In order to keep your vehicle running in top condition for as long as possible, you’ll need to make sure that you are properly monitoring and maintaining five essential fluids. These fluids are imperative for keeping your vehicle on the road and keeping you safe, whether it’s by combating engine wear or by ensuring that you can stop when necessary.
Engine oil is arguably the most well-known of the key automotive fluids. Its job is to lubricate your engine so that all of its moving parts work together harmoniously and without generating too much friction. Engine oil also traps dirt and keeps your engine cool, leading some to call it the lifeblood of a vehicle. For as much as your engine oil levels are important, condition is also an important factor to consider: Motor oil that has accumulated too much dirt becomes ineffective at lubricating and can lead to substantial engine damage.
Coolant or antifreeze gets into your engine through the radiator. This colorful liquid — typically a bright green or orange color — helps regulate engine temperature in extreme conditions, preventing overheating in the summer and freezing in the winter. Coolant typically requires dilution with water for best effect, usually at a 50:50 ratio. Make sure that your vehicle has had the chance to cool down before checking your coolant levels, as it can spray out of the radiator if it is still hot.
Power steering fluid
Modern vehicles handle much more smoothly than classic cars thanks to the advent of power steering. Because these are hydraulic power steering systems, they require power steering fluid to ensure proper functionality and to prevent damage or wear. Power steering fluid doesn’t require as much maintenance as other key fluids, but it is nonetheless important to check periodically to make sure that you have enough. Some modern vehicles use electric power steering and thus do not require fluid.
Brake fluid typically only needs to be replaced every 4-5 years, but it is no less essential for operating your vehicle safely. Like some power steering systems, your brakes are hydraulic and thus require pressurized fluids to do their job. Unchanged brake fluid can lead to rusted brake lines, which can lead to more significant and costly problems. If your fluid is not translucent, you will want to have it replaced as soon as possible to ensure safe stops.
Transmission replacement is a costly repair, so before you start preparing for the worst when you begin to notice issues while shifting, make certain that you have the proper amount of transmission fluid. Like motor oil for an engine, transmission fluid lubricates the many moving parts in a gearbox to prevent friction and promote longevity. The location of your transmission fluid dipstick will depend on your drivetrain, and the kind of fluid will depend on the type of transmission your vehicle has. In most cases, you won’t have to worry about changing your transmission fluid for around 100,000 miles.
These fluids are necessary both for day-to-day driving and with an eye for your vehicle’s long-term durability. If you are not sure what your vehicle requires with respect to these and other fluids, check your owner’s manual and consult a trusted mechanic.
This article is presented by Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Michigan.