Maintaining the fluids in your vehicle is one of the most important tasks as a car owner. The fluids are responsible for keeping hundreds of moving parts lubricated and ensuring your vehicle doesn’t overheat. Even if you bring your car in for regular maintenance, knowing how to properly check your fluid levels is always recommended.
Maintaining Proper Fluid Levels Between Vehicle Services
There are numerous fluids, oils and lubricants underneath your hood, all of which play an important role in a smooth-running vehicle. With that being said, certain fluids are essential and should be a priority when performing a visual inspection.
Fluids You Should Regularly Check
- Engine Oil
- Transmission Fluid
- Engine Coolant
- Brake Fluid
- Power Steering Fluid
- Windshield Wiper Fluid
The engine oil in your vehicle is not only responsible for keeping the internal components lubricated, but it also keeps your engine running clean and cool. It is essential to keep your engine oil at the proper levels as too little or too much can lead to catastrophic failure. Luckily, checking the engine oil is usually an easy and straightforward process. With the engine off, raise the hood and locate the oil dipstick. Remove it from the tube, thoroughly clean the oil off with a rag and fully insert it back in the tube. Slowly remove the dipstick again and check the oil level on the markers. If the oil is low, remove the fill cap and add more until it reaches the recommended level.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
While automatic transmission fluid is a lubricant and coolant like the engine oil, it’s also a hydraulic fluid responsible for transmitting energy from the engine to the wheels. To check the transmission fluid, start your vehicle and let it idle until it reaches operating temperature. At this point, set your parking brake, press the foot brake and slowly cycle through each gear. Depending on your owners manual, put your vehicle in park or neutral and proceed to check the transmission dipstick. Some vehicles no longer have a dipstick and only can be checked by a trained technician. Some even require a scan tool to accurately check the level.
Engine coolant, or antifreeze as it’s commonly referred to, is responsible for keeping your engine at a safe operating temperature in cold and hot weather. The antifreeze prevents coolant from freezing during the winter and prevents overheating by raising the boiling point during hot summer temperatures. With your engine off and cold, locate the coolant reservoir under your hood. This is typically a large, see-through plastic container on either side of the engine with a cold and hot temp marker on the side of the reservoir. If the level is below the cold marker, fill with coolant until it reaches the safe zone.
Brake fluid lubricates and protects the hydraulic components of your braking system while also creating the force responsible for bringing your vehicle to a stop. To check the brake fluid levels, you first need to locate the reservoir tank. The tank is typically on or near the master cylinder. In most cases, the brake fluid reservoir is a translucent plastic container with a lower and upper-level mark. If your fluid is in between the two marks, no further action is necessary. If it is above or below the marks, contact your local auto repair shop and schedule an appointment for diagnostics.
Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid creates hydraulic pressure and is the reason turning your steering wheel isn’t a complete workout. Beyond that, it protects the seals and rubber hoses of your power steering system. For vehicles with a reservoir built into the pump, you’ll need to locate the power steering dipstick. Remove, clean, and fully reinsert the dipstick. Most vehicles have a set of markings for cold and hot temps. If the fluid reads below the recommended level, add more until it reaches the safe zone. If your power steering fluid reservoir is not attached to the pump, there will be a translucent plastic container on either side of your engine compartment. If the power steering level is low, that usually indicates a leak and should be checked out by your mechanic.
Windshield Washer Fluid
Windshield wiper fluid may not have an impact on the internal workings of your vehicle, it is, however, an essential element to your safety while driving. Fortunately, windshield wiper fluid is easy to check and inexpensive to replace. Nearly every modern car shares a similar system for their windshield wiper fluid. This system consists of a large plastic reservoir and small rubber or plastic tubing leading to the hood sprayers. Most wiper fluid reservoirs do not have measurement markers on the side because they can be filled to the top without the worry of overfilling.
AAA Approved And ASE Certified
If you’re unsure on how to check the fluids in your vehicle, or would rather leave it to the professionals, give Metro Transmission and Automotive of San Marcos, CA a call today. Or fill out an online form to schedule an appointment. Our repair shop is AAA approved, our mechanics are ASE certified, and our award-winning services have been trusted for nearly 4 decades. We’ve been proudly serving North County San Diego since 1983 and would love to add you and your vehicles to our Metro Family. We’re available Monday – Friday from 7:00 AM – 5:30 PM.