Checking Car Radiator Coolant Level

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Check the car's radiator coolant level to prevent it from dropping damaging levels; learn how from our expert mechanic in this free car-maintenance video.

Part of the Video Series: Basic Car Care & Maintenance
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Video Transcript

Hi this is Jeff Wong with Expert Village and today we're going to learn the basics of maintaining your vehicle. Next we're going to check the engine coolant. I want to warn you here that engine coolant can be very hot if your car has been recently running. You can see that there are warning labels on your radiator cap here so use extreme caution when removing this cap. So the way to check if your engine is cool you should be able to hold the upper radiator hose. It could be warm to the touch but it's not excessively hot. So to remove your radiator cap you can use a towel or a couple of paper towels stacked up or a glove would be good and you can place that over it. Now be careful when opening the radiator cap because there may be pressure inside that may have built up causing fluid to spray out when you open. So push down on the cap and turn counter clockwise slightly and listen for any release of pressure and if you hear that either stop and wait. Or if fluid is shooting out close the cap back, because there may be excess pressure that has built up and the fluid is not completely cooled yet. So if the fluid is cool and you don't hear any pressure being released you can turn the cap fully and remove it. If you look inside you can see that the fluid is full all the way to the top. So this radiator doesn't need any additional fluid. Now we're going to talk about the different types of engine coolant that you can use. These are readily available in even some supermarkets and any automotive store. So first I'm going to talk about 50-50 pre-diluted antifreeze. So this antifreeze is ready to use and you can just pour this straight into the radiator or the radiator reservoir. There's also coolant that is undiluted. As you can see there's nowhere that says 50-50 and on the back of the coolant there are directions of the ratio of water to coolant that you should put in. So again be sure to use distilled water and not tap water as that can build up mineral deposits inside your cooling system. One tip if you have to mix your own coolant to water ratio is to mix your coolant and water in a separate container outside of the vehicle. Once you have the proper ratio that you need, then you can pour it into the radiator and you'll know exactly the ratio that went in. As your engine heats up and excess pressure builds up, a little valve on your radiator cap will open up and what this allows is excess radiator fluid to escape from the top of the radiator through a hose and into the radiator fluid reservoir. Now if your radiator fluid level is low, it will do the opposite and swipe the fluid from this reservoir back into the radiator. So to fill your radiator reservoir simply unscrew the cap on top. You can pour fluid inside until you see the fluid level rise to between the minimum and maximum lines on the side of the reservoir. As we saw this radiator and the reservoir both have enough fluid in there, so now we'll replace the cap. So when replacing the cap take note of the notches or the tabs that are on the cap and line them up with the corresponding notches that are on the top of the radiator. Once they are lined up you need to push down on the radiator cap and turn in a clockwise fashion. The handles or the little knobs on the side of the radiator cap should line up with the radiator and the cap should be secure and tight. Another thing you want to check when checking your radiator are the hoses that feed the coolant from the radiator into the engine. So there are two hoses on your radiator; one connects to the top of the radiator and one is at the bottom. So you want to visually inspect your hoses and check where the clamps clamp to the radiator and to the engine and assure that they are secure, that there are no leaks and that the radiator hose itself is not cracked. You can see the other radiator hose is here, it leads down to the bottom of the radiator and here to the back of the engine and also make a visual check of that hose. So if your radiator hoses are cracked or if there's excess leaking around where they clamp onto the radiator or the engine, the hose and or the clamp may also need to be replaced.

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