Engines: Engine Cooling: Cooling system procedures
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Topic IntroductionHelp

Checking & adjusting coolant

Summary
The objective of this procedure is to show you how to check and adjust coolant levels and test coolant quality in a vehicle with a recovery reservoir. There are two correct level marks on the reservoir because the coolant in the system expands and contracts in volume depending on how hot it is.

Part 1. Preparation and safety

Objective

Checking & adjusting coolant

Personal safety

Whenever you perform a task in the workshop you must use personal protective clothing and equipment that is appropriate for the task and which conforms to your local safety regulations and policies. Among other items, this may include:

If you are not certain what is appropriate or required, ask your supervisor.

Safety check

Points to note

Coolant level

Coolant reservoir

Radiator cap operating pressure


Part 2: Step-by-step instruction

  1. Check fluid level
    Most modern vehicles have a coolant system that uses a transparent recovery tank as a coolant reservoir. Check the level of coolant in this reservoir; if the engine is hot the level should be visible at the upper mark. If the engine is cold it should be at the lower mark.
  2. Check protection level with a hydrometer
    Before adding new coolant, check the specific gravity of the coolant in the system with a coolant hydrometer. Draw some coolant up into the hydrometer and read the mark on the float at the level of the fluid in the chamber. This will indicate the freezing point of the coolant mixture in the system, so you can tell if it has the right proportions of antifreeze and water.
  3. Adjust fluid level
    Check the service manual for the recommended type and mixture of coolant that will produce an appropriate level of protection for the conditions where the vehicle will be used. Use a funnel to add enough coolant to bring the level up to the appropriate mark. Replace the coolant reservoir cap.