Radiator Maintenance: How to Check and Add Coolant

The radiator in your vehicle performs an essential job as it helps to keep your engine cool. When it comes to radiator maintenance, checking and filling your coolant is something you should never put off. The coolant is going to help to cool off your vehicle when it is needed, as well as keeping the engine from freezing in the winter. Here are some tips for checking the coolant and adding it when the coolant level is low.

Check the Coolant Level

The first step to checking your coolant level is waiting until your vehicle is completely cool. While some fluids are checked while the vehicle is warm, such as your transmission fluid, this is not the case for the coolant. It is also very dangerous to touch the radiator or open the cap while the vehicle is hot, so remember to let it cool off first. If you see a clear, plastic container near your radiator, that is the overflow tank. It is handy because you can see right away how much coolant is in your vehicle. There will be markings on the side of the overflow tank that let you know if the level is low or high.

If you don't have the overflow tank, which occurs with older vehicles, you will need to check the fluid level inside the radiator. There isn't a dipstick to check, which means you actually have to open the radiator. When you are sure your vehicle is cool, carefully screw off the radiator cap. If it hasn't been opened in a while, it may take a lot of effort to screw it off. Peer inside the radiator and look for fluid. If there is enough fluid for you to see by glancing inside, there should be enough fluid for now. If you can't see the fluid, it is low and you need to add more.

If the coolant looks oily or sludge, take your vehicle to a mechanic. This is a sign of having spoiled coolant and your vehicle needs to be serviced.

Add More Coolant

If either the radiator or the overflow tank looked low on fluid, it is time to add some more. All vehicles require a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. You can either mix it yourself, or purchase coolant that already contains the right amount of water. Most auto supply stores sell the pre-mixed containers, which makes it a lot easier.

With a cold engine, unscrew the radiator cap and set it aside. Mix your coolant if you were unable to find the 50/50 mixture. Unscrew the cap to the coolant and begin adding it very slowly to the radiator. Pour it only until it reaches the full mark, then put the cap back on. If your vehicle has an overflow tank, you still add coolant to the radiator, not the overflow tank. Once the coolant is added, screw the cap on tightly. For more information, contact Action Muffler Radiator & Brakes.