There’s nothing worse than driving your vehicle and your heater stops working, or your cabin begins to get a sweet chemically odor. These are surefire signs that you might have a coolant problem. Coolant or antifreeze is what flows through your vehicle's radiator into the engine and back to help keep the operating temperature of our engine lower. Making sure your radiator fluid is topped off is very important to ensure your engine remains in good condition. If your vehicle's engine is not cooled properly the engine can overheat and blow seals, gaskets, or even in extreme cases crack the metal that is your engine, known as a cracked block.
Vocabulary: Antifreeze and Coolant are the same product so the words are used interchangeably. Without coolant, water will boil inside the engine. Without antifreeze, water will freeze inside the engine.
Your vehicle's cooling system works by fluid flowing from your radiator through your engine and back into the radiator where a fan pulls air from the front of you vehicle through the fins of the radiator causing the fluid to cool back down before flowing through the engine again. Antifreeze, or coolant, is a chemical that alters the freezing and boiling point of water. Most antifreeze is made by mixing distilled water with additives and a base product - MEG (Mono ethylene glycol) or MPG (Mono propylene glycol). These chemicals, mixed with corrosion inhibitors, are what makeup concentrated antifreeze.
6 Steps to Check Your Coolant Level
1. Make sure your vehicle has been parked overnight. It is critical that you do NOT perform this check after you’ve been driving your vehicle.
2. Pop your hood and walk to the front of your vehicle. The radiator is in the front of the vehicle with a reservoir attached to a side of it.
3. Look at the reservoir and see if there is any fluid in it.There is a minimum and maximum marking on it. If your reservoir is below the Maximum marking, take the cap off the reservoir and top it off with your vehicle's specific fluid.
Related Article: Watch for a Radiator Fluid Types article. What fluid your vehicle needs can be found in your owner's manual. Depending on your specific vehicle type the fluid will range in colors from orange, yellow, green, purple or clear. You cannot mix fluid types.
4. Next, slowly push down and twist on the radiator cap. As you do this you want to listen for any hissing noises. If you hear any hissing noises, stop, and re-tighten the cap and allow the vehicle to cool for a longer period before trying to remove the cap again.
- A hot coolant system builds pressure and if you remove the radiator cap after the vehicle has been running it could spray hot fluid and cause severe burns.
- If you must, use a rag over the radiator cap and barely click the cap open allowing the pressure to release before opening all the way.
5. Once you have removed the cap you want to look into the top of your radiator and you should be able to see fluid. If you not, fill the radiator with the correct fluid.
6. Once your radiator has fluid clearly visible top and your reservoir is full, put the caps back on. You are able to drive away knowing that your vehicle is full of fluid and is properly able to cool itself.
Charlene Trail Tip: Let’s say your vehicle is overheating and you don’t have the correct antifreeze with you. The first choice is to fill the radiator with Distilled Water, but highly unlikely you will have that either. So, fill with bottles of water. Keep an eye on your engine temperature and continue to fill the radiator until you get back to camp or road where you can get towed. If you are consistently having a cooling issue, keep a bottle of radiator fluid with you or we will talk about the aftermarket possibilities to solving the problem.
Author: Ladies Offroad Network Team
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