When it comes to automotive maintenance and repair inspections, there are six key fluids that you should always check. These include engine oil, coolant (antifreeze), power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid (for vehicles with an automatic transmission, not manual) and windshield washer fluid. If you're having any issues with the transmission, it's best to check the fluid first. Some cars have a measuring rod, while others require a professional mechanic to inspect the condition of the liquid.
If your car has a measuring rod, the process is the same as before, although you'll need to have the engine running and the transmission in park or neutral to get an accurate reading. Inspecting the liquid level as well as its condition is important. It should be amber or red in color and have a soft feel. If it's dark, cloudy or gritty, it could indicate a problem that needs to be looked at. To check the brake fluid level, locate the cap under the hood of the car and visually inspect the brake fluid reservoir to see the volume and color of the fluid.
Driving with little or no liquid can put you, your passengers and other drivers in serious danger, so it should be avoided at all costs. Coolant is an essential fluid for three reasons: it reduces engine oxidation and corrosion, reduces engine pressure and prevents freezing. There are different colors and varieties of coolant; make sure to check your vehicle owner's guide for what type of coolant to buy and never mix types of coolant. Your car runs on fire, metal and liquid, so if you don't get things flowing properly, you'll regret it. Not ensuring that the brake fluid level and pressure are up to par is a one-way violation to put yourself and others at risk when driving. Driving without car fluids can cause components such as the engine and transmission to get stuck while driving or for brakes and power steering to fail - all of which would be catastrophic on the road.
For this reason, it's essential that you know which six common liquids you should check in a car, how to do it and why they are so important for your comfort and safety. At best, you're faced with a car that drives inefficiently and with potentially expensive repair bills; at worst, you have an accident because you don't check the brake fluid. Most cars have a brake fluid reservoir in the engine compartment, and checking it is as simple as looking at its level and color. Even if the cooling system seems to work properly, check its acidity and protection against freezing and boiling, as well as signs of rust or leaks. If you don't have time or interest in checking these fluids yourself, another option is to take your car regularly to your local workshop and let a professional inspect it. This way they can ensure that all fluids in your car are at their optimal levels.
Check the level first, then with the car running and transmission parked or in neutral (check your owner's guide), pour out some of the liquid. Automatic transmission fluid (sometimes called transmission oil) is considered a “VIP” automotive fluid as it lubricates and cools essential components of the transmission such as gears, clutches and valves.