Maintaining a vehicle not only enhances its performance, but also extends its life. There are several components that require constant monitoring, and one of these is the engine cooling system. Knowing how to check and add radiator fluid can greatly reduce the chances of ending up on the side of the road with an overheated car.
The first step is the most important step and must be followed very carefully: make sure that the engine is cool prior to opening the cap on the radiator! Failure to ensure that the engine is not hot can result in serious injury, burns, and even blindness. This first step is the most critical and must not be forgotten!
After making sure that the engine is cool, check the tank that contains the radiator fluid. There are several lines on this tank, so be sure that you are looking at the right one. The fluid level should be at or near the line that reads COLD. This simply means that this is the appropriate fluid level when the engine is cold. If your engine is hot, then it should be at the HOT reading.
If you need to add fluid to your radiator, proceed to this next step only after making sure the engine is cold. Carefully locate and remove the radiator cap. In your owner’s manual you will find information regarding the type of engine coolant or radiator fluid to be used. Your vehicle is made to work with this specific fluid, so make sure that you purchase the right coolant. If absolutely necessary in an emergency situation, water can be used in lieu of coolant. However, this should only be done in an emergency. The radiator must be flushed as soon as possible after using plain water; pure water in a radiator can cause rust, and it also tends to overheat. Water may cause serious damage if left in your radiator during a long trip. Pour the engine coolant in slowly until the fluid level is at the correct mark on the tank. Replace and secure the radiator cap.
Checking and adding radiator fluid is not a difficult task, but it is an absolutely necessary one. Keep in mind that it should never be done with the engine running or with the engine hot, or you are very likely to suffer serious injury. Failing to maintain the engine coolant system can leave you on the side of the road, so follow these simple steps to keep that from happening.