Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: How do you check the level of coolant in the radiator?

asked by on

How do you check the level of coolant in the radiator?

In most situations, you shouldn’t have to check the radiator itself. You should be able to inspect the level of coolant in the reservoir/reserve tank instead. However, if the there is no coolant in the reserve tank, you’ll need to check the radiator and top it off if needed. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Park on a level surface.

  2. Wait until the engine has cooled completely. NEVER open the radiator when the engine is hot.

  3. Pull the hood release.

  4. Open the hood and secure it with the prop.

  5. Locate the radiator in the very front of the car.

  6. Touch the radiator very lightly to make sure it’s cool enough. If you can’t touch it continuously for more than 20 seconds, then it’s too hot.

  7. If it is cool, turn the radiator cap counterclockwise to release the pressure in the system.

  8. When the pressure is released, press down and turn the cap counterclockwise.

  9. Remove the cap and set it aside.

  10. Check the level of coolant inside the radiator. It should come to the bottom of the neck. If it is low, top it off.

  11. Replace the radiator cap.

  12. Fill the reservoir with coolant (stop at the maximum line).

Tip

Check your hoses, reservoir and radiator for signs of leaks.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. How do you check the level of coolant in the radiator?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Stuttering at idle at regular intervals of about 7 seconds on a 1997 Honda Civic

Yes, it is typical on those Hondas. First, watch my video "How to Fix a Car that Idles Poorly." Take off the air intake, then duct the rubber part that goes to the intake on the top of the engine...

Q: My car is pouring coolant out does a bad water pump pour coolant out

It can, but there are many parts of the cooling system that can do this. If it is the water pump, the coolant or water will be coming from the front of the motor and behind the timing cover. The...

Q: Car steaming and leaking radiator fluid

I’m not sure what repair was done, but it sounds like a coolant hose was left loose. Do not drive the car with a major coolant leak. It will overheat very quickly. If the shop is a reputable one, they...

Related articles

How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.