What are the Different Vehicle fluids?

August 30th, 2021
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Vehicle fluids lubricate the moving parts of the vehicle and help to cool off systems in the vehicle. The mechanical systems and machinery depend on lubricates to work properly.

Fluids should be checked when your vehicle is on level ground and the engine is cold. Pop your hood to take a look at fluids that should be checked regularly. It’s important to keep car fluids clean and topped up so your vehicle doesn’t stop working. 

Engine Oil

Lubricates and cools parts of the engine such as gears, pistons, pumps, seals, bearings, and more. Oil keeps parts from grinding against each other and running smoothly. 

Most vehicles have a cap with the words “engine oil” or something similar on it. Beside the cap is a dipstick. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off and insert it again. When you pull it out again you will be able check your oil level to see how much oil is needed if it is closer to the “add” level line or the “full” or “max” line.

Look at the colour of oil too. Brown or black oil is dirty and you’ll need to get an oil change.

Engine Coolant or Antifreeze

Lubricates the water pump, cools the engine, and provides heating fluid to the climate control system. Keeps the engine cool in the summer and keeps it from freezing in the winter. Also helps to prevent corrosion and keeps your engine from overheating.

Never check coolant levels when the engine is hot as opening the reservoir could cause burns if coolant sprays.

The radiator cap usually says “coolant” or “antifreeze”. Coolant is a mix of antifreeze and water and these terms are often used interchangeably.

Open the cap and see if the coolant is filled to the top. Fill with the correct antifreeze for your vehicle if the fluid level is low.

If your car is overheating, you can also fill it with straight water as a temporary measure until you can get to an auto shop near you. 

Transmission Fluid

Lubricates and cools your transmission components including gears, clutches, and valves. Transmission fluid allows you to shift easily between gears. 

Unlike most fluids, transmission fluid should be checked when the car is running and in park or neutral. Some cars have a dipstick but others may need a mechanic to check it. If your vehicle has a dipstick, check it similar to engine oil looking for a translucent red/amber colour. 

Brake Fluid

Lubricates brake valves, pistons, and antilock braking system. Provides hydraulic pressure to power the braking system so that when you press your foot on the brake pedal, fluid releases inside the brake lines and the brake pads clamp on the rotors to slow the vehicle down.

Locate the brake fluid cap and look inside to see what level is in the brake fluid reservoir and what colour it is. You want to see it near to the top and an amber colour. 

Power Steering Fluid

Lubricates and cools power steering pumps, valves, steering gearbox, seals, and more. Allows for smooth steering and easy navigating of the vehicle.

Look for a dipstick or cap that says “power steering”. Like checking engine oil, but power steering fluid is a white/pinkish colour. 

Differential Oil

To cool and lubricate the rear differential including gears, bearings, seals, and more. The differential transfers power from the transmission to the wheels and lets your vehicle turn. 

Air Conditioner Refrigerant

The refrigerant keeps cold air pumping into your car. This one can be a bit more complicated to check on your own but bring it in to our Langley auto shop and we can service this for you. Your climate control system should be serviced regularly. 

Windshield Washer Fluid

Cleaning solution for the windshield and headlights so drivers and passengers can see.

The windshield washer fluid is one of the easiest to check. Look for the cap with “windshield fluid” or “washer”. Flip open the cap and top up the reservoir if it isn’t full. Fluids come in various colours.

Take care to use an appropriate windshield washer fluid for the season so it doesn’t freeze and can clean properly for the conditions.

Checking Fluids Regularly

There are six fluids you should check regularly to make sure your car is operating properly. Engine oil, coolant (antifreeze), power steering fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, and transmission fluid (for an automatic).

Maintaining adequate fluid levels in your vehicle will also lead to longevity and fuel economy. If fluid levels are not maintained this could lead you to costly repairs for your vehicle and lower performance.

Depending on your comfort level with vehicles, some fluids you may be comfortable taking care of on your own and for others book an appointment to have our red seal mechanic take care of them for you. 

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