Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. How to Top Off Car Coolant

How to Top Off Car Coolant

coolant being topped off

Coolant, also known as anti-freeze, is vital to your car engine’s health. The cooling system is responsible for transferring the heat created within the engine during combustion to the atmosphere. Coolant mixed with water in typically a 50/50 mix, circulates through the engine, absorbs heat, and flows to the radiator via the water pump and cooling passages to shed the heat. Low coolant levels can lead to the engine running hotter than designed and even an overheat condition which can damage the engine.

Part 1 of 1: Check and top off coolant

Materials Needed

  • Coolant
  • Distilled water
  • Funnel - not required but keeps from spilling coolant
  • Rags

  • Tip: Be certain to use the approved coolant for your vehicle and not the “approved for all vehicle” types. Sometimes the chemical differences between coolants can lead to a “gelling” of the coolant and clogging of smaller coolant passages within the cooling system. Also, buy straight coolant and not the 50/50 “pre-mixed” versions. You will be paying nearly the same price for 50% water!!

Step 1: Check the coolant level. Start with a cool/cold engine. Some vehicles do not have a cap on the radiator. Checking and topping the coolant is done strictly from the coolant reservoir. Others may have both a radiator and coolant reservoir cap. If your vehicle has both, remove them both.

Step 2: Mix coolant and water. Using an empty container, pour a 50/50 mixture of coolant and distilled water into it. Use this mixture to top off the system.

Step 3: Top off the radiator. If your vehicle has a cap on the radiator and no coolant is visible in the radiator, top it off until you see coolant at the bottom of the filler neck. Give it a moment to “burp” as there may be air trapped below. If it “burps” and the level drops a bit, fill it again to the bottom of the neck. If the level remains the same, replace the cap.

Step 4: Top off the coolant reservoir. The reservoir will be marked with MIN and MAX level lines. Fill the reservoir to the MAX line. Do not overfill it. The coolant mixture expands as it heats up and needs room to do so. Replace the cap.

  • Note: Even without a leak in the system, coolant levels can drop over time simply from boiling off. check the coolant level after a day or two or driving to verify the level is still correct.

If your low coolant light comes on or your vehicle is leaking coolant, have a mobile technician from YourMechanic inspect your cooling system at your home or office today.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...

Related questions

Q: Just replaced condencer 2 years ago. And it's gone out again why shouldn't it last for at least 100000 miles?

The condenser is located near the front bumper, is made of very thin aluminum, and is not protected very well. Small rocks and dirt can damage the condenser pretty easily. Make sure to replace the AC condenser with a...

Q: Coolant is boiling

You need to check to see if the thermostat is opening properly and if the cooling fan came on. The upper and lower hose should be hot if it is open. If this is your first time running the car...

Q: No heat and the temperature gauge goes down.

Hi there. Check the heater control valve on the heater hoses under the hood. The valve is controlled by vacuum. Check the vacuum lines and see if they have came off or split. With the engine at operating temperature, check...