Every vehicle owner should have certain supplies on hand, including select car fluids for storage in your garage or some other work area. Several of these fluids are critical to your car’s operation and must be regularly checked and, in some cases, replenished. Although three are essential, there are a few others you’ll want to have nearby as well.
Motor oil lubricates the engine and absorbs heat, ensuring that one of your car’s most critical parts operates flawlessly. The best engine oil to use in your car should match the viscosity chart listed in your owner’s manual. Moreover, you can find that information on a placard fixed to the underside of your car’s hood.
Check your engine oil each time you fill the gas tank or at least once per month. Replenish as needed; replace the oil and oil filter according to your maintenance schedule.
Just as oil keeps your engine moving smoothly, fluid enables your transmission to shift seamlessly between gears. However, transmission fluid is contained in a closed system and should never run low.
Check your transmission oil monthly. Therefore, if you are continuously finding that it’s low, add some, and make time to take it to a mechanic to find out if there is a leak in need of a repair. Replace the fluid in its entirety per the schedule found in your owner’s manual.
Coolant or Antifreeze
Also known as antifreeze, coolant keeps your car from overheating. Without sufficient coolant, your engine could overheat, resulting in hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs.
Inspect the coolant level seasonally or every time you change your oil. Furthermore, you’ll need to have the system flushed occasionally, usually every 2–3 years.
Beyond motor oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze, there are a few other car fluids worth a mention.
Brake fluid can come in handy and should be checked as often as you change your oil. Typically, this fluid is housed in a translucent reservoir — clear enough to see through to determine the fluid’s level. When the fluid turns brown, it’s time to change it.
Power steering fluid should be checked monthly and may need to be topped off occasionally, but rarely replaced. Follow your owner’s manual for guidance here. If you hear creaking noises and your fluid level is sufficient, the power steering rack, pump or a belt may be at fault. Beyond that, worn shocks or struts, damaged suspension bushings, well-worn ball joints or faulty tie rods may be to blame. Certainly, a more comprehensive inspection of your vehicle is necessary here.
Other fluids to have on hand include washer fluid. Two types should be considered, depending on the season. One type should include special additives to prevent freezing in cold weather. The other washer fluid can be your typical gallon container designed for warm weather use.
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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.