Another Simple Way to Keep Repair Costs Down is to Check Your Coolant
I’ve noticed that many times people confuse the “refrigerant” in their A/C system with the “coolant” in their engines cooling system. It makes sense, both are used to cool something down. But there is a world of difference between the two. Coolant, or “antifreeze” is the liquid agent that your vehicle uses to cool the engine and keep it from overheating. Refrigerant, or “R134a” is the gas that is used in your A/C system to aid in cooling the air coming out your vents when the A/C is on.
This Car Tip for Beginners is going to cover how to check and add “coolant” to your engine’s cooling system. It’s easier than you might think, and equally as important as maintaining clean /proper oil levels in your engine.
Locate the Radiator Cap:
First off, you’ll need to locate your radiator cap. This is generally very easy to do. They are usually located right under the front of the hood; usually on the top of the radiator. However, they can also be located on-top the expansion tank (this is a tank that holds coolant and is connected to the radiator by a hose). Once you’ve propped the hood up, look for a cap similar to one in the pictures.
Checking Coolant Levels:
At this stage it is imperative that you let the care cool down if you’ve been driving it. If you open the radiator cap when the engine coolant is hot, it can spew boiling coolant out all over you. I’ve done it. It hurts!
Once the engine has cooled down, use a rag, double it up and put it over the cap and begin slowly opening it. You only want to open it enough to vent the pressure that has built up in the coolant system. As you open it, you will generally hear a hiss; stop right there and let it vent. After the pressure has been bled off you can open the cap and look into the radiator or expansion tank to gauge the coolant level. If you are looking into the top of the radiator you should see the fluid level covering the metal fins inside. If it isn’t, add coolant until it (at least) covers the fins (as seen in the picture). It is OK to fill the coolant all the way to the top. Once done, tighten the cap back on and you are ready to go.
If your cap is on the expansion tank (as seen in the photo above) you will want to check the side of the tank to see if the coolant level inside is up to the “max” line. If not, add some until it is, close the cap and get back on the road!
It should be noted that if your coolant is low (especially if it is consistently low) you have a leak somewhere in the cooling system that should be taken care of immediately. Coolant leaks are dangerous, because they can instantly get much worse and without a well-functioning cooling system your engine will overheat, and catastrophic damage can result.
Thanks for tuning in for this Car Tip for Beginners! Hopefully this will help you save money and keep your car in tip-top shape for a long time.