← Back to Beginner Driver's Guide

DIY Car Maintenance 101: How You Add Anti-Freeze in 11 Clear Steps

Updated on

Whether you experience frigid, icy winters or live in a more temperate area of the country, antifreeze is an essential fluid for your vehicle. Most modern motors use water to keep the engine from overheating. While plain water works in a pinch, a mixture of water and engine coolant, or anti-freeze, is much safer for your car. Like replacing windshield wiper fluid, adding engine oil, and inflating your tires, adding anti-freeze is a simple maintenance project that most drivers are able to complete with ease.

11 Steps for Adding Anti-freeze on Your Own

  1. 1

    Antifreeze is poisonous to human and animals. Keep pets and small children out of the area whenever you are working with antifreeze. Make sure to properly clean up any spills. If a person or pet accidently ingests antifreeze, call a poison control hotline or 911 immediately.

    cat litter
    Pour cat litter or other absorbent you have on the spill, clean the area using gloves and napkins then wash the area with soap

  2. 2

    Antifreeze needs to be replaced about every twelve months. Replacing antifreeze is an inexpensive and easy car maintenance project, so there’s really no reason to wait any longer between replacements.

  3. 3

    Make sure that your engine is completely cool before beginning the process of replacing antifreeze. Working with hot antifreeze can cause severe scalding.

  4. 4

    Pop the hood and locate your vehicle’s radiator. Radiators are generally located directly underneath the engine. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact location of the radiator in that model.

    car radiator
    You will usually notice a warning on the coolant cap that reminds you to let the engine cool off

  5. 5

    Locate the radiator’s drain cock, an approximately one inch long plug that will begin to unscrew when turned counterclockwise.

  6. 6

    Drain the old antifreeze into an oil pan, disposable pail, or bucket that you use only for this purpose.

  7. 7

    Replace the drain cock by turning it in a clockwise fashion.

  8. 8

    Move back to the top of the vehicle and again locate the radiator. Remove the radiator cap by turning it in a counterclockwise fashion.

    radiator cap
    The cap can also be round and plastic in case your radiator has a remote reservoir for coolant

  9. 9

    There are two options for refilling the radiator. Option one is to use a premixed antifreeze solution. These are readily available at auto parts stores or big box stores. The second option is to mix your own antifreeze solution of one part water to one part antifreeze. Specific instructions regarding mixing will be located on the back of the bottle. Replace the radiator cap.

  10. q

    Start the vehicle’s engine and allow it to run until the heating/cooling gauge on the dash board reaches normal temperature.

    heating/cooling gauge
    The normal operating temperature is typically marked in the middle between cold and hot edges of the gauge

  11. w

    After some of the new antifreeze mixture has begun circulating inside the engine, there will be room for a little more inside the radiator. Turn off your vehicle, open the radiator cap, and add enough of the same mixture you used in step nine to top off the radiator. Replace the radiator cap.

Here is a video guide for you that includes the whole procedure:

Again, antifreeze is very harmful to people and animals. Some brands of antifreeze taste sweet and are therefore even more dangerous to pets and wild animals. It must be properly disposed of. If your home is connected to a municipal wastewater system or sewer, the treatment plant is most likely able to process antifreeze if it is poured down a sink or flushed. Contact your local water department to be certain. If this is not the case for your home, you can contact your city hall or a local auto parts store for disposal suggestions. Also make sure to properly dispose or any rags, buckets, or funnels you used during this project.

Take a free DMV practice test

You may also like:

Mystery Leak 101: This Is How You Identify and Handle Every Auto Fluid Loss

As you approach your parking spot, you notice a suspicious liquid seeping from beneath your car. Your heart drops. What is it? What did I do? How much is this going to cost? Will it crank? You kneel on the pavement, staring at the puddle of unidentified ooze. When a vehicle springs a leak, its driver usually assumes the worst. While some automotive fluid leaks are serious, many are really no big deal and can be fixed by even the most inept car own ...

What’s Up Doc? 8 Key Points for Routine Vehicle Tune-Ups

Have you made an appointment for your vehicle’s first check-up…er, tune-up? Cars need occasional visits to the mechanic just like people need yearly physicals with their doctors. If you wait until there’s a problem to take your car to the shop, it’s already too late. Routine maintenance can address many potential issues before they become a huge expense.Most automobile experts recommend that vehicles undergo a basic tune-up once every thirty t ...

This Is What You Do about Engine Sludge - Complete Guide to Saving Your Car

Engine sludge can be a very serious problem. Drivers whose cars develop engine sludge will often spend hundreds of dollars on costly repairs. Before you learn how to remove engine sludge, you need to know exactly what it is. Engine sludge develops on and around your vehicle’s motor when oil begins to break down and collects on the engine. When engine sludge is present, oil is not able to properly lubricate the moving parts of your vehicle’s motor. ...