No matter the type, all vehicles have one thing in common. They all rely on fluids -- lots of them, different kinds, and it’s your job to keep them from running low. I’ll show you how.
Let's start out easy, with something all cars have: washer fluid. It's simple enough. Find the reservoir and top it off. But know this – they’re not always where you’d expect to find them.
Motor oil is one of the most crucial fluids. Find the dipstick, pull it out, wipe it off, and reinsert it before you take your reading. This section represents the operating range, and you can see the oil is just about halfway on the operating range. This whole range is good, but if it's below halfway you should top it off.
Coolant is the liquid that keeps your car's engine cool -- it's a mix of antifreeze and water. Nowadays all you have to do to check the level is look at the recovery tank reservoir. If you don't see any coolant especially when the car is hot, you're definitely low and should add some -- 50/50 coolant and water.
Some cars have sensors that will warn you on the instrument panel if your brake fluid is low, but you should check just to be sure. Nowadays brake fluid reservoirs are typically near the driver. If it's not full, top it off and keep an eye on it because brake systems typically don't lose much fluid unless there's a leak.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
If you have an automatic transmission, you almost certainly have transmission fluid, but that doesn't mean you'll have to check it yourself because new cars increasingly have sealed transmissions. On older cars it was common to have a dipstick, usually closer to the cabin than the oil dipstick.
Note that there usually isn't a separate filler location for the transmission, so you'll need a funnel to top off right the dipstick tube.
Power Steering Fluid
For most of the history of power steering has been hydraulic, which means it has fluid too. Typically, you will find the power steering pump driven by the belt, that’ll help you find it, and there is an integral reservoir built right in. Usually there is a cap with a short dipstick built in that shows you if you’ve got enough fluid. Nowadays hydraulic power steering is on it’s way out. In the past few years electric power steering assist has taken over. So if you have a newer car, you may not have any fluid at all.
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