Your car is a symphony of mechanical pieces that move under extreme temperatures and brute force. Car fluids provide the necessary lubrication for proper heat dispersion so that those moving pieces operate swiftly without frictional damage. Oils, water, coolants and fuel are all types of fluids to check in a car that keep its components running at high performance. No matter if you drive a heavy-duty truck, SUV or electric car, it’s important to ensure your fluid levels are maintained throughout the vehicle’s lifespan.
One type of fluid maintenance with which you’re probably familiar is the well-known oil change. But, that isn’t all you need to monitor for clean driving performance; there’s also coolants and antifreezes, transmission fluids, brake fluids, power steering fluids, windshield washer fluids, cleaners and more. Your fluid change frequency will depend on a couple of things. Do you hit the pedal hard, pushing your vehicle to the max? Or, are you mostly a commuter? Do you live in a harsh climate? Is your vehicle electric? If you’re struggling to assess what exactly needs to be changed and when, you can always start by asking the experts at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS.
It’s best not to wait until you hear grinding or stuttering before checking those fluid levels. While it’s an easy part of vehicle maintenance, a lot of people shrug it off for months and months. But keep in mind that dangerously low fluid levels (or none at all) can result in poor hydraulic pressure, gear slippage, engine breakdown and permanent damage. Here are some important tips on the most essential fluids that a car needs and when to check on them:
We’ll start with the big one: engine oil. This vital elixir lubricates your engine’s moving parts with a contaminant-free solution, so that your engine can stay running for years to come. If you don’t follow a maintenance schedule, it’s best to check the levels using your oil dipstick about once a month.
Coolants and Antifreeze
Your coolants and antifreeze maintenance will depend on your climate and driving approach. Nonetheless, these fluids are essential to temperature regulation and should be checked every couple of months, ideally before any major seasonal changes. Check the coolant reservoir under your hood to properly assess levels. And, because these types of fluids are often pressurized, just remember to do a refill after your engine has cooled down.
Power Steering Fluid
Your power steering fluid makes it easier to turn your steering wheel. Simple enough, right? While it’s not a commonly maintained fluid, it’s still important to check from time to time, especially if you’re experiencing resistance when turning your wheel. We recommend checking this fluid while your engine is warm for the most accurate reading.
Brake and Transmission Fluids
Brake fluids and transmission fluids are critical to safe vehicle operation. Low brake fluid can lead to poor braking and raise the risk of an accident. Transmission fluid lubricates your gearbox while regulating temperature and pressure, so that your gears don’t slip. As for maintenance, both fluids are usually part of the routine check-up when doing an oil change approximately every six months.
Cleaning fluids, while not essential to engine functionality, are important to keep certain applications in tune. Windshield washer fluid helps you maintain road visibility and can easily be checked at home. Unlike your oil that’s measured with a dipstick, you can use a funnel to pour this type of fluid until the vessel is full. You’ll definitely know it’s time for a refill when your sprayer has no more liquid to expel.
Stay on Top of Maintenance with NAPA AUTO PARTS
Worsened gear engagement, loud noises, poor acceleration, leakage and overall loss of power all could point to insufficient fluid levels. If left unchecked, improper fluid levels can easily lead to costly and dangerous issues down the road. Unregulated heat and lack of lubrication means your engine won’t last long. To avoid major repair work like replacing an entire transmission, you can take preventative measures by maintaining optimal fluid levels yourself or consulting your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Are you the type to handle some gentle car maintenance at home? For example if your 2010 Subaru Outback needs an oil change, grab some NAPA Motor Oil 5W30 Synthetic Blend 5 Qt. If you’re looking for something a little less daunting, start by topping up your windshield fluid with a gallon of PEAK De-Icer Wash.
A happy engine makes for a happy driver. By learning how to maintain your car’s fluid levels, you’ll be more in tune with any low-fluid symptoms that may arise, all while saving yourself some extra money. If you’d rather have a professional regularly take care of things, then request an appointment for a full vehicle fluid inspection at your local NAPA AutoCare Center today!
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With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.