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Automotive Fluids to Check Before Winter Settles In

A yellow dipstick shows where the engine oil is located.

Summer is now in the rearview mirror as we’re well into fall, marked by shorter and shorter days and increasingly cooler temperatures. Soon enough, the seasons will shift again and winter will bring the coldest weather of the year. You’ll need to prepare your car now, before the first wintry blast arrives, by topping off or replacing automotive fluids.

Five Step Checklist

1. Consider your windshield wiper fluid

Among the car fluids to examine first is windshield wiper fluid. Here, you should choose a special winter blend solution, featuring a greater concentration of alcohol to keep the fluid reservoir from freezing. While you’re at it, check the wiper blades to ensure that they’re ready for winter. If they’re cracked, split or are causing streaking, then replace them immediately.

2. Check your motor oil

When was the last time you checked your engine’s oil? With longer intervals between changes, you may have lost a pint or more. Among fluids, motor oil is one of the most vital as it keeps your engine clean and running. If you are due for an oil change and live where temperatures are regularly below the freezing mark, then choose a lower viscosity oil. Otherwise, top off your oil with the same type you always use.

3. Examine the car’s battery

The good news about today’s car batteries is that most are of the low-maintenance variety. This means you don’t need to add water nor can you — the lid is sealed shut. For all other batteries, you will need to add distilled water to any of the cells where the electrolyte levels aren’t meeting the bottom of the fill port. In addition, most batteries last for just three years. If your battery is older than that, then replace it before winter, otherwise you risk becoming stranded. Also, verify that a set of jumper cables is stored in your car.

4. Inspect the coolant system

Your car’s radiator helps maintain engine temperature, therefore among car fluids the coolant should never be overlooked. The coolant is in good shape if it maintains its color, which means it’s either green, yellow, red or blue. If it has lost color, appears rusty or you notice detritus floating in the solution, then have the system flushed. Otherwise, you can add new fluid to the coolant reservoir, which is a plastic bottle attached to the radiator. Do not add fluid to the radiator directly. While you’re there, check the connecting hoses to verify that they’re secure. If you notice any that are broken, cracked, bulged or swollen, then replace these. Take a look at your belts too, and if the serpentine belt is cracked, split or chunking, then replace it.

5. Scrutinize these other car fluids

Since you’re already under the hood, make a point to poke around the other remaining automotive fluids, too. Investigate the transmission fluid in the same way you check your oil. However, in this case the car must be running. Your owner’s manual explains when the transmission fluid should be changed, and is a great reference. As for the brake fluid, typically you will not need to top it off. However, if it has lost its golden color and is now brown, then it should be replaced.

Winter PreparationUnder the Hood

Besides checking car fluid levels, you can get your car ready for winter by ensuring the tires are in good condition. Furthermore, a set of winter tires is a must wherever snowfall is commonplace.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on automotive fluids, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Matthew C. Keegan View All

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.

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