The six essential car fluids you should check regularly are engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Engine oil is the most important fluid, as its main function is to lubricate and protect engine parts from heat and dust. Most car owners don't realize how complicated their vehicles are. Cars with an internal combustion engine need fluids, and a lot of them, to run smoothly.
You probably know the basics, such as engine oil, gasoline, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and transmission fluid. However, what about differential fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and air conditioning coolant? All of these automotive fluids should be routinely checked and rinsed regularly. Engine oil is one of the easiest automotive fluids to test. Most new cars on the market have a rod with an orange or yellow top that can be removed.
Once you've removed the rod, you'll want to check it to see what color the engine oil is: a darker black color means the oil needs to be changed, while a lighter, caramel-colored oil is relatively new. In addition, it's best to check the engine oil once the car has had time to fully warm up, but you'll have to keep the engine turned off when you complete the test. Depending on the type of oil you use in your car, you're considering changing your engine oil every 3,000 miles for conventional oil, 10,000 miles for fully synthetic ones. Like the engine oil dipstick, the transmission fluid dipstick is located under the hood.
The transmission level rod is located further back in the engine compartment and usually has a different color or transmission symbol on the actual level rod. If you can't find a rod, don't worry. Some modern vehicles have a factory-sealed transmission for life and don't require new fluid. To check the transmission fluid, it is necessary to warm up the vehicle and check if it works at idle.
With the rod removed, you'll want to check the level at the bottom to make sure there's enough fluid in the transmission and clean the rod with a white rag or towel to check the color. Healthy transmission fluid will have a red or pink color, while the fluid that needs to be changed will appear brown or black. Engine oil may be the most important liquid on the list. Lubricate the moving parts inside the engine.
Without it, your engine will run abruptly and eventually stop working. Consult the owner's manual for the oil change interval and check the oil at least once between oil changes. You can check the oil yourself, usually when the engine is cold and not running. Adding a quarter of a gallon of oil several times a year between oil changes is not uncommon in older or high-mileage cars.
Anything more than that could be a sign of a problem. Also known as antifreeze, engine coolant keeps your car running in cold and hot weather. Check the antifreeze level twice a year, before the heating and cooling season begins. In many cars, you can check the level by looking at a clear plastic coolant tank under the hood.
If you have an old car, remove the radiator cover when the car is cold. Some caps have a small rod to show you the level. While you're under the hood checking the coolant, also check the brake fluid. Check your brake fluid every time you change the oil or at least once a year.
You'll usually find it in a clear plastic container on top of the master cylinder mounted on the firewall in front of the steering wheel. Check the power steering fluid once a year. Its reservoir is usually near the brake fluid reservoir. If there is a transparent reservoir, you can see the liquid level inside.
If you have to open the tank to see the inside, clean the lid with a rag so that no dirt gets into the liquid when you remove it. In four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles, differential fluid provides cooling and lubrication to the bearings and gears within the differential. There are different colors and varieties of coolant; check the vehicle owner's guide to learn what type of coolant you should buy and make sure you never mix the types of coolant. If you're an automotive enthusiast, you know that it's a good idea to wash your car regularly (in addition to changing the oil, changing the engine air filter and performing other general maintenance).
At best, you're faced with a car that drives inefficiently and with potentially expensive repair bills; at worst, you'll have an accident because you didn't check your brake fluid. Understanding how to monitor and test your car's components, and how to identify fluid loss and potential leaks, is critical for any car owner. But how do you know what those fluids are and when to replace or check them? In this post, our mechanics share their best tips on maintaining fluids for your car or truck. Take out the rod and clean it with a clean white rag or tissue to check its color and condition.
Even if the cooling system seems to be working, check for acidity and protection against freezing and boiling, and also check for signs of rust and leaks. Most of the time, these fluids are enclosed behind filling and draining bolts that must be removed to check the quality and level of the liquid. Differential oil and transfer case oil generally need to be replaced every 30,000 miles for conventional gear oil and 60,000 miles for synthetic oil. If you don't have the time or interest, the other option is to take your car regularly to the local auto shop and have it inspected by a professional to ensure that the car's fluids are at the proper levels.
Check the level and then, with the car running and the gearbox in parking or neutral (see the owner's guide), pour out the liquid. .