Understanding Car Fluids and How to Maintain Them

Oct 30, 2020

Just like you and I, a vehicle needs fluids to survive. Furthermore, you need to check your car fluids regularly if you want your vehicle running in tip top shape. This includes oil, radiator, transmission, power steering, brake, washer fluids and air conditioning coolant. Let’s take a look at how to check 7 important car fluids and the best way to maintain them.

#1: Oil

Motor oil is one of the most important car fluids because it protects, cools, and lubricates your vehicle’s engine. After a short drive, let your car cool down for five minutes. Then, follow these steps to check the oil level:

  1. Securely prop open the hood and find the dipstick for the oil … it is usually near the front of the engine.
  2. Pull out the dipstick, wipe with a towel, then put it back into the oil tank.
  3. Slowly remove it again and check the level.  The oil mark should fall between two marks on the dipstick.  If it is below the lower level, you need to add oil.
  4. Check your owner’s manual for the right type of oil to use and be careful not to overfill.

Remember, for many vehicles it is recommended to change the oil every three months or 3,000 miles. Newer vehicles may be able to go longer between oil changes.

#2: Radiator Coolant

Radiator fluid keeps your engine from overheating. The contents of the radiator are pressurized and can scald you if the system is opened when it is hot. The radiator fluid should be checked when the car is warm, but not hot.  Never check it when the car is running.  The radiator cap is usually in the front and middle of the engine.  Open it carefully with a rag.  If the fluid is not close to the top, you’ll need to add some more.

#3: Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid helps keep your transmission lubricated.  It should be checked with the engine running, so make sure you aren’t wearing loose clothing that could be caught up in the fan belt. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the dipstick – it’s typically located behind the oil dipstick.
  2. Similar to checking the oil, pull the dipstick, wipe it off and insert it again.
  3. Remove the dipstick again and make sure the level falls between the two marks.

The automatic transmission is a sealed system, so if your transmission fluid is low, it most likely means you have a leak in the system. Your mechanic can find and replace whatever is leaking, whether it’s a gasket, hose or seal.

#4: Power Steering Fluid

To check the power steering fluid, find the reservoir under the hood.  It is usually on the passenger side near the belts and will probably say “steering” on it.  Most cars have an opaque container so that you can see the fluid level without opening the cap.  If not, open and use the dipstick the same as checking the oil.  If low, add more and check to make sure there is not a leak.

#5: Brake Fluid

Brake fluid adds power to your braking.  The brake fluid reservoir is usually in the engine compartment.  Check your owner’s manual if you need help finding it. Remove the lid and check the level.  It should be at least 2/3 full. Like the transmission, the braking system is a sealed network.  If it is repeatedly low, you may need the help of your mechanic to locate the source of the problem.

#6: Windshield Washer Fluid

While washer fluid is not necessary for your vehicle to run, it’s a good idea to keep it topped off so you can see clearly while driving.  Most cars have opaque washer fluid tanks located underneath the windshield so you can check the fluid without opening the reservoir.  Many people will add glass cleaner to the water to increase the cleaning power of the fluid.

#7: Air Conditioning

If you notice your A/C is not cooling properly, it may be low on coolant.  It is best to find a certified mechanic to check your coolant, since it’s actually a gas, not a fluid.

Need help checking your car fluids?

Maintaining the proper level of all your car fluids insures safe and trouble-free driving.  It only takes a few minutes and can often reveal a problem before it becomes a crisis.

We gave you tips on how to check these fluids yourself. But remember … at We-Fix-It, our certified mechanics will do a comprehensive 32-point safety inspection with every oil change. This includes checking all of your vehicle fluids! We also road test your vehicle and give it a wash and vacuum – all for no extra charge.  Your vehicle will be running and looking better better from the inside out every time you visit We-Fix-It Auto Repair.

Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!


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