Checking and Maintaining Your Car’s Fluid Levels

by  |  On April 1st, 2015  |  In Tips & Guides

Maintaining the proper fluid levels in your car is an easy way to keep your car running properly and reliably.  In this article we will discuss the following automotive systems involving fluid levels and explain how to check them and add fluid when necessary.

  • Engine coolant
  • Engine oil
  • Automatic transmission fluid
  • Window washer fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Power Steering fluid

Engine Coolant – The engine coolant reservoir is a plastic container located under the hood usually just to the side of the radiator. This is where overflow coolant goes when the fluid expands in the radiator. You can often see the level of the coolant through the side of the translucent container. If its low, pop the coolant reservoir lid open and fill it to the “full” mark (usually about two-thirds of the way up) with a coolant mixture. Note: Engine coolant is generally a diluted 50/50 mixture: 50 percent water and 50 percent anti-freeze.

Engine Oil – Checking your engine’s oil level is a simple procedure. With the hood open and propped up safely, locate the dipstick. It usually flanks the engine and has a brightly colored handle. Remove it and wipe off the end. Reinsert it into hole, then slowly remove it again. Can you see the oil level down at the bottom of the stick? It should fall between the two fill marks on the stick. If it’s below the bottom level, you need to add oil (typically a quart).  Be very careful not to overfill it, as this can cause over-pressure in the crankcase which may harm internal seals and gaskets.

Automatic Transmission – Generally, the automatic transmission fluid should be checked with the engine running. See your owner’s manual for more information on this. The transmission dipstick is often located behind the oil dipstick but doesn’t stick up as high. Sometimes it will have the similar colorful markings as the oil dipstick. With the engine running, (be very careful!) pull out the transmission dipstick. Wipe it off, reinsert it, then extract it again. It will have high and low marks similar to the oil dipstick.  If it’s at the low mark, it’s time to add some transmission fluid.  Be sure that you get the correct fluid for your car as there are different types of fluid.

Window Washing Fluid – The receptacle for washing fluid is typically located in the engine compartment off to the side of the engine.  It may look like the coolant overflow reservoir so take a good look with a flashlight if you are unsure.  If you’re unable to locate these fluid reservoirs, consult your owner’s manual. If the fluid is low in the reservoir you need to add more.  Although the you can make your own fluid by adding isopropyl alcohol to water, it is far easier to buy it at the local gas station already mixed.

Brake Fluid – Locate the brake fluid reservoir. It’s usually in the engine compartment by the fire wall or against one fender. If you can’t find it, consult the manual. Look carefully at the translucent body of the reservoir. It should be at least two-thirds full. If not, fill to the “full” line with either DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake fluid, check your owner’s manual for recommendations on what type of brake fluid is best.

Power Steering Fluid – The reservoirs for power steering fluid can be in a number of locations under the hood.  Look carefully and you will see it labelled.  It will have a plastic measuring stick under the cap that registers the fluid level.  Be sure and add only approved power steering fluid if it is low.

Maintaining proper fluid levels helps insure safe and trouble-free driving. It takes only a few minutes, and can often catch a problem before it becomes a crisis. Try and make it a habit to check them periodically.

Source: Honda of Tiffany Springs

Shane Thomas has raced the amateur motocross circuit, and has worked a pit crew for a small racecar circuit out of New Hampshire. Shane is a gear head, and proud to share his knowledge of the automotive & motocross industry with everyone else.

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