Which Auto Fluids to Check on a Regular Basis

Checking the fluids in your vehicle is an important part of ongoing maintenance. Keeping the fluid at proper levels and ensuring it’s in good, fresh condition impacts most functions of your vehicle, and ensures good fuel economy and engine longevity.

As a general rule, you should check your oil every 5,000 miles or so (when using synthetic oil), and check all other fluids at the same time—usually every few months when you get vehicle tune-ups or perform some standard maintenance in Hartford, WI. But which fluids do you need to check, and how do you find them?

Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know:

  • Oil: The dipstick for your engine oil will be close to the front of the engine if you drive a front-wheel drive vehicle, or behind the engine if you drive a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Your vehicle manufacturer might have made this easy on you with a cap that features an “engine oil” label or image. To check the oil, pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag, then put the dipstick all the way back in and pull it out again. This will show you where the oil is on the stick and where it falls between the “full” and “add” levels. Keep the oil close to the “full” line, and make sure it’s a nice yellow or amber color. It gets dark when it’s ready to be changed.
  • Power steering fluid: The engine bay will have a dipstick or reservoir cap labeled for power steering fluid. The process for checking the dipstick is the same as engine oil. The fluid should be the color of white wine, and may have a pinkish hue.
  • Coolant: To find the coolant, look for the radiator cap that will be labeled “engine coolant” or “antifreeze.” Open it and make sure the fluid is close to the top. You can find coolant in a wide range of colors. Make sure you never mix coolants—whenever adding more, it should be the same kind you already have in your vehicle, and that which is recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Brake fluid: Find the cap for the brake fluid, take it off and look at the level and color. Good-quality brake fluid should always be the color of white wine or have an amber hue, and the fluid should be positioned close to the top of the reservoir.
  • Windshield washer fluid: You’ll typically find this fluid in blue, green or an orange/red mixture. This is the easiest fluid to find under the hood, and usually has a windshield icon. All you need to do is pour in new fluid until the reservoir is full.
  • Transmission fluid: Some cars have a dipstick to check transmission fluid, but others are harder to check and will need a mechanic’s assistance. If you have a dipstick for transmission fluid, the process for checking is similar to that of engine oil, but you must do it while the vehicle is running and either in park or neutral. The dipstick should be a translucent amber or red.

For more information about these six auto fluids to check, contact Pat Doll Automotive LLC or visit our shop in Hartford, WI.