Oil gets all the press. You get reminder stickers put on your windshield after you get your oil changed, you see motor oil commercials on tv and in magazines, and everyone knows that you should change your oil every 3000 – 7000 miles. Oil is absolutely crucial to making sure your car even runs at all, but it’s not the only fluid under your hood.
There are several major systems within your engine housing that all work together to make your car go (or stop), and they all have their own fluids that either lubricate the system, cool, or give hydraulic power to the parts that keep your vehicle on the road.
Transmission Fluid is like oil for your transmission. It lubricates all of the moving parts, and in automatic transmissions also acts as a coolant for the system. Transmission Fluid should be red, pink or light brown, and should be checked whenever you check your oil. This one can be tricky, as some newer cars don’t come with a dipstick for checking the transmission fluid. You should change your Transmission fluid every 30 – 60 thousand miles.
All of those moving parts under your hood generate a lot of heat. The average engine runs at about 195 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s with coolant circulating. Modern engines generally take a 50/50 mx of water and antifreeze as their coolant and it can be bought premixed for ease of use. The coolant tank is generally translucent. Again check this when you check your oil.
Windshield Washer Fluid
This is more of a safety concern than anything else. If your windshield is not clean then you can see the road. Check this regularly and top off if your indicator light comes on. Fill the tank with the car off and cool if possible.
Brake fluid provides the stopping power for your car. It’s a hydraulic fluid that allows your brakes to squeeze the rotors hard enough to make the car stop. Without brake fluid, the car will not stop gently. The master cylinder reservoir is generally at the back of the engine. If its low top it off asap. Brake fluid should be changed every 30,000 miles.
Power Steering Fluid
Operates under the same concept as brake fluid. Power Steering Fluid is a hydraulic fluid that gives your car the power to turn easily. If your power steering has ever gone out, you know how hard it can be to get your car to make even the slightest of turns. Keep this topped off and change around every 30,000 miles.
Keep up with your car’s fluids to make sure it runs smoothly for as long as you own it. Your manual give you a ton of information about what to use, where to put it, and how often fluid should be changed. Your dealer’s maintenance schedule is also a good rule of thumb, and mechanics will generally check and fill your fluids whenever you get your oil changed.