Car trouble is one of the most aggravating issues that automobile owners can face, and it usually occurs at the most inopportune times. One way to keep your car running smoothly is to maintain the proper amounts of fluids that your automobile needs to run well and stay in optimum condition. It is also important to change the fluids regularly to keep them clean. suggests that the following fluids be checked once a month to ensure that the levels are where they should be and that the fluids look clean and free of residue. Car owners who consistently drive a great number of miles may need to check the fluids more frequently.

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Engine Oil

A blown engine can result in one of the most costly repairs a car owner can incur. To ensure that your engine continues to run, and run well, it is important to check the engine oil regularly and at any time when there is an indication of possible engine trouble. Your owner’s manual should contain the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often the oil should be changed under normal driving conditions. Check the oil only when the engine is cool. The dipstick in most newer automobiles has a yellow, circular handle, and is normally located at the front of the engine. Pull out the dipstick, wipe with a clean cloth, and then replace the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out again and check the markings to see where your oil level falls. Engine oil should fall somewhere between the low and full levels. If the level is on the low side, it’s time to add a quart of oil to the engine. If the level falls below the low marking, you may need to add at least two quarts of oil. If the oil appears dirty or dingy, it’s time to change the oil or take it into a mechanic for an oil change.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission problems can lead to costly repairs, so transmission fluid should be checked regularly. Transmission fluid dipsticks are generally located at the front of the engine on a front-wheel drive vehicle and at the back of the engine on a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Check transmission fluid with the car running and in park. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it with a clean cloth, then reinsert it and pull it back out to check the level. Check the markings and make sure that the level falls between low and full. If the transmission fluid is low, add fluid to get the levels back to where they should fall or have a mechanic add the fluid. Check the fluid to see if it looks light brown, red, or pink. If the fluid looks dark brown or if it has a burnt smell, the fluid will need to be changed. Manufacturers generally recommend a transmission fluid change every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Newer cars may come without a transmission dipstick. If there is no dipstick, you will need to take your automobile to a mechanic to check the fluid level and make sure that the fluid is clean.

Brake Fluid

Check your brake fluid regularly or if your brake pedal feels unusual or sinks to the floor when pressed. The master cylinder should be on the driver’s side just in front of the brake booster and up near the firewall. The reservoir is usually a plastic container sitting atop the master cylinder. Clean the top of the reservoir to prevent dirt from falling into the fluid. Unscrew the cap and check the condition of the fluid. If it appears dirty, it’s time to change the fluid. If the fluid is clean, check its level to see if there’s enough fluid. Most reservoirs have markings that show a maximum and minimum level. If the fluid is low, top up until the level reaches about half an inch from the cap. Screw the cap back on immediately. Brake fluid should be changed approximately every 45,000 miles or every two years, whichever comes first.


It is important to check the coolant when your engine is completely cool. The reservoir, or expansion tank, is usually translucent. You can refer to your auto handbook for the exact location of the filler cap. The tank should be marked with minimum and maximum levels. You should check the hoses at this time to see if there are any wet or white stains that may signal a leak or other potential problems. Unscrew the cap slowly and check the liquid level to see if it is low. Any significant drop in coolant levels should be checked by a mechanic. If you need to add coolant, check to see if it is pre-mixed or if it needs to be mixed with equal parts of water. Make sure to add the right kind of antifreeze and be consistent with what type of antifreeze you use as different types generally do not mix well.

Power Steering Fluid

The reservoir for power steering fluid should say “steering” or “power steering” on top of the cap. The reservoir will either have a dipstick which can be used to check the power steering fluid, or it will have a cap that should be removed so that you can visibly check by looking in the reservoir. Before checking the power steering fluid, turn the steering wheel from the locked to the unlocked position a few times while the engine is running, then turn off the engine. Mechanics have differing opinions on how often to check the power steering fluid. The owner’s manual will have the manufacturer’s recommendations, but checking power steering fluid monthly along with the other fluids will take any guesswork out of the equation.

Windshield Wiper Fluid

The windshield wiper fluid reservoir can be found at the back of the engine near the windshield. Normally, the reservoir is translucent so that the fluid can be visibly checked. Make sure that your engine is cool and the car turned off before checking the fluid. Top up if the level is too low.

Following these simple steps to check the fluids in your car will help reduce the risks of an unexpected automobile breakdown. With regular maintenance, you can avoid any costly repairs before it’s too late.

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