Useful Car Tips

4 Essential Car Fluids and How to Check Them

May 17, 2018
One of the most important ways to ensure the longevity of your car is to maintain a proper level of fluids. The condition of the fluids is taken care of through your scheduled services, but continuously maintaining the proper level of the fluid in between is just as important. Here are four of the most important fluids found in most cars, and how to check to see if it is at a proper level.
  • Engine oil

Engine oil is required to lubricate internal moving parts of your vehicle. If there isn’t a proper amount of this oil, the parts would overheat and eventually stop working. Eventually this will lead to a complete engine failure. The engine oil is potentially hazardous so wearing gloves and washing your hands thoroughly after handling this oil, is highly recommended. Checking for the level of the oil is simple. Most cars have an oil dipstick, which is also marked with minimum and maximum marks for your convenience. After locating the dipstick, pull it all the way out. You will see the oil remains, but this is not an accurate reading of the levels. First, you would want to wipe the dipstick clean with a dry rag and re-insert it completely. Second, remove it once again, but this time make sure to hold it upright or flat on its side. The purpose of being careful is that you do not want the oil to run up the stick and cause an inaccurate reading. Lastly, check to see if the highest point of the oil is anywhere between the minimum and maximum levels which would be the ideal level.
  • Engine coolant

An obvious effect of your vehicles engine is the production of heat. if the engine overheats, it can cause severe damage. The engine coolant absorbs this heat and scatters it through the radiator. With the heat distributed away, the engine can remain at a safe operating temperature. There is a chance that the engine coolant will be hot and under a lot of pressure. This makes opening the system very dangerous. Make sure to not open the system if the car is running or has been recently. Do it slowly and make sure to not get burned if the engine is hot. Best time to check your coolant is in the morning when the car has been off for hours. Some vehicles come with a translucent coolant expansion where you can simply look through it to check the levels. Others require you to open the expansion tank to check manually.
  • Brake fluid

The brake fluid flows through the brake lines and into the brake calipers to apply the brakes with the help of the master cylinder. If the brake fluid gets too low, you risk brake failure. The brake fluid is hygroscopic which means it absorbs the moisture in the environment. Therefore, the brake fluid should remain closed as much as possible. It should only be opened to add more fluid and then tightly sealed. To prevent opening the system to check the levels, most modern vehicles use a translucent plastic tank where you can check to see if the fluid level is between the minimum and maximum marks. The brake fluid is also very damaging to paint. If any is spilled on your car, make sure to wash the area thoroughly as soon as possible.
  • Power steering fluid

Recently, car manufacturers equip cars with a more efficient electric power steering system, but despite this, a lot of cars still use the older hydraulic power steering system. The power steering fluid is used in these older systems to assist you in turning the steering wheel. The fluid varies between the manufacturers and some are hazardous. To be safe, use gloves and wash hands thoroughly. Low power steering fluid can result in a total failure of the power steering system. The power steering fluid is usually held in either a translucent tank or in a tank with a dipstick built into the cap. Depending on which tank you have in your vehicle, use the corresponding method to check the levels. If the tank is translucent, then check to see if the fluid is between the minimum and maximum lines. If the tank has a dipstick, follow the same process for checking the engine oil as mentioned in bullet point number 1.
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