Car fluids are extremely important to the vitality of your vehicle. Just as our bodies need “fuel” these five fluids keep your car running in tip-top performance, and leave money in your pocket. For those that know how to check and fill your car fluids, this could be just a simple reminder to do so, and for those who are just beginning their driving career, this is super important to do! It’s easy too! Just pop your hood and we’re good to begin:
Car fluids and their various colors. Can you guess what they are?!…Yeah, me either. 🙂
Okay folks, today we’re going to be talking about your car fluids and how to accurately check them. This is a big preventative maintenance measure that you can take to make sure your car is running at tip-top performance.
All cars are different. Your car fluids reservoir will not be in the same place as someone who owns a truck/motorcycle, however the premise is the same. Although there are many fluids in your car, there are five main car fluids you should be checking regularly. These include: Engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid.
Checking these fluids regularly can feel empowering- especially since you’d know you wouldn’t need a coolant or transmission flush, if someone was trying to get you to do that. While all these fluids are vital to your car running smoothly, these are without doubt the easiest car fluids to check.
Most cars will be similar in how to check your engine oil. Although each ‘stick’ is notched differently, there should be some sort of indicator as to a ‘High’ and ‘Low’. (see below)
The high low indicator on a oil dipstick will let you know whether or not you’ll need to add more oil.
First, find the oil dip stick- take it out and whipe it off on a towel or something you don’t mind getting dirty. Why? well, when your car moves or sits, so does your oil. It can splash higher and make you believe you have more oil than you actually do. It’s the first step in determining your oil level…once you’ve wiped it off, dip the stick inside it’s container once again and pull it out. This should give you an accurate reading.
If you are anywhere between the “min’ or ‘low’ and ‘max’ or ‘high’ side you should be okay, however adding a little bit of oil won’t hurt.
I should caution you, though, adding too much oil can actually do damage to your car. This is why it’s essential to check your engine oil at least once a month. Some experts say to check your oil every time you fill up your tank- and that can be a good judge on whether your car takes more oil, or less. This can also give you some help on when you’ll need an oil change as well- you know, unless your like me who waits until 4,000 miles after my last one- (I’m horrible, I realize this.)
That being said- the old saying of changing your oil every 3k miles or every 6 months to change your oil doesn’t really stand any longer. Cars are manufactured differently, and therefore their ‘oil change dates’ vary. Just remember to get a regular oil change through your service technician and you should be okay!
Transmission Fluid: (automatic transmissions- Manuals are a little harder.)
Transmission fluid is vital to keeping the gears in your car moving smoothly. You check your transmission fluid much the same way that you would with your oil. The only difference is that your car must be running while you do it! Why? Well, transmission fluid is part of a closed system, meaning it should never be low. If it is, you need to take it to your mechanic. The fluid should be red in color and not smell burnt, if it smells or is brownish, it’s definitely time to replace it!
This is for an automatic transmission- and while a manual will vary- this is a good basis of what your transmission fluid should look like. You see how the bright reddish-pink is new, and the brown (burnt looking dot) means a definitive change in transmission fluid is needed. Like I said before, it really varies on the age of your car and how often you drive it- but it’s not a bad thing to regularly check your transmission fluid!
You should check your transmission fluid monthly, if your check-engine light is on, maybe look to see if that is the cause. You should really only need to replace your transmission fluid ever 50,000-100k miles (this varies depending on the age of your car, and how well you take care of it though). There really are no accurate timelines when it comes to your vehicle!
This is super important. As the name suggests, the coolant- or antifreeze, keeps your car running cool…which is extremely important! Why you might ask? Well, if you are running low on coolant, your car can- and probably will- overheat, leaving you stranded on the side of the road until your car cools off and you’re able to put more coolant in it.
You never want to check your coolant while your vehicle is hot or running! This will backfire on you severely. I’m talking burnt fingers and foul-smelling clothes for hours! However, if your car is cooled off you just look for your radiator cap. Once you unscrew it, you should see the level of your coolant. Like the engine oil, your coolant will have an indicator level of some sort (think high and low again).
