Under the bonnet: what am I looking at?
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In this modern age of vehicles requiring little maintenance between services, there is usually little reason to “pop the hood”.
But whether you’re a seasoned motorist or a teenager who has just got their first wheels, it’s good practice to lift the bonnet at least every few months to check your fluid levels.
The engine bay of most modern vehicles is shrouded in plastic covers, so you can’t see much. But if you take a closer look, you’ll likely spot a few important dipsticks and reservoirs.
You may be greeted by a few coloured lids and covers, usually designed to draw your attention.
As every vehicle is different, consult your vehicle handbook before you pop the hood and you’re on your way to being a pro.
First, consult your vehicle handbook or your vehicle’s manufacturer website to check which conditions you should check your oil in.
Some vehicles should be checked five minutes after turning the engine off, while others are best checked first thing in the morning.
If you see a red or yellow handle attached to a stick, voila — you’ve located the engine or transmission oil level dipstick.
It should have engine or transmission written on the handle to help determine which is which. Identify which one you want to check and observe the level is between the two lines scribed into the end of the stick.
Take careful note of where you pull the stick out from, so you can put it back in the correct place.
Brake fluid and coolant
Two other important reservoirs to inspect are the brake fluid and coolant containers. The brake fluid reservoir is usually behind the engine and near the engine bay panel (firewall) directly in front of the steering wheel.
The coolant bottle will often be in front of the engine, near the radiator/ headlights. This should display (most commonly) green or red antifreeze/inhibitor and the required level can be viewed through a plastic container.
For safety purposes, only remove the radiator cap whenthe engine is off and has cooled down.
Another good one to check is the windscreen washer bottle. This can often be a large blue or white lid.
These days, you may not see the whole bottle as it can be hidden inside the bumper or inner guard.
It will have a symbol on its lid which indicates it’s a windscreen washer system.
It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of solution handy, for ease of bug and grime removal — particularly for summer evenings when the bugs are out in full force.