show me tell me questions - not just for the driving test -
checking engine coolant level

You will be asked to open the bonnet and identify where you would check the engine coolant level and to explain how you would check that the engine has the correct level.

IMPORTANT: This check should be done when the engine is cold. Engine coolant expands when heated, therefore resulting in an inaccurate reading whilst the engine is warm. And far more importantly, if you do need to top up the coolant level, removing the radiator cap when the engine is hot can cause serious scalding. The extremely hot fluid is under high pressure and very likely to escape from the radiator when the cap is removed.

Engine coolant is usually a mixture of water and antifreeze (usually ethylene glycol). In layman's terms this fluid helps to keep the engine at an operating temperature that is safe by transferring the heat away from the engine. Without it the pistons would expand and the engine block may crack which would be VERY expensive to rectify. The antifreeze prevents the coolant from freezing during the winter.

Modern cars have an expansion (overflow) tank which is translucent and has a minimum and maximum mark. You just need to make a visual check to confirm whether the coolant level is above the minimum mark or not. It is wise to check in your car manual which coolant to use and if you don't have a manual search online to find out which coolant is best for your vehicle before you find yourself in need of such information.

If the level is low, fill the expansion tank to the maximum mark and check regularly to ensure that the level is not dropping. If you have a leak in the system you need to get your vehicle to a garage where they will locate and fix the leak.

Some older vehicles do not have an expansion tank. To check these you need to remove the radiator cap and check that the coolant is up to the filler opening but remember to always allow the engine to cool before attempting this! Most cars also have a warning light to indicate to you that the engine is overheating. If this comes on whilst you are driving stop the car, wait for it to cool and check the coolant level.

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