Category Archives: car fluids

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.

4 Car Fluids You Should Check Before Winter

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winter drivingWe’re heading into winter driving season, a time when you want your car to be at its very best. When the inevitable winter storms and ice hit, you don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road or in an accident. That’s why it pays to check your car fluids, or have your mechanic check your car at your next appointment to make sure that your car keeps going through the winter storms, ice, and all the other severe winter weather that comes our way.

Antifreeze/Coolant

Back in the days of Driver’s Ed, our teacher heeded a stern warning: be careful to add too much water to your radiator or the water freezes and damages your car. His advice still rings true today; make sure you check your antifreeze (another word for this fluid is coolant) to make sure your antifreeze is topped off (without too much water) so your car doesn’t overheat during a long drive on one of the coldest days of the year.

Oil

A car engine without oil, or enough oil, is an engine with a death wish and a limited life span. That’s why it’s so important to make regular appointments to get your oil changed, and to check it periodically between appointments. To check your oil, turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done.

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

Windshield washer fluid

winshield washer fluidNothing makes us madder than when we go to clean our windshield and don’t have washer fluid—even worse when the weather is bad and really needed. Locate the windshield washer reservoir under your head, and fill it up as needed. As long as you’re at it, inspect windshield wipers for wear and tear. If they are in bad shape, purchase a new set to get you through winter—you don’t want to go through a bad winter storm without a properly functioning windshield wiper.

Transmission fluid

Your transmission fluid does not need to be changed regularly (flushed) like oil; however transmission fluid does break down over time and needs to be periodically checked and evaluated. There is a process for checking transmission fluid; you can find directions here. If you don’t feel comfortable checking it, ask your mechanic to check your transmission fluid at your next oil change appointment. Transmission fluid should be red, but gets darker in color as it breaks down. Still, darker fluid does not warrant a transmission fluid flush; instead rely on your car manufacturer guidelines and whether your car is having issues shifting.

If you have any questions about checking the fluids in your car, schedule an appointment with your mechanic . The mechanic can check your fluids, refill as needed, and give you peace of mind that you won’t be stranded in the middle of a snow storm.