The Ultimate Guide to Fluid Maintenance
Quick! Where is your power steering fluid and how often should you check it? Unless you’re one of the more dedicated car owners among us, you probably have to check your owner’s manual or Google for the answer. Don’t worry, it’s okay! We are here to the rescue with this handy guide on how and when to check your different fluids. Transmission Fluid In a car with an automatic transmission, the transmission fluid is what keeps the gears moving smoothly. The well for the fluid is located in a different place in each vehicle, so consult the internet or your owner’s manual to find it. It will have a dipstick, just like your engine oil. Since the transmission is a closed system, you aren’t checking for levels, but for the shape that the fluid is in. Healthy transmission fluid should be essentially odorless and have a pinkish-red hue to it. If the fluid appears brown, black or smells burnt it is time to replace it. How often to check: Once a month When to replace: Depending on the car and driver, between 50,000 to 100,000 miles or whenever the fluid appears brown or burnt, whichever comes first. Brake Fluid Brake fluid, like transmission fluid, is within a closed system. If your levels are low, there is something seriously wrong and you should take your car to the mechanic. It is still important to keep an eye on it. If your brakes don’t feel like they are supposed to, the fluid is the first place to look. It’s probably the likeliest source of issue and certainly the cheapest and easiest to fix. The brake fluid should be visible in its container/well. Look at the color. It should be a slight golden color. If it is brown, it needs to be replaced. How often to check: Whenever you change your oil. When to replace: Every two years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. Engine Oil This is probably the one you’re used to checking. By the time you own a car, someone should have drilled into your head that you need to check and change your oil regularly. Maybe you even know how to do it yourself. But for those of you who don’t, the question has become a lot more complicated than it once was. It used to be that “every 3,000 miles or six months” was a standard, catch-all answer. Nowadays, different manufacturers have different recommendations for how often you should replace your oil and it’s important to follow their recommendation. While checking your oil every time you fill up with gas is a smart move, with newer cars you can probably get away with checking it less frequently. Engine oil exists in an open system, so it is likely it will fall below safe levels and need topping up from time to time. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle or two on hand at home. How often to check: At least once a month, preferably more often. When to change: Consult your manufacturer’s recommendation. Power Steering Fluid The power steering in your car ensures that steering is smooth an easy. Cars that are low on power steering fluid will start to make creaking sounds and the driver will notice a tactile difference when driving. The check for power steering fluid is a visual one, just pop the hood and look for the well, which should be clearly labeled. Consult your manual if you can’t see it right away. Power steering fluid should remain at relatively the same level at all times. If it is low, there is a good chance you have a leak. Take your car to your mechanic if this is the case. How often to check: Once a month When to replace: Maybe never. Consult your manual. Coolant Take a wild guess at what this stuff does! Since you can probably guess what coolant does, you know how important it is. Like engine oil, the health of your car’s engine depends on this to function properly. Wait until your engine is cool to the touch to check the coolant. This is a simple one. Just unscrew the radiator cap and take a look. There should be a line or hash mark indicating the proper coolant level. If it needs topping up, go ahead and do it but be sure to use the same type of coolant that is already in the engine. If you have never replaced the coolant in your car, your manufacturer should have that information freely available. How often to check: At least twice a year: once before the beginning of spring and once before the beginning of fall. When to replace: Every two years. Wiper fluid While “low windshield wiper fluid” doesn’t sound like an emergency, it’s an important one to keep an eye on. Visibility is one of the cornerstones of safety. If your windshield is dirty or obscured in any way, it puts you and everyone else on the road at risk. Good windshield wiper fluid cleans your windshield and decreases the friction between your wiper blades and your windshield, reducing wear and tear on both. Wiper fluid is usually the easiest of your car’s fluids to monitor and replace. Pop the hood and look for the reservoir and fill to the line if it’s not there yet. How often to check: Every time you fill your car up. When to replace: Top up as needed. Consider seasonal fluids which may perform better depending on weather conditions. At Strutmasters, we want your driving experience to be as easy, inexpensive and pleasurable as possible. That’s why we make suspension conversion kits that save owners thousands and keep cars on the road longer than their original air suspensions. If your car is showing any warning signs of suspension failure, be sure to visit our website or call our suspension experts at (336) 597-2397 for a free consultation today.
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