SAFETY FIRST – NEVER OPEN THE RADIATOR OR COOLANT RESERVOIR WHEN THEY ARE HOT! THEY CAN ERUPT LIKE GEYSERS. THIS IS A VERY EASY WAY TO BURN YOURSELF. ONLY OPEN WHEN YOUR VEHICLE HAS NOT BEEN RUNNING AND IS COMPLETELY COOL.
Your vehicle uses a mix of Antifreeze (coolant) and water to cycle through your engine to exchange heat away from it then cooling it again in the radiator to send it back through to repeat the process. You can check the levels most of the time on the coolant reservoir. If the coolant reservoir is empty, the radiator itself may be low. In addition, if the coolant has particles floating in it, it’s clear, or rusty looking, have the cooling system flushed and refilled. Lastly, if the coolant looks milky or oily take it in right away, this could be the sign of coolant and motor oil mixing, which they shouldn’t.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend flushing and exchanging the fluid every 24 months. If you drive in a very hot climate like the Southwestern US, you should probably have it flushed yearly.
Another thing to remember is this is a system. There are hoses, thermostats, the water pump, and fan that also interact to keep your car running cool. When you have your system flushed, these items should be inspected too if possible.
Remember, good maintenance goes a long way.
TIA Certified Instructor