Ladies, What’s Under Your Hood?

Ladies, Let’s Talk (And Guys Too!)

You want to start on your path of automotive self reliance. You will need at least a general idea of what is under the hood of your car. Not every engine is the same. They all have to have parts to work, but they are set-up in different ways from maker to maker.

I will show you two of the most common engine types and identify the parts. Don’t expect to remember everything you read the first time you read it. The various parts 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”, you will remember that “thingy” in the way is the alternator!

It’s a good idea to have a shop manual for your specific car, make and model. There’s specifications and instructions that can prove to be invaluable. Clymer and Haynes are a couple of the top selling manuals.

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, but 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!

Let’s start-off identifying the early model V8. V8 indicates that the engine has 8 cylinders with two rows of four 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. 🙂

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 oil13) 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)11) Battery15) 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)

Sideways Engines & Battery Locations

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) x 6 = 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 Sebring, 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…

2.5 L, V6, 24 Valve

1) Radiator coolant reservoir (extra anti-freeze jug)5) Air filter9) 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 reservoir7) 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? Like everything we want to learn, it takes repetition to let it sink in. You can’t “hurt” your car by opening the hood and looking at the engine, or under it either. You can actually help your car by checking, and topping off, the fluids! Your car last a whole lot longer with regular maintenance! With regular maintenance, its been proven over and over again, your car will last longer.

Safety Precautions

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 radiator 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.
  • WHILE THE ENGINE IS STILL RUNNING you can allow hose water to flow over the radiator 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.

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.

Are you ready to take a look at the under side or your car? Here’s where you will find several of those components you might hear in shop talk and have no idea what or where the component is. Looks take a look here.

Thank you for reading!

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