How to Empty a Coolant Tank


If you pay close attention to a couple of safety issues, changing your own coolant is a breeze. You should never pay someone to perform this simple task. If you plan on refilling the radiator, be sure to check individual owner's manuals for proper mixture levels for your automobile, and then head down to your local auto parts store and pick up the necessary coolant.

Things You'll Need

  • Vinyl gloves
  • Ratchet set
  • Bucket
  • Ensure the radiator is cool before you start. Put your vinyl gloves on.

  • Spread newspaper or cloth under the radiator, then place the bucket/catch pan under the plug of the radiator. The plug is located on the underside of the radiator on the left.

  • Remove the hex nut, or screw plug. This will likely require a ratchet set if it is a hex nut, though a wrench may also work. The screw plug will require a large screwdriver. If your car model has a hose at the bottom of the radiator, as most vehicles do, remove this instead of the plug. Simply remove the clamps and pull the hose.

  • Allow the coolant to drain, giving it a bit of extra time to drip once the flow ceases. Carefully pull the bucket out. Replace the plug, tightening the hex nut firmly. If you removed the hose instead, make sure you get the clamps firmly in place to avoid leaks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Your radiator will drain quickly if you remove not only the plug, but the radiator cap as well.
  • Inspect your coolant. There should be nothing in it. If there is, some sort of cooling system problem has begun. Take it to your mechanic and have it checked out.
  • It is impossible to overstate the danger of removing a radiator cap or drain plug when the engine is hot. Doing so can cause the pieces to rocket toward you hard enough to cause death or serious injury. Once the cap or plug has blown off, you have escaping steam that will cause third-degree burns. Your best bet is to drain your radiator several hours after driving.
  • Be aware that the ethylene glycol in antifreeze can burn skin, and remove paint from a car. If it gets in the eyes it will likely cause blindness.
  • It is essential that you dispose of the coolant correctly. Note that animals are attracted to the sweet smell of ethylene glycol and will drink it if it is left out, resulting in death. Put the coolant in sealed containers (such as empty coolant tanks) and take it to your local waste-management facility. Thoroughly clean any spills that occur as you transfer the coolant.

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