How to Change Engine Coolant on Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The engine coolant in a Vehicles ensures that the engine operates normally without overheating. The coolant flows through a series of hoses and a radiator to draw heat away from the engine and internal components. Over time, the coolant will pick up contaminates while flowing through the system, the water will slowly evaporate from the system, or the anti-freeze solution will begin to break down. Eventually, you'll need to know how to change the engine coolant in a Vehicles so you can keep your engine running properly.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change Engine Coolant on a Chevrolet Silverado

Pour the cooling system flush in the radiator. If there is not enough room then the radiator has to be drained of some coolant to make room. Start the Silverado and allow it to reach operating temperature. Shut the engine off and give it about 15 minutes to cool down.

Place the catch pan under the lower radiator hose and remove the spring clamp with the hose removal tool or the pliers. Slowly remove the hose so that it does not dump all the coolant at once and make a mess. Let it drain for a few moments after the large part of it has come out. Replace the hose and the clamp. Remove the top clamp and hose at the radiator.

Fill the radiator with water and start the engine, leaving the top radiator hose off. Flush the system out to get rid of all the contaminants left after the engine was flushed. It will take a few minutes for the thermostat to open. Once water starts coming out of the top hose, it has opened. Just keep adding water for about five minutes and then shut the engine off.

Remove the bottom radiator hose once again and allow the water to drain out. Hook up both radiator hoses. Pour two gallons of coolant into the radiator. Top it off with water.

Items you will need

  • Common screwdriver Spring hose clamp removal tool Pair of pliers Catch pan for antifreeze One can of cooling system flush

 How to Change the Engine Coolant in a Nissan 300ZX

If you've just driven the vehicle, wait several hours for the engine to cool down completely. Apply the parking brake.

Open the radiator cap.

Place the catch pan under the radiator drain fitting on the 300ZX.

Open the drain fitting with a pair of pliers. Allow all of the coolant to drain out into the catch pan.

Move the catch pan under the engine block's drain plug on the front side of the engine. Then, loosen the plug and allow the coolant to drain out from the engine block.

Flush the cooling system with fresh water from a garden hose until the water starts to run clear from both drains.

After you have finished flushing the system, close and tighten both drains.

Inside the Nissan 300ZX, set the heater controls to the highest setting in the cabin.

Loosen the bleeder screw in the inlet housing using a socket wrench.

Add new coolant solution to the radiator (in the filler neck on the radiator where you removed the radiator cap) until coolant leaks out of the bleeder screw and there are no bubbles.

Tighten the bleeder screw once there is bubble-free coolant coming out of the bleeder.

Continue to fill the radiator with coolant until it's full.

Fill the coolant reservoir tank until the coolant level reaches the upper mark.

Turn the engine on and let the 300ZX warm up to normal operating temperature. Leave the radiator cap off. With the temperature inside the cabin set on the warmest setting, let the engine continue to run until the thermostat opens and the coolant solution is running through the system. You'll know when this is happening because the upper radiator hose will become hot to the touch.

Turn the engine off once the coolant is flowing through the system. Let the engine cool down completely.

Return the radiator cap and release the parking brake.

Items you will need

  • Catch pan for coolant

  • Phillips head screwdriver

  • Pliers

  • Garden hose

  • Fresh coolant solution (50% coolant/50% water)

  • Socket wrench

 How to Change Engine Coolant in a 2000 Chevy Impala

Allow the engine to cool completely, and unscrew the pressure cap from the coolant reservoir located on the passenger side of the engine compartment. Position the floor jack under the front sub-frame, and raise the car up a few inches so you can work under the bumper area of the car. Place jack stands under the sides of the sub-frame, and lower the Impala onto them.

Remove the splash shield located under the radiator core support by twisting the thumb screws holding it in place counterclockwise until it comes off. Place a drain pan under the pet-cock valve located on the driver side lower corner of the radiator. Twist the thumbscrew on the pet-cock, and allow the coolant to drain into the drain pan.

Close the pet-cock when the radiator is drained, and slide the drain pan from under the car. Reinstall the splash shield. Raise the Impala off the jack stands, and remove the stands. Lower the Chevy to the ground, and roll the jack out from under the car.

Remove the air bleed screw from the coolant bypass tube located on the back of the water pump housing near the passenger side front of the engine. Pour a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water into the coolant reservoir. As the coolant fills the reservoir, the engine and radiator air will be pushed out of the bleed screw opening. Continue to add coolant in this manner until coolant comes out of the bleed screw opening.

