Ladies, What's Under Your Hood?!
If you want to start on your path of automotive self reliance then you'll need to have at least a general idea of what is under the hood of your car. Taking into account that not every engine is the same, I will present two of the more common types and identify the parts that would be of interest to a car owner such as oil dipstick location, transmission dipstick location, radiator and so on. Don't expect to remember everything presented the first time you read them. It will come to you over time as you work on your car. One day when your trying to remove the fan shroud but "that stupid thingy is in the way", this is when you'll remember that "thingy" in the way is the alternator!
It's a good idea to have a shop manual for your particular car. There's specifications and instructions that can prove to be invaluable. Clymer and Haynes are a couple of the top selling manuals.
Pull Your Hair Back and Dig In
To my lady readers, and guys with long locks, you don't need to remove your finger nails to explore the engine with me today. You may want to pull your hair back, especially if you're going to try checking your transmission fluid. The vehicle must be running to get an accurate reading of the transmission fluid and I guarantee that you don't want the engine to get a hold of your hair! The engine WILL win that tug-of-war! So just pull it back into a ponytail for now.
Let's start-off identifying the early model V8. V8 indicates that the engine has 8 cylinders with 2 rows of 4 pistons (the things that go up & down from the spark plug explosion) that move adjacent to each other on the same crankshaft (the pistons explode causing the crankshaft to turn) set in a "V" pattern, hence V8. The size of the engine is a 454. This is a huge engine. They're used for racing or hauling heavy items.
Referring to the picture, in the capsule below, you will see numbers on the engine, and below that, you'll see a capsule with the corresponding explanation of the items number. You can practice your identification skills by scrolling to the picture but not down to the answers and try to identify each part, then check your answers by scrolling down further. :)
1989, V8, 454 Engine Components
1) Radiator reservoir (extra radiator fluid jug)
5) Air Filter (this is set right on top of the carburetor to supply the carb with clean air)
9) Dipstick to check engine oil
13) Hood latch
2) Power steering check & fill (same hole for check & fill)
6) One of two Fuse boxes (these are the heavy duty fuses. another box is inside the car)
10) Air Conditioning componants (don't mess with these. compressor has lots of freon in it, under pressure)
14) Serpentine belt (wraps around all the pulleys in the engine)
3) Brake fluid reservoir (check level & top off here)
7) Radiator Cap (NEVER open this when its hot! Squeeze the hose to feel for pressure before opening)
15) Alternator (produces energy to keep engine running & recharge battery)
4) Transmission dipstick (long measuring stick attached & fill here too. engine must be running to check properly)
8) Engine oil fill cap (the engine oil measuring stick is #9)
12) Information labels (these labels provide information about your specific vehicle)
16) Fan Shroud
Sideways Engines and Where's the Battery?
Let's look at a 1996 high performance engine. Again, the 2.5L (this is the size of the engine), V6 (six cylinders in a row as you can see), 24 valve (24 means there are two intake and exhaust valves in each of the 6 cylinders, ie: (2+2)x6=24). This engine is said to be "sideways". Instead of facing front to back the engine is facing right to left. The accessory belts are located on the left side facing the passenger side wheel.
You should also be aware of a couple of makes of car that the battery is in an odd place (not under the hood):
- On the Chrysler, the battery is located in one of the oddest places I've ever seen. It's in front of the driver side wheel. To access the battery on this particular make of vehicle you must turn the steering wheel to the left, then you'll see, inside the wheel well (the wall inside where the wheel spins), on the front side, a removable panel. Once removed you will see the battery. If you are in need of a jump start there IS a remote positive (+) terminal under the hood located behind number 6, the fuse box. It has a red, plastic cover on it that you pull off and attach your positive jumper cable to.
- The other vehicle is the Corvette. The battery, on some models, mostly older models, is located behind the drivers seat in a box under the carpet.
Now let's take a look at the "sideways" engine...
2.5L, LV6, 24 Valve
1) Radiator coolant reservoir (extra anti-freeze jug)
5) Air filter
9) Dipstick for engine oil (has a long measure stick. Engine should be OFF to check the oil)
13) Hood latch
2) Power steering fluid (measure & fill here)
6) Fuse box (these are the heavy duty fuses)
10) Air conditioning (don't mess with these items or hoses. Pressurized with freon gas. Licensed technician's only)
14) Access to shock absorbers
3) Brake fluid reservoir
7) Radiator cap (NEVER open when hot! Squeeze big hose to feel for pressure before opening)
11) Windshield washing fluid
4) Transmission fluid dipstick (check & fill here. Engine must be running for correct reading)
8) Engine oil cap (this is where you put the engine oil in)
12) Technical labels for SMOG, a/c, spark plugs, etc (the information here is for your specific vehicle)
How did it go? Do you feel over-whelmed? Try not to, like everything we want to learn, it takes repetition to let it sink in. You can't "hurt" your car just by looking around under the hood, or checking the fluids. You CAN make your car last a whole lot longer though! With regular maintenance, its been proven over and over again, your car will last longer.
I have some safety precautions I want you to be aware of, and heed. As I mentioned before when your checking the transmission fluid the engine should be running and warm to get a proper reading. Be very careful of moving parts and wires, ESPECIALLY with your hair or dangling/loose clothing! An engine is so strong, if your hair, or maybe scarf, dangled near the serpentine belt, the breeze caused by the fan would blow it up and it would swing back down and the belt would catch it, and you won't win. So please be careful!
If you find your car overheating DON'T remove the cap!! There is high pressure that has built up under that cap. Open the hood, so cool air can blow over the engine, and wait until the temperature gauge has gone down to zero or very near zero degrees. If the hose going to the radiator cap is not hot to the touch; you can squeeze it to get an idea of what kind of pressure is still there. NEVER spray or "hose down" a hot engine. When your car overheats, and you turn it off, if you spray cold water on it, you have a very good chance of cracking the engine! The severe degree change is too much for the metal. You CAN run water on the radiator WHILE THE ENGINE IS STILL RUNNING ONLY. I've had my share of overheating and it's a bummer,sitting on the side of the road, waiting for the engine to cool down, but the alternatives will damage the engine or you.
Number six, the heavy duty fuse box and number ten, the air conditioning components, both require a licensed technician. There's nothing you can do for these components anyway, so leave those to the techi's.
DO check your power steering fluid, engine oil, radiator fluid and transmission fluid regularly. Fill or top off as needed and check my related hubs when they need to be serviced.
Approximately every two to three years you'll need a new battery. To avoid creating a spark that can frazzle your nerves, remove the negative terminal first, then the positive. Automotive batteries can be VERY heavy, I'm talking twenty pounds plus, so be careful when your lifting it out and putting the new one in. Be sure to have the terminals on the correct side, positive to positive and negative to negative, then attach the terminals by connecting the positive first then the negative.
With all that said and done how about a little quiz to see what you remembered? Come on, give it a shot, you might surprise yourself!
Thank you for reading!
What's Under Your Hood Quizview quiz statistics
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.