Adding Water to Your Radiator
by Lee Wyatt
(last updated February 17, 2012)
It is never a good idea to sit and wait until you see the engine temperature gauge begin to spike, or worse yet wait for the steam to start coming from under the hood of the car to check your coolant levels. Periodically checking, and if necessary adding water to your radiator is simply a good habit to get into if you want your car to last. While many people find adding coolant or water to their radiator to be a bit intimidating, it really isn't that difficult. All you really need to do is follow these simple steps and you will soon have the task handled.
- Allow the engine to cool. Before you can actually begin doing anything with your radiator, let alone the rest of the engine, you need to let everything cool down. This isn't really a problem if you haven't done any driving for the day yet. However, if you have been driving and you don't let your engine cool properly, you can easily find yourself burned from the steam that will come from the radiators coolant reservoir.
- Locate the reservoir. Once your engine has cooled enough so that you can actually touch it, the time has come for you to locate the reservoir. Typically, this can be found by following the hose that comes from the top of the radiator cap. If you can't find that, then look for a plastic tank that looks something like a milk jug. This will be the radiator's overflow reservoir.
- Check the coolant level. After you have located the coolant reservoir, it is time to check the levels of the coolant. This should be relatively easy. The outside of the reservoir should have markers indicating full and low levels. If your vehicle doesn't have a clear plastic reservoir that will allow you to see through the tank and directly compare the levels of the fluid, then you will need to look inside the tank and make a guestimate as to where the levels fall.
- Add water or coolant. If the fluid levels are low, then you will need to add some water or coolant. Ideally you should add some premixed engine coolant, or coolant where you do the mixing, to the reservoir. Unfortunately there may be times when you do not have any engine coolant, and really need to get the vehicle working again. In such situations, you can add water. This should only be done as an emergency measure though since the water will not last as long, and frankly won't work as well, as the engine coolant will.
- Check the engine, and close up. Once you have refilled the radiator to its proper levels, take the opportunity to do a little bit of nosing around prior to closing up. Check your belts and battery terminals to make sure that they are clean, working properly, and not showing any signs of corrosion. Take a look at the rest of your engine, and make note of anything that looks out of place or in need of repair. If you find anything get it fixed as soon as you can.