Reinstall the bleed screw, and start the engine. Allow the engine to run until the thermostat opens and the upper radiator hose, located on the driver side of the engine, becomes hot. The level will drop in the reservoir when this happens. Add coolant until the coolant level is at the hot/full mark on the side of the reservoir. Reinstall the pressure cap on the reservoir, and test drive the car.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Hose clamp pliers

  • Socket set

  • Screwdriver set

 How to Change the Engine Coolant for the 1997 RAV4

Allow the RAV4 to sit until the engine is cool to the touch. Unscrew the radiator cap from the radiator and inspect it for any defects, including excessive rusting, torn gasket or dry-cracked gasket. If any defects exist, replace the cap with a new one. Set the cap aside.

Raise the front of the RAV4 with a floor jack and slide jack stands under the vehicle’s subframe. Lower the SUV onto the jack stands.

Crawl under the Toyota until you are under the driver’s side of the radiator. Find the radiator petcock on the bottom of the radiator. Position a drain pan under the petcock and rotate the petcock counterclockwise until coolant begins flowing from the radiator.

Close the petcock once coolant has stopped flowing from the radiator.

Move rearward until you reach the side of the engine block nearest the rear of the engine compartment. Find the engine block drain plug near the base of the driver’s side of the engine block. Position a drain pan under the drain plug and remove the drain plug with a ratchet and socket to start the flow of coolant from the engine block.

Clean the threads of the drain plug with a clean, lint-free cloth, then hand-thread the drain plug into the engine block once the flow of coolant stops. Torque the drain plug to 18 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and socket.

Raise the RAV4 off the jack stands with a floor jack and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground.

Slowly pour 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based (green) coolant into the radiator until it reaches the bottom of the radiator’s filler neck. Wait about two minutes to let the coolant settle, then repeat this step until the coolant level remains steady.

Tighten the radiator cap and start the engine. Allow the engine to idle until the upper radiator hose feels hot, which means the coolant is circulating through the engine. Shut the engine off and allow the vehicle to sit until the engine is cool to the touch.

Open the radiator cap and add more 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based (green) coolant until the coolant level reaches the base of the filler neck, if needed. In total, the RAV4’s engine holds 2.12 gallons of coolant when equipped with a manual transmission and 2.02 gallons when equipped with an automatic transmission, but the amount needed to refill your RAV4 may vary slightly.

Open the coolant overflow tank and add 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based (green) coolant until the level reaches the “Full” line. Close the overflow tank.

Take the old coolant to a used automotive-fluid recycling center. Some automotive parts stores take old coolant free of charge.

Items you will need

  • New radiator cap (optional)

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Ratchet

  • Socket set

  • Clean, lint-free cloth

  • Torque wrench

  • 3 gallons 50-50 premixed ethylene-glycol-based (green) coolant

 How to Change the Engine Coolant in a Chevy Cavalier

Removing Old Engine Coolant

Locate the petcock valve on the bottom portion of the radiator. The valve will be on the back bottom to the right side.

Place a large empty tub underneath the radiator. You don't want to let any antifreeze on the ground.

Loosen the petcock valve with a pair of pliers. You will only need to turn it a couple of times to open it enough to drain the coolant.

Tighten the valve snugly until any dripping stops.

Open the hood compartment. Locate the radiator cap.

Loosen the radiator cap and take it off. You can perform a quick inspection on your cap by pushing on the back part of the cap. The back portion is spring loaded and should move back to the original position after it is let go. If not you can replace it.

Filling the Radiator with Coolant

Pour one gallon of antifreeze into the radiator. Check for any leaks as you pour the coolant in the system.

Pour 1 gallon of water into the radiator. Make sure the mixture is 50/50 of coolant and water. Repeat mixing until the radiator is full.

Crank the vehicle up. Leave the cap off. Allow the vehicle time to warm up. You will notice the coolant level dropping. The thermostat will open up and allow the coolant to flow through your motor.This is what makes your heater work.

Pour more coolant into the radiator until it is full. Try to keep the mix going.

Put the cap back on the radiator. The system needs to build pressure to work correctly.

Items you will need

  • Pliers

  • 2 gallons of antifreeze

  • 2 gallons of water

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.