young man adding oil and checking engine air filter

4 Car Fluids You Should Care About

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If you want to keep your car running properly (and avoid breakdowns), you need to worry about your car fluids. Checking and changing car fluids is an important part of your car running (and running well). Before you head out, check these four car fluids for a smooth trip (and a lot more trips over the years).

Oil

Oil is listed first in the list of car fluids simply because it SO IMPORTANT. Motor oil lubricates the engine, allowing engine parts to run with minimal friction.  Oil also absorbs heat from the engine and reduces the wear and tear on engine parts. If you want to keep your car’s motor running, you need to regularly schedule oil changes. How often you need an oil change (and what kind of engine oil to use) depends on the year and model of car.

Modern cars don’t always need oil changes every 3-5,000 miles, but the exact number of miles varies. You can find the oil viscosity and number of miles recommended between changes in the owner’s manual (or ask your mechanic).

In addition to regular oil changes, add an oil level check to your list of regular car maintenance. Plan on checking the oil level at least once a month. A regular check is important to make sure there is enough oil in the engine at all times. Low engine oil can lead to premature part wear and engine overheating. Here’s how to check the oil level:

  1. Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel.
  2. Open the hood of your car and locate the dipstick.
  3. Pull the dipstick out and wipe off the end with the paper towel.
  4. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out again.
  5. Closely look at the lines on the end of the dipstick. Make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line).
  6. If your oil level is low, add oil.
  7. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done.

If you find your oil level is low at every oil level check, mention it to your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue.

Coolant

Coolant is another car fluid that prevents overheating. This car fluid does exactly what the name implies: it cools the car. The coolant level is easy to check:

  1. Stop the car. Wait until the car cools to check the coolant.
  2. Open the hood.
  3. Locate the coolant resoivoir.
  4. Make sure the coolant level is at the max line on the side of the tank.
  5. Add coolant as needed (again, DO NOT do this right after stopping the car).

Water can also be added to the coolant reservoir, but it’s usually recommended that the water be combined with coolant. The exact ratio of the water-to-coolant mixture can usually be found on the coolant container.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is not as easy to check as motor oil and coolant. You can find directions for a do-it-yourself project here or ask your mechanic to check it at your next appointment. The fluid should be red when you check the transmission fluid. Brown transmission fluid (or another darker fluid) usually indicates that the transmission fluid is breaking down. To find out how often your car needs a transmission fluid, ask your mechanic or check your car manual.

Most importantly, don’t miss scheduled transmission fluid changes. Transmission fluid is important for smooth gear changes and proper lubrication. Schedule a regular transmission fluid change (every 30-100,000 miles) to help prevent transmission breakdowns.

Windshield Washer

Windshield washer may not be an important part of a running car, but it is incredibly important during a rain or snow storm. Instead of waiting until windshield washer is out, add windshield washer fluid regularly so you have it when you need it. To change windshield washer:

  1. Stop the car.
  2. Open the hood.
  3. Find the windshield washer reservoir.
  4. Fill the reservoir with windshield washer.

As long as you’re checking the windshield washer level, inspect your windshield wipers for wear and tear. If they are in bad shape, replace your windshield wipers before you need it during a particularly bad snow or rain storm.

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