How to Change the Coolant in a 97 Cavalierby Blaze JohnsonUpdated July 06, 2023
The 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier came standard with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or an optional 2.4-liter power plant. Both engine configurations require the use of GM's DEX-COOL anti-freeze in the cooling system. According to the owner's manual of your 1997 Cavalier, the anti-freeze must be changed every five years or 100,000 miles. A healthy coolant system in your vehicle will ensure that your engine will run at the proper temperatures while avoiding costly repairs related to overheating and freezing conditions.
Things You'll Need:
- Socket and ratchet set
- Anti-Freeze drain pan container
- Penetrating lubricant spray
- 3 1/2 gallons of premixed DEX-COOL anti-freeze
1. Allow your vehicle's engine to cool completely
Allow your vehicle's engine to cool completely before attempting to service your cooling system. Hot antifreeze can cause serious injury when under pressure.
2. Locate the black plastic splash shield underneath your vehicle's radiator
Locate the black plastic splash shield underneath your vehicle's radiator, slightly forward of the front bumper cover. Remove the bolts securing the splash shield to your vehicle using an appropriate size socket and ratchet. Place the splash shield aside along with the mounting bolts.
3. Locate drain on the bottom driver’s side portion of the radiator
Locate drain on the bottom driver’s side portion of the radiator, facing the front of the vehicle. The radiator drain cap has a small tab protruding from the middle designed for easy finger access.
4. Place your anti-freeze drain pan container on the ground
Place your anti-freeze drain pan container on the ground, directly underneath the radiator's drain. Open the radiator's drain with your fingers, using a counter clockwise motion. Spray penetrating lubricant on the drain if you have difficulty opening it. Allow all the coolant in your vehicle to drain into the anti-freeze drain pan container.
5. Close the drain by twisting it with your fingers
Close the drain by twisting it with your fingers counterclockwise after all the coolant has sufficiently drained into the container and reinstall the splash shield. Open your vehicle’s hood and remove the coolant reservoir cap located in the engine compartment, near the passenger side front fender. Fill the coolant reservoir with a 50/50 blend of DEX-COOL and distilled water until the anti-freeze level reaches the “MAX” line visible on the coolant reservoir.
6. Locate the large black upper radiator hose
Locate the large black upper radiator hose that attaches from the top side of the engine to the radiator. Remove the bleed screw on the aluminum thermostat housing on the engine, connected to the upper radiator hose with an appropriate size socket and ratchet.
7. Reinstall the thermostat bleed screw
Reinstall the thermostat bleed screw once coolant begins flowing out of the hole. Performing this step will purge the cooling system of air.
8. Start your vehicle and allow it to run for a couple minutes
Start your vehicle and allow it to run for a couple minutes. Recheck your coolant reservoir level and fill the reservoir back up to the “MAX” fill line to complete the process.
Video showing how to change coolant in a car:
Comments on this video:
- Awesome video (as always). In a future DYI video, you might spend just a few seconds explaining the torque wrench -- both why it's important, and how it works. It's probably the only part of this process that would be unfamiliar to most car owners.
- If you live in a cold climate, it can be worth flushing the heater core separately. My old car would give absolutely no heat in the winter; but after a back flush of the heater core not only did the heater start working significantly faster; it put out heat like it was brand new. This can even help with reducing how much time you let your car idle/defrost before leaving.
In the spring of 2008, Blaze Johnson decided to share his expertise through writing. He studied business administration at a local community college and runs his own driveway mechanic service, specializing in computer-controlled vehicles and custom car audio installs. Johnson also serves as the de facto computer repair person for his family, friends and coworkers.