This video is dedicated to helping you locate and check your engine’s vital fluids. The short video outlines how to locate and check your Window washer fluid, Coolant, Antifreeze, Brake fluid, Motor oil, Power steering oil, and Transmission oil.
By the end of this video, you’ll have a good understanding of where all your engine fluids are located, how to identify them, and how to check their levels.
You’ll find other useful resources on this page, tips, links to tools, parts, and supplies you may need.
Your Vehicle Fluids Should Be Checked Monthly
All the main fluid reservoirs required to maintain your vehicle are stored under the hood. These fluids should ideally be checked periodically (once a month would be great) and topped up if needed. Next, we’ll look at the fluids in turn and I’ll give you the inside track on each.
Windshield Washer Fluid
The windshield washer reservoir or bottle as many call it is a fluid you likely know only too well, but did you know that adding straight water is bad for both you and your vehicle’s washer pump and rubber components.
Chemicals – I wrote a whole post about it here, (Can I put water in my washer bottle?) but the long and short of it is straight water tends to contain a ton of chemicals that may affect your washer’s pump. Issues like using a kettle to top up the washer bottle may also cause lime particles to enter the reservoir and cause pump damage.
Freezing – Those of you who live in colder climates are well aware of the issues of a frozen washer system. Not only is it a pain in the ass but it can damage the pump reservoir and hoses of the system and they can be spendy to repair.
Wiper Wear – Straight water doesn’t contain lubricants or cleaning agents and so your wipers wear out prematurely. Modern wiper blades are expensive items.
Bacteria – In addition, stagnant water in the reservoir may contain bacteria, heat soak from the engine has been known to accelerate bacteria growth inside the reservoir. operating the pump sends water and bacteria into the air and bacteria may enter the cabin area affecting the occupants. It’s a small risk but it is real and if you have friends or family members with Azuma, it’s worth eliminating especially as it’s inexpensive and simple to do.
Use a good quality windshield detergent, a good all-weather washer fluid will work for most. It will have you covered to -25F, but if you are a little further north (respect) you’ll need to go for the Di-Icer with anti-freezing agents, methanol, and glycol.
Below you’ll find Prestone, a leading supplier of quality all-weather windshield washer fluid. It’s conveniently delivered to your door by Amazon.com. Picture links out to Amazon.
Coolant / Antifreeze
Coolant is as you know used primarily to help cool your engine. It circulates the coolant system continuously. It offers heat to the cabin’s occupants via the heater core and carries engine heat away from your engine and returning cooled fluid.
Coolant should be checked regularly, most vehicles employ an opaque coolant reservoir where the level may be checked against “Max” “Min” marks on the reservoir wall. As coolant is such an important fluid the system also incorporates a low-level warning light.
Coolant keeps your engine cool but anti-freezing agents prevent your coolant system from freezing. As water expands when it freezes it cracks engine blocks and that’s game over for an engine.
Antifreeze is seriously important and so before winter rolls around, your antifreeze strength should be tested. I’ve included a tool here where you can take care of this yourself.
Here are some common coolant questions:
- Is it OK to top-up coolant with water? Yes, but be aware constant top-ups dilute coolant and weaken the antifreeze which as you know means come winter your engine is at greater risk.
- Is it OK to mix coolant types? It’s best not to mix coolant types but, mixing in a pinch is better than no coolant.
- Is coolant the same as antifreeze? Yes, coolant contains anti-freezing agents and is commonly referred to as coolant and anti-freeze.
- Why are coolants different colors? Different colors are used primarily as a marketing tactic.
- How often should I change my coolant? Most coolants should be tested for antifreeze strength every year and replaced every 3 years.
Below you’ll find US-made Valvoline, a leading supplier of top-quality anti-freeze coolants. Valvoline antifreeze is premixed, so ready to fill or top up your coolant system as needed. Safe to use in all vehicles and mix with all colors of coolant. It’s conveniently delivered to your door by Amazon.com. Picture links out to Amazon.com.
It’s the lifeblood of the engine, you’ve heard that many times. Cheesy? Yes, but it is true. Nothing will kill your engine quicker than a lack of oil. Poor quality oil is a close second. Your engine does have an oil light but when the oil light comes on damage may already have occurred. As a rule of thumb check the oil level with every tank of gas.
Many modern cars use an oil level sensor to check oil levels. And so this process of checking oil is taken care of by the vehicle’s PCM. Other vehicles may allow the driver to scroll through the Drivers Information Module (DIM) to the check oil level function. An engine that requires oil between oil changes either uses oil (burns it) or is losing oil (leak).
Some engines use (burn) no oil, some use a little while others may use a lot and I’m not talking about old or high mileage engines here. Audi among other manufacturers has had some serious issues with oil consumption.
Here are some common engine oil questions:
- What oil type? It’s written on the engine’s oil cap 0W30, 5W30, and 10W30 are common grades.
- OK to mix old oil and new? Yes, it’s common to add new oil to old when topping up. But it’s not a substitute for oil changing.
- Can I mix oil grades? Ideally no, but a mix of different grades is preferred to a low oil level.
- Is too much oil bad? Yes, overfilling oil by a lot may increase crankcase pressure which may promote oil leaks.
- My engine light is on after an oil change or an oil top-up? The engine oil cap is fitted backways, missing or the dipstick is not seated fully or missing.
Power Steering Fluid
All modern vehicles have power steering, the latest generation, however, uses electric steering meaning if you can’t find a power steering fluid reservoir on your vehicle then you likely have electric steering. Most older vehicles will have a hydraulic system meaning the oil is required to make the system work.
Here are some common engine oil questions:
- How do I check power steering fluid? Your power steering reservoir has a cold level and a hot oil level. When cold check with vehicle engine off. When Hot check with vehicle idling. Some vehicles employ a regular dipstick with Max and Min indicators and other vehicles may employ an opaque reservoir with Max and Min indicators.
- How often should I change power steering oil? About every four to five years.
- Why does my power steering make noise in winter? In colder climates power steering fluid often has a hard time moving around the system. Swapping out the regular oil for a lighter grade cold-weather fluid will solve the problem.
Below you’ll find AC Delco (GM), a leading supplier of quality lubes and parts. It’s conveniently delivered to your door by Amazon.com. Picture links out to Amazon.
Brake fluid is obviously very important to safety. Your brake fluid employs an opaque reservoir with the usual Max and Min level. Fluid type is important and the fluid used is marked on the reservoir cap.
Tapping on the reservoir often helps identify the fluid level. A brake fluid level below the Min level means you have a problem and the system needs immediate attention. A fluid level between the Max and Min is common and doesn’t necessarily mean you need to top-up, brake fluid level commonly drops as brake pads wear.
Different type fluids ideally should not be mixed, however, in a pinch, it is possible to mix some grades. However DOT 5, is different, it must not be mixed with the others. The chart indicates the fluids you can mix and the fluid you can’t.
Brake fluid should be changed every three to four years and fluids ideally should not be mixed.
Here’s a common brake fluid question:
- Can I mix brake fluid types? Ideally no, but when in a pinch it’s Ok to mix all brake fluid grades except DOT 5 it must not be mixed with any of the others.
Below you’ll find Preston a leading supplier of quality automotive fluids. This is DOT 3 so remember to check your reservoir cap before ordering. This product is sold by Amazon and is conveniently delivered to your door. Picture links out to Amazon.
If you need to troubleshoot or maintain your brake system check out the Brake repair tools page.