This is just an example of a coolant reservoir. You can see the two notches on the side as indicators of your coolant level. If your engine is hot, you won’t get an accurate reading- and you’ll probably burn your face or hands off. (okay, not completely off, but it will hurt!)
If you’re running low, go ahead and put s’more in. Be advised though, be sure to put the same kind of coolant in your car that’s already in your radiator tank. You should probably check your coolant every time you pop-up your hood. It’s easy, and will save you serious headaches down the road.
However, if you’re planning on driving long distances, it’s probably safe to assume that you’d check your fluids before driving out. Experts suggest that you check your coolant twice a year, and replace it every 2-3 years. Again, it just really depends on how much you use your car, the distances you drive, and whether or not your needing fluid more (because of leaks or cracks in a hose).
Exactly like the transmission fluid, your brake fluid is part of a closed system- meaning you should never be low. If you’re low, that probably means you’ve got a leak, which is super dangerous! It’s still worth checking to make sure your fluid isn’t dirty though.
This brake fluid reservoir will look different in each car, but the premise is still the same. The line level will show you if you’re needing to add more fluid, or if you’re fluid is the wrong color.
Your brake fluid keeps your brakes running fluidly (get it? ha!). If your brakes feel a little off, checking your fluid is your first step! The brake fluid reservoir is usually located on the drivers side of your car. You pop the cap, and take a look on inside. If your fluid is a golden color- you’re fine…keep on driving. But if your fluid is brown, it’s time to replace it.
A good time to check your brake fluid is whenever you change your oil. This will give you a timeline of when you might need to replace it as well- aim for replacing brake fluid every two years or so. Again, this just really depends on your type of car and how much you abuse it- ah, I mean drive :).
Power Steering Fluid:
While the other fluids help keep your car running in tip-top shape, your power steering fluid helps to keep your steering smooth and easy. It’s not a bad thing to be running low, however it will make it harder to turn and to steer your car- which can possibly lead to an accident.
You should be able to tell when your power steering fluid is getting low. Your steering wheel will be hard to turn, and you might even hear a ‘creaking’ when you turn as well. To check your power steering fluid, all you need to do is pop your hood (it’s best to check all your fluids at once, just to be safe!) and find the power steering reservoir. (see below)
This is an example of a power steering reservoir, and while most cars won’t look exactly like this- you can still see the min and max line indicators. You should rarely need to replace/fill your power steering fluid. Even some car manuals say you never have to replace it- but a good judge is the fluid’s color! (see more in the paragraphs below!)
You should be able to visually check your power steering level, if it looks low, it’s worth taking into a mechanic to check for a leak. It’s recommended to check your power steering fluid every month or so, however, as I said before, it just really depends on your car…and you.
Usually, car manuals suggest to keep your power steering fluid topped off (or at it’s max level). You rarely need to flush and replace it, however if you’ve recently bought your car and aren’t sure if it needs to- you can always look at the color of the fluid to determine if you need to replace it. Power steering fluid should be clearish-blue. (this also depends on your car).
This shows a basis for power steering fluid colors. You can see the the ‘new’ is clear-to-blue, and the bad is brownish gold. You should change it whenever it gets towards the middle color- just to be safe.
So some things to take away with this lesson today:
* Always check your car fluid levels about every month or so. However, it’s good to check your fluids every time you change your oil. Most of the time your mechanic will do this for you and top you off!
* Read through your car’s manual! This will tell you how often you need maintenance on your car, and what it suggests to do based on the age and mileage of your car as well!
* Car fluids should never be brown or smell like a burnt piece of….well, you know. This is why checking your car fluids and doing regular preventative maintenance on your car is super important!
Well, that’s all for today. Hopefully you now know how and where to check all your car fluids – well, the main five at least.
yeah, that’s me. The Car Girl!
– K, The Car Girl.
link up with our facebook for awesome promotions and other fun things!
click this picture to follow us on instagram!