How to Check Engine Coolant Level in a Car, Truck, Minivan, SUV or Other Automobile

Engine Coolant

Engine coolant is a critical component of a vehicle’s cooling system. It reduces the temperature of an automotive engine while it is running. It also prevents any cooling system fluids from freezing when outside temperature drops below freezing.

Coolant Systems

Vehicle cooling systems are made up of a radiator located behind the vehicle’s front grill. It also includes hoses to channel engine coolant away from the engine absorbing heat and then sending cooler fluid from the radiator back to the engine. A water pump circulates the coolant. A thermostat is located in the flow of the coolant directing its flow from the engine to the radiator. Sensors monitor temperature and send alerts when events are detected. Engine belts turn the water pump and fan and other vital engine components.

Coolant Systems Need Attention

Engine coolant plays a vital role in the engine cooling system and it needs to be monitored and maintained. Some vehicles will send alerts when the coolant system needs additional fluid, however to be safe, coolant levels need to be checked and added to when needed.

Here are 4 easy steps to follow to check your coolant level:

WARNING: Always, always, always check coolant levels when your vehicle is cool.

For vehicles equipped with an expansion tank:

  1. First, your vehicle must be on level ground and the engine off and cool.
  2. Within the engine compartment locate a translucent expansion or recovery tank connected to your vehicle’s radiator (located behind your vehicle’s front grill).
  3. Check the coolant fluid level on the tank. The fluid level should be at or just above the lower mark on the tank and not more than the higher mark.
  4. If the tank requires coolant, unscrew the tank cap (non-pressurized) and either add coolant to the tank or bring your vehicle to a professional for service right away. The engine should NOT be running during this procedure.
    • If coolant is required, check the owner’s manual for the proper type of coolant (one type does not fit all).
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For vehicles equipped without an expansion tank:

  1. First, your vehicle must be on level ground with the engine off and cool.
  2. Located on top of the radiator is a cap. Unscrew cap (you may have to push down first and then turn counter-clockwise), visually check the fluid level – it should be near the top. NEVER OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP WHENT THE ENGINE IS HOT – SERIOUS INJURIES CAN OCCUR.
  3. If the radiator requires coolant, either add coolant directly to the radiator or bring your vehicle to a professional for service right away. The engine should not be running during this procedure.
    • If coolant is required, check the owner’s manual for the proper type of coolant (one type does not fit all).

Congratulations, you just checked your coolant level.

If you need a professional to check your engine coolant level, have Openbay help you with finding a trustworthy automotive shop nearby.

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