Virginia Auto Service

How to Check the Fluids in Your Car

Everyone knows how important it is to change the oil in their car, but what about the other types of fluid that keeps the car running and on the road?  Do you know what other fluids need to be checked and changed?  Do you know when the last time each of those fluids were checked? Changed?  This guide will give you all the information you need to know what fluids to check, when to check them, and when they need to be changed.

oil checking

1. Check Your Owner’s Manual

While cars generally have the same types of fluids, the recommendations on how often those fluids need to be changed can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.  The information you need to maintain the fluids in your specific car can be found in the owner’s manual.  Starting here also helps ensure you know exactly which fluids in your car need to be checked and changed.

2. Check the Oil

Whenever you are checking the level of any fluid in your car it is best to park on a flat surface to perform the test.   To get the most accurate oil level reading, let the car cool down for at least an hour after driving it.  Locate the oil dipstick, pull it out, wipe off the oil at the bottom end with a rag, reinsert the dipstick, and then remove it again.  This process is important because it ensures you are getting an accurate reading of the oil level.  If you look at the level the first time you pull it out, you may get a false reading caused by oil splashing further up on the dipstick while driving.  The dipstick will have markings at the bottom indicating how much oil is currently in the car.  Check the level against the recommendation in the owner’s manual and add oil if the levels are low.

3. Check the Transmission Fluid

To check the transmission fluid, you need to have the engine on and it needs to be warmed up which means it is best to test right after you have driven it.  The process for checking the transmission fluid is similar to that of checking the oil.  Locate the transmission fluid dipstick and follow the same process outlined above.  In addition to checking how much transmission fluid there is, pay attention to what that fluid looks like.  New transmission fluid is bright red.  As it ages it turns to a brown/black color.  If your fluid looks old, check with your repair tech to see if it is time to have it replaced.  You should also talk to your repair technician if the level of transmission fluid is low.

4. Check the Power Steering Fluid

The power steering fluid will likely be located in a plastic reservoir under the hood similar to the one that holds your windshield washer fluid.  You should be able to tell how much fluid is in the reservoir just by looking at the side of it.  If the powering steering fluid is lower than it should be based on the information in your owner’s manual, take the car in to the shop and ask the tech how to proceed.