The fluid levels in your car are important to its continued proper operation. Many people understand about checking one or two of the fluid levels without really giving much thought to the others. However, most cars have at least six places where checking the fluid level is critical for safe driving.
Always check your oil regularly.
If you are planning a trip of more than twenty-five miles, it is a good idea to pull your dipstick and see if your oil level is correct. For those who regularly drive around town, the oil level needs to be inspected on a weekly basis. It is a simple process to check the oil level on most vehicles. The oil dipstick on late model cars is always clearly marked as “oil” or “engine oil.” The engine should always be off when checking the oil. If the engine is cold and parked on a relatively level surface, all that is necessary is to pull out the dipstick and read it before starting the engine. If the engine has been running, you will need a paper towel or cloth of some type to wipe away the oil on the dipstick before you can get a good reading. Once you have wiped the dipstick, put it back into the motor completely and pull it out again. This should give you a good idea of your oil level.
Make sure that your windshield wiper fluid is filled.
If you have gone through an extended period of nice weather without driving into many bugs, it can be easy to forget the windshield wiper fluid. However, if you find yourself in some poor weather conditions where a lot of material is splashing onto your windshield, you will need wiper fluid to clear the windshield for safe driving. All that is necessary is to raise the cap on the washer reservoir bottle and fill it to the proper mark on the side of it. You can fill this bottle with plain water if the conditions are going to be above freezing and you are out of washer fluid. It is better not to do this because you may forget to add fluid before freezing conditions and end up with a frozen windshield washer system. Always make sure that the fluid that you add is rated for your specific temperature zone.
Your engine coolant should never be ignored.
A low radiator can cause damage to your engine block before you know that you have a problem. Except in emergency situations, always check the engine coolant when the motor is cold. This will prevent the possibility of getting severe burns or inhaling coolant which can be poisonous. If your coolant is not at the neck of the radiator fill spout, you need to add antifreeze. In an emergency, you can fill the radiator with water. Avoid adding cool water to a hot engine unless you start the engine and add it in gradually allowing it to warm before it strikes the hot engine block. Like with washer fluid, it is best not to add straight water to your cooling system. Most cars require a mixture of water and antifreeze. If the radiator is full, you should make sure that the reservoir is filled to the proper level when the engine is cool.
Brake fluid levels need to be checked at least weekly.
Because of wear on the brake pads and shoes, more fluid is required to keep older brake parts working than new ones. As the pads wear, additional fluid goes into the brake lines and out of the master cylinder. Topping off the brake fluid regularly will keep air bubbles from entering the brake lines. Any air in the brake lines will cause the brakes to fail at some point. Only add brake fluid into the master cylinder. Usually, the only thing necessary to refill the brake fluid is to remove the cap on the master cylinder and add brake fluid until it is up to the top. Replace the cap, and you are good to go.
Include the power steering fluid in your weekly fluid check up.
Sometimes finding the power steer reservoir can seem like a game of automotive “Where’s Waldo.” These little pumps are moved around from side to side and up and down on the engine. The only constant is that a belt has to go around a pulley on the power steering pump to drive it. So, just follow the path of the belts on the engine until one of them circles around the power steering unit. Just unscrew the lid and a small dipstick will be underneath. Fill the unit with power steering fluid up to the full line. Depending on where the power steering unit is located, you may need a funnel with a longer neck to reach it without making a mess.
You will need to check the level of the transmission fluid or grease.
If you have an automatic transmission or trans-axle, you will check the level of the fluid under the hood. The dipstick for this fluid is often quite long and may be tucked far down on the side of the engine or way in the back. If you are lucky, it is within easy reach. This fluid is checked with the engine warmed up and running on a level surface. Remove the dipstick, wipe it off, and replace it. When you pull it out again, check the fluid level. Unlike engine oil which generally requires a quart of oil to refill it when it is low, a transmission is usually considered low when down by a pint. Do not overfill the fluid level. Special funnels are made to make adding transmission fluid easy.
For standard or manual transmissions, you have to check the grease level.
Frankly, unless you are a real wrench, this is a job that should be left to your mechanic. You have to remove a plug on the side of the transmission and see if grease starts to run out. If none comes out, slip a finger into the opening and see if the grease it right there. If not, you probably need to pump in a little gear grease into it. When grease starts to ooze out past the pump tube, it is full. Replace the plug, and the job is finished. The same is true for the rear end or differential on a rear wheel drive vehicle.