Any car or truck is a complex machine with many moving parts. These parts need to have proper lubrication, cooling properties or hydraulic power, and that's why your vehicle has several different fluids running through it. Fluid maintenance is generally fairly simple, but it is extremely important. If the fluid goes bad or a leak leads to low fluid levels, it can result in major damage.
In this article, we will walk you through the various fluids you might find in your vehicle:
We won't spend much time on this one, but you need fuel to power your vehicle (unless it is completely electric). Whether it's standard gasoline or diesel, it's easy to watch your fuel gauge and refill the tank as needed. A fuel line leak can be quite dangerous, so if you think there might be a problem, seek help immediately.
2. Engine Oil
There is a reason why oil changes are the most standard type of vehicle maintenance. Your engine needs oil for all the parts to stay lubricated. If the oil level is low or the oil itself is old and gunky, bad things will happen. Engine oil (aka "motor oil") is typically light tan/gold in color. Be sure and get your oil changed every 3,000-5,000 miles and it's easy to check the fluid level/quality yourself with the dipstick under your hood.
3. Transmission Fluid
Sometimes referred to as "transmission oil," transmission fluid serves the same basic function as engine oil, except it is working specifically for your transmission. It is generally bright red in color and has a sweet smell. If the fluid level is low or the fluid is burnt or dirty, it can lead to serious transmission problems that could be costly to repair. There is a separate dipstick in your engine compartment for the transmission fluid pan and you will want to get it serviced every 30,000-60,000 miles (depending on various factors).
4. Radiator Coolant
Radiator coolant (aka "antifreeze") leaks are easy to detect because the fluid is bright yellow/green in color. Coolant is vital to your vehicle's cooling system as it circulates out from the radiator and through key engine components to prevent it from overheating. If your car overheats or you notice a coolant leak, it is definitely worth having checked out by an auto repair expert like Simard Automotive.
5. Brake Fluid
When you press on your brake pedal, it controls the hydraulic lines that deploy the brakes on the wheels. Brake line leaks are rare, but you'll want to have it fixed immediately if one is detected. Your life may depend on it. Brake fluid is usually almost clear in color, with a slight yellow tint.
6. Power Steering Fluid
If your vehicle has power steering (and most made within the past 30-40 years do), it will likely have hydraulic power steering fluid. Many newer vehicles use an electric power steering fluid system that doesn't require fluid. For those with power steering fluid, it is important to maintain because it will get dirty, burnt and corroded over time. Power steering fluid may be clear, pink or reddish in color. If it looks dark at all, then it should be replaced soon.
7. Air Conditioner Coolant
Your air conditioner has coolant fluid inside (sometimes also referred to as "Freon") that provides cooling properties when the AC is on. It can be refilled/recharged, but it is a dangerous substance and not something you should try and do yourself. It's best to trust a trained auto maintenance expert.
8. Windshield Washer Fluid
Certainly not the most vital fluid in your vehicle, but it still serves its purpose to help you clean your windshield as you are driving. It is blue in color and the reservoir tank is easy found under the hood. You can refill it yourself as needed or let your maintenance service provider top it off for you whenever you have an oil change or other service visit.
These are the fluids you need to know about when it comes to your car. We can't stress the importance of fluid maintenance enough. So, if you are in Fairbanks and notice a leak, low fluid levels or corroded fluid, Simard Automotive is here to help with all your vehicle maintenance and repair needs. Call one of our shops today at (855) 690-0889 (Aeronca Ave.) or (855) 639-5001 (Gaffney Rd.), or schedule your next service appointment online.