The Most Important Fluids to Check in Your Car

Maintaining the fluids in your car is critical to keeping it running. However, some fluids should be carefully monitored while others are rarely changed. You should check vital fluids about once a month to make sure they're clean and at the right level.

It depends on how far you drive every month, but it's a good habit to get into. You should also check your fluids before embarking on a long journey to make sure your car is ready to go. Here are six common fluids you should check regularly.

Engine Oil

Engine oil is one of the most commonly checked fluids because we all know we're supposed to change it every five thousand miles. Every manufacturer is different, so check your manufacturer's recommendations for the type of oil and how often to change it.

Make sure your engine is shut off and cool before checking your oil. The dipstick is usually located near the front of the engine. The dipsticks in new cars have round yellow handles, but old cars will probably have black ones.

Pull it out and wipe the oil off of it with a clean rag. Then dip it back in the reservoir and pull it out. The markings on the dipstick should tell you whether you are full or low. As long as your oil level is between those two readings, you don't need to do anything.

The oil should never be too full. If you put in the recommended amount when you change your oil, it won't ever be too full. However, if the oil looks dirty or is low, it's time to change it or top it off. Many people don't check their oil, and when they bring it in to get the oil changed, the level doesn't register on the dipstick at all.

Transmission Fluid

Unfortunately, many new cars don't come with a transmission dipstick. If that's the case, you need to have a mechanic check the transmission fluid for you. If you do have a dipstick, leave your car running with the transmission in park.

If your car is front-wheel drive, the dipstick is at the front of the engine, and if it's rear-wheel drive, the dipstick is at the back. Remove it and wipe it off. Reinsert it and remove it again to check the level. Pay attention to the condition of the fluid as well. It should be light brown, red, or pink.

If the fluid is too low, smells burnt, or is dark brown, it needs to be changed. You should usually change it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Check your manufacturer's recommendations for how often it should be changed.


Your engine needs to be off and cool before you check your coolant level. The tank that contains coolant is typically clear, and the minimum and maximum levels are marked on the side, so you don't need to remove anything. If you need to add more coolant, make sure you know whether it's premixed or whether you need to make a 50/50 mix with water.

Windshield Wiper Fluid

The windshield washer fluid reservoir is at the back of your engine, close to the windshield. You can usually see through it to check the fluid level. Make sure your engine is shut off and cooled before checking or replacing the fluid. If you don't have the appropriate level of windshield wiper fluid, it will be difficult to see.

Brake Fluid

The master cylinder houses the brake fluid. It's usually in the back of the engine, and the reservoir is clear so you can see the minimum and maximum levels. Low brake fluid levels or leaks can cause your brakes to malfunction. You should change your brake fluid every 45,000 miles.

Power Steering Fluid

Turn your steering wheel from unlock to lock a few times with the engine running, then turn it off. The top of the cap of the power steering reservoir should say "power steering" or "steering" on it. It should have a dipstick like your oil and transmission fluid.

If it doesn't, you should be able to remove the cap and peer into it to see. Mechanics' opinions differ on how often you should change your power steering fluid. It varies from 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles. Check the manufacturer's recommendations for your particular model.

Southwest Motors has a wide range of used SUVs and trucks. With their selection of vehicles and their outstanding reputation for exceptional service and relationship building, you'll find exactly what you need in excellent condition.


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