Car Care - Checking Fluids
by: Kevin Schappell
Keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape requires constant monitoring
of vital fluids. Read you owners manual and look for a diagram of
the engine. Most times there will be a diagram showing where to
check all the major fluids. This should be your starting point.
If your manual is lost in the glove box or you never had one, then
ask your mechanic or a friend who knows cars to show you all the
places to check. There are 4 major levels to check on most cars.
* Engine oil - Usually towards the front of the engine and marked
"OIL" Always check your oil level with the engine OFF.
Remove the dipstick and wipe the oil off with the rag or towel then
put the dipstick back into the hole. Now pull out and get a reading.
You might have to hold the dipstick to the light to get a good reading
as fresh oil can sometimes be hard to see. On the dipstick there
will be two marks indicating a maximum and minimum level for the
oil. Make it a habit of checking your oil every two weeks.
* Transmission fluid - If you have an automatic transmission then
you will have a dipstick to check the fluid level. It is most commonly
found towards the back of the engine compartment or towards the
passenger side. You should find out how to check the fluid by looking
at the owners manual or on the dipstick itself. Most cars
have to be running with the transmission in park or neutral. Also
the transmission should be warmed up to give a true reading. Make
sure the car has been driven for a short distance to make sure everything
is up to operating temperature. Checking the level is just like
checking your oil, wipe off dipstick, replace, pull out again and
check level. If you have a manual transmission there is no dipstick
and to check the fluid level you must crawl under the car and remove
a fill plug. I would have your mechanic check this for you once
a year if you do not feel comfortable doing this.
* Engine coolant - -- CAUTION -- Never open your radiator cap when
the engine is hot ! The pressure in the system can send hot coolant
splashing out on to you. Most cars have an overflow bottle, which
will have level markings. Keep the coolant between these markings.
If you have to open the radiator, make sure the engine is cold.
* Power steering fluid - Your car uses oil to assist in steering
the car. The fluid is usually checked at the pump, but can be away
from the pump in a separate reservoir. Like the transmission, this
fluid should also be checked when up to operating temperature. Most
commonly the level is measured by a small dipstick attached to the
cap of the reservoir.
* Brake fluid - On most newer cars you can check brake fluid level
without removing the cap on the master cylinder. There will be level
markings on the side of the plastic reservoir. If you have to remove
the cover to check the fluid level, be careful not to spill any
fluid on the surrounding paint. Brake fluid makes a nice paint remover
* Windshield washer fluid - That's the magic blue liquid that squirts
out of your hood. Most reservoirs have the level marked on the side
but some newer cars have them buried underneath everything so you
can not see. Just fill to the top, there is no harm in overfilling.
If you need to add any fluids to bring the levels up, a funnel is
helpful to avoid spills. Keep track of how often you add oil, and
transmission fluid. Frequent additions can point to leaks and engine
About The Author
Kevin Schappell maintains http://www.carbuyersclub.com where he
gives advice on buying, selling, insurance, and financing. A mechanical
engineer and car guy, Kevin has decided to spend his online time
helping others learn about automobiles. To learn more about how
your car works, Kevin has created http://www.mycarwizard.com.