Understanding all that is in your bonnet

Thursday September 6 2018

If your coolant levels are low, simply top up

If your coolant levels are low, simply top up remembering the 50 X 50 rule which is half coolant and half water. FILE PHOTO 

By David S. Mukooza

Understanding what is in the bonnet is not just a necessity to passing the first part of your driving test, but could help you out of an emergency. Whichever way you look at it, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of what is in the bonnet. Here, we will cover all you need to know about what is in the bonnet in the simplest way possible.
Engine coolant
According to Ronald Lubega of Grace Lubega Motors in Makerere, car engines need cooling down whilst in motion. Without a coolant the engine’s temperature will continue to rise and will result in the metal mechanics of the engine literally melting and seizing together.
Ronald advises that you keep your engine coolant topped up correctly without getting to dangerously low levels. Engine coolant is normally bright in colour, ranging from green, pink, yellow or even blue and is usually a good indication of the coolant reservoir tank. Coolant reservoir tanks are transparent but beware whilst removing the cap if the engine is warm, he says hot steam could escape violently and harm you.
If your coolant levels are low, simply top up remembering the 50 X 50 rule which is half coolant and half water. He also reminds drivers that there are also lots of coolants which come pre-mixed and remember not to overfill above the max line.

Brake fluid, steering fluid reservoirs
Lubega says brake and power steering fluids don’t need to be topped up on a regular basis but it’s important to know where to find the plastic canisters to check fluid levels if you need to. He says your car handbook can tell you all as these two canisters are small and might be more difficult to spot. The brake fluid reservoir is usually positioned on the driver’s side of the vehicle. He says opening the reservoir incorrectly could result in brake failure if dirt gets into the cylinder. If the cylinder is left open for too long and the fluid is exposed to moist air for more than 15 minutes, the brake fluid will be ruined so he advises drivers to be quick when topping up.
“The power steering reservoir looks very similar to that of the brake,” says Ronald. You know the fluid is low if you notice that turning your steering wheel becomes a harder task than usual. He says drivers should not confuse the two reservoirs as it is a very costly mistake to make, the two reservoirs usually have a small but obvious description on top of the cap.

The battery is the source of power for the engine. Sometimes it might be faulty because of leaking battery water, wear and tear of the terminals or even loosening of the terminals. According to Bosco Kigongo, a mechanic at Iconic garage, you as the driver can check and discover the faults. If it is the terminal, tighten or clean it to improve the transmission of the energy.

Engine oil
Kigongo adds that engine oil keeps the internal parts of the engine well lubricated and sufficiently cool due to its ability to absorb heat. Without engine oil, these internal parts will grind which will be dangerous to the car.
“However, preventing these devastations is easy, simply grab a clean rag and wipe your dipstick clean. Put the dipstick back into the oil pipe and remove once again to check the oil levels. If it is low simply top it up with the correct oil for your car, the team at Halfords are always there to help on this,” he says.

Fuse box
This is also found under the bonnet. The main job of the fuse is to protect the wiring. According to Kigongo, fuses should be sized and located to protect the wire they are connected to. If a device like your car radio suddenly draws enough current to blow the fuse, the radio wil probably spoil. Some cars have two fuse panels.

Windscreen washer fluids
Not only is it just plain annoying to have a dirty windscreen but it is also very dangerous if you lose visibility and cannot wash the obstruction away. Kigongo says checking and topping up your windscreen fluid is very easy. The windscreen washer tank is usually located on the passenger side of the car and will usually have a blue lid. Simply top up to the max line and wash those mud and bug splats away.
“However, if you are not confident in your capabilities just yet, always consult a professional,” he adds.

Air cleaner
This is responsible for filtering the air that enters the car engine. This should be checked regularly especially for cars that operate on dusty roads. Kigongo says you do not have to wait for the time of servicing to blow your air cleaner. He says it is very easy to remove, clean and put back into the car.

This is the custodian of the water that helps in the reduction of heat in the engine. Sometimes the radiator might be leaking without the notice of the driver and this might lead to engine knock. Kigongo advises drivers to always check the water levels and refill when the level goes down. He adds that improper management of the radiator is the cause of most car fires.