CAR FLUIDS: The Empty Myth

Many people mistakenly believe that the only way their car can be damaged by low fluid levels is when a particular fluid runs out and is completely empty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because fluids are the lifeblood of your car, it’s critical they are always maintained at certain levels for your car to run with the least possible strain and wear. While running out of any fluid is certainly deadly for your car, just being a little too low on oil can likewise cause significant strain and wear out your engine much quicker.

Also: low fluids could also be an indication of leaks or other serious issues, so simply replenishing the fluid may not be enough.

An avid do-it-yourselfer may have no problem checking most, or perhaps all, of their vehicle’s fluids; but if you’re not certain how to check the fluids and what fluids to use, it’s best to leave it to the pros. Adding the wrong type of fluid or adding too much fluid can harm your vehicle and result in expensive repairs.

Below are the fluids you should be checking regularly. We recommend you bring your car to us so a highly trained professional can review not just your fluid levels, but determine the underlying cause as to why they are low. In the mean time, here are some great pointers on which fluids to check and how to check them.

AS ALWAYS: Working on your car always presents a certain level of danger and even the simplest of tasks can cause you great harm. We recommend you bring the car to us and let trained professionals, in an environment specifically tailored to care for your car, handle all of this for you while you relax in our air conditioned customer lounge.

Engine Oil: Shut off the engine, open the hood, and look for the engine oil dipstick. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off with a rag, put it back in the tube, remove again and make note of the reading. The engine oil should be in the safe range based on your car manufacturer’s recommendations. If you are low one quart, add oil, but don’t overfill. Check the level often as you fill a small amount at a time.

Transmission Fluid: For an automatic transmission with a dipstick, keep the car engine running and put in park. (If you have a Honda, do this with the vehicle turned off.) With the engine idling, pull out the dipstick, wipe off with a rag, put it back in, remove again, and note the reading. The automatic transmission fluid should be between the full cold and full hot marks. On manual transmissions, turn the engine off, apply the parking brake and remove the plug on the side of the transmission with a wrench. If fluid leaks out from the plug hole, then the transmission fluid is full. If not, add fluid until it begins to leak out from the plug hole.

Coolant: Make sure the engine is cool when checking the coolant level. Then, check the level in the coolant recovery tank. Next, check the level in the radiator. The fluid of half water and half antifreeze mixture should be near the top. If you have to add coolant, always add a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and distilled water. In an emergency, if you don’t have 50/50 available you may add distilled water; but have a coolant exchange performed as soon as possible.

Brake Fluid: Most vehicles have a plastic translucent reservoir with a “min” and “max” line. If you need to add brake fluid, park the car on a level surface, turn the engine off, remove the cap, and add the fluid.

Clutch Fluid (Manual transmissions only): To check the clutch fluid, turn the engine off and look through the translucent reservoir. The fluid should be at or near the top, if not, add clutch fluid after turning off the engine.

Windshield Washer Fluid: Make sure you don’t confuse the windshield washer reservoir with the overflow antifreeze reservoir – they can look similar. To add windshield washer fluid, locate the cap and fill until the fluid is about half an inch from the top.

Differential Fluid: Differential fluid is for the rear and front differentials, which connect the drive shafts to the wheels. It’s similar to checking manual transmission fluid. Remove the check plug, check the level, and fill as needed.

Power Steering Fluid: To check the fluid, shut off the engine, locate the power steering reservoir, remove the dipstick, wipe it off, reinstall, remove again, and check the reading. Check your owner’s manual for fluid specifications.

Have your fluid levels checked frequently and always refer to your owner’s manual to make sure you are using the correct type of fluid for your specific vehicle.

Take the headache out of fluid checks – let Fast Lane Automotive do it! Call us at Fast Lane Automotive! Call 321-236-9336 today to schedule your service appointment FREE car consultation!

Sources:; LCChapter 6; Leaking fluid (Do we have to reference Pep Boys?)

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