What colours are under your bonnet?

Many of us drive around in our cars blissfully unaware of the useful colour coded guides that are often under the bonnet. This came to light recently as we were filming at one of our member garages.  The non-mechanics among us were surprised to be shown that the fluids you are able to check yourself under the bonnet are often colour coded, particularly in modern cars where the things you can check yourself may be less obvious than on older vehicles.

   Underbonnet General Golf

Keeping on top of a few simple checks yourself means you are less likely to have something go wrong with your car, and it may even help you avoid expensive repair bills.

After reading this blog, make sure you go out to your car and take a look under your bonnet to see if your model colour codes the things you can check yourself…

Oil dipstick and oil levelUnderbonnet Oil Dipstick Golf

Oil lubricates and cleans all the moving parts of your engine. In most cases, where you check the oil (the dipstick) is separate from where you put the oil – although everyone who has ever worked in the motor trade will be able to tell a story about cleaning up the mess after people have tried to top up the oil through the dipstick hole. There are always exceptions to this rule and some Renault and Peugeot cars have a combined dipstick and oil filler. Oil filler caps and dipstick handles are often yellow and may have information or pictograms embossed into them.

Unless the handbook indicates otherwise, oil should be checked after the Underbonnet Oil Filler Golfengine has been running for a while then switched off and left for a few minutes. It should not be checked with a completely cold engine. Make sure the car is parked on level ground before attempting to check the oil.

Step 1 – Pull the dipstick out and wipe clean

Step 2 – Put it back into the oil well and pull it back out

Step 3 – Oil mark should be between the minimum and maximum levels

Modern oils are carefully refined to suit the characteristics of today’s engines and you should be careful to ensure that you are using the correct oil.  Consult your car’s handbook to confirm the correct type and viscosity rating.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid transfers from the Underbonnet Brake Fluid Golfmaster cylinder behind the brake pedal to the brake calipers located at each wheel when you apply your brakes. The brake fluid cap  may also be colour coded and again may have information or pictograms embossed into it. It will and look something like this:

Step 1 – Check that the level is between the minimum and maximum levels

Step 2 – If it is too low then add the correct grade of brake fluid to the maximum level

If you need to add a significant amount of brake fluid or need to top up fluid regularly, you should seek assistance from your nearest TRUST MY GARAGE member.

Engine Coolant

Engines work very hard and the coolant is what stops it from overheating. The tank is semi-transparent and will probably have a Underbonnet screenwash and Coolant Golfcolour coded cap. Unlike older cars, it is very unlikely that you will be adding coolant to the radiator itself.  Again, the cap for the engine coolant  may be yellow, or blue and looks like this:

Step 1 – Make sure the engine is cold. The cooling system in a car is usually pressurised to allow the engine to run at higher temperatures without boiling. If you release this pressure by opening the cap when the engine is hot there is a significant risk of scalding

Step 2 – The level should be between the ‘low’ and ‘high’ levels

Step 3 – Like your brake fluid, if it looks too low then top it up to a higher level

Modern engines may require a specific coolant fluid rather than plain water although it is OK to top up with plain water in an emergency.  Once again, excessive or ongoing loss of coolant is a warning to take your car to your nearest TRUST MY GARAGE member to be checked.

Windscreen wash

Underbonnet screenwashThis is pretty much self explanatory, as is the lid which usually has a washer symbol on the top. Often, the caps related to water are blue in colour and look like this:

Step 1 – Open the lid

Step 2 – Check if the level of fluid is sitting in the neck of the reservoir

Step 3 – If it is too low then fill it to the neck

Gary Lillistone is a senior driver from Coventry and has experienced for himself how cars have become more advanced since he started driving decades ago. He reflects on the maintenance of his vehicles over the years:

“Thirty to forty years ago, you would check over a car before making a reasonable journey. You would typically lift the bonnet and take the radiator cap off to see if the water level was OK, or check the battery.  There have beenmany times when  I’ve had to recharge a battery of a night. I would also listen to the engine to see if it purred or was running on one or two cylinder. If it was lumpy, I checked the spark plugs and maybe took off the distributor cap to look at the points. Motorists got into the way of tinkering with cars. Today, they tend to be more reliable and many of us don’t bother even looking at water levels, or checking the dipstick. Car owners really should check their oil levels on a regular basis. Some models do use a fair bit of oil and you could potentially seize the engine by running it dry. Can you really rely on an oil light coming on to warn you? It could be an expensive mistake!”

Now you know exactly why these things are colour coded – and there will usually be a selection of warning and instructional labels located under the bonnet. There will also be more information in the car’s handbook including information about the types and capacities of the various fluids. But if you suspect you still have a problem with your car after checking each of these areas, then you may need some specialist help. You can use the postcode finder on our website to find the most trusted garages in your area. FIND ONE HERE

About trustmygarage

TRUST MY GARAGE (TMG) is a scheme developed for independent garages by the Independent Garage Association (IGA) to recognise the high standards of independent garages throughout the UK.

Posted on June 3, 2013, in car maintenance, Car tips, Motoring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: