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Friday, May 1, 2015

The 6 Fluids

As a car owner, the best thing that you can do for your vehicle is to keep it properly maintained. You don’t need a mechanic to check the fluids in your engine, nor do you need a degree to be able to top them off when necessary. By taking a few simple measures and making sure that these six fluids are within proper levels, you can prolong the life of your car. Your owner’s manual will have everything you need to know about maintenance schedules and recommended fluids. For a great running vehicle, here are the six automotive fluids you shouldn’t forget to check.

Motor Oil

This fluid is essential to any internal combustion engine. The purpose of motor oil is to lubricate parts. Oil also prevents rust from forming inside your engine by blocking oxygen from reaching the metal. It even takes particles out of your engine and deposits them in the oil filter, keeping your engine clean. If oil is too old or gunky, the engine will start to destroy itself. If it goes on too long, the engine will completely lock up and become useless.

Outside of gasoline, motor oil is the most important automotive fluid. Most of us learned how to check the oil when we got our first cars. Whether that time was decades ago or just a few days ago, the process is pretty much the same. Open the hood, pull up the oil dipstick and wipe it clean. Then dip it again and pull it out and you'll see your oil level. If it's below the safe level, then just add more. Get it completely changed every so often depending on how much you drive and the mileage rating for your oil.

Transmission Fluid

Like motor oil, transmission fluid provides lubrication and cooling to the transmission. Automatic transmissions also use transmission fluid to provide the hydraulic pressure necessary to shift gears. Unlike motor oil, the level of transmission fluid should never change unless there’s a problem.

Mechanics look at the quality of the transmission fluid. It should be red in color and not smell burned. If it has a burnt smell to it or has turned brown, it's time to change your transmission fluid. This should be checked about once a month.


Sometimes known by its other name, antifreeze, coolant transfers heat away from the engine around so nothing gets too hot or too cold. It moves from the engine to a radiator where the heat can be dispersed safely. If your coolant level gets too low, the car will overheat. Coolant mix is normally a light green color.

Coolant is usually a 50/50 water and antifreeze mix, for those cold winter days (and nights). Antifreeze lowers the freezing temperature of water so the inside of your car doesn't become a block of ice. Remember when changing coolant that your car needs to be cold so there is no steam inside the system.

Washer Fluid

While your car won't break down without washer fluid, you will definitely miss it if you run low. Without it, your windshield wipers will just smear around dust or bugs or whatever else happens to be currently blocking your view of the world outside. Washer fluid is basically liquid soap, but that doesn't mean it can be replaced with soap and water. It also contains special ingredients that help dissolve any bugs stuck to the glass and lower the freezing temperature of water so your washer fluid won't solidify if you happen to live in a place with cold winters. Washer fluid is normally a bright blue color.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is absolutely essential. It is used to create hydraulic pressure which forces your car to stop. If your brake fluid starts leaking or air gets into the brake line, it will get a lot harder to bring your vehicle to a stop. Like transmission fluid, brake fluid is part of a closed system. If you find that your fluid is leaking, it’s best to take your vehicle to a mechanic rather than try to replace it yourself.

However, you can check the quality of the fluid yourself. You can check the brake fluid reservoir every time you check your oil levels. So long as your brake fluid looks golden, it's good. If it’s brown, it’s time to have it replaced by a certified technician.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid not only lubricates the steering mechanism, but it uses hydraulic pressure to help turn your vehicle. When it starts to run low, you’ll most likely hear it when you start to turn the wheel. Strange noises or difficulty in steering is an indication to take a look at the levels of power steering fluid. Check the reservoir. If it looks like it’s running low, then take your vehicle to a mechanic.

While these fluids remain quietly working in the background, they are vital to the operation of your vehicle. Pop the hood and check them every once in a while to try to catch any possible problems when they’re small. Keeping these maintained will keep your car running smoothly for years to come.

Emily Hunter is a SEM Strategist and Outreach Supervisor at the Marketing Zen Group and is working closely with ZAK Products. She loves designing strategies with her team and is excited about spreading the Zen gospel. In her spare time, she cheers for Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, crafts her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen


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