it is secured.
Checking your radiator fluid is a relatively straightforward part of car ownership. Maintaining the correct amount of radiator fluid in your car is important for to your engine to work properly.