TitleMax Tip – Under the Hood – A guide to 5 important monthly fluid checks.
Maintaining your vehicle’s fluid levels is an important part of car maintenance. Today we are sharing 5 quick checks you should be making monthly and how to check them!
1. Your Oil
Sure, you may have a little sticker in your window that tells you when it’s time for an oil change but that doesn’t mean you should forego checking your oil on a regular basis. While we don’t recommend changing your oil yourself unless you are a professional, we do recommend checking the oil in your vehicle and adding oil, if necessary.
So, how do you check your oil?
- For starters, make sure your car engine is cold and on a flat, even surface, if possible. If you check the oil while it’s warm, or the vehicle is on a slant, it will provide you with an inaccurate reading.
- Once the vehicle is cooled down, grab a few paper towels and pop the hood.
- Locate the car’s dip stick. It will most likely be located on the left-hand side toward the front or middle of the vehicle depending on whether you have an in-line engine (located near the middle) or a traverse engine (near the front).
- Pull out the dip stick and wipe it completely clean with the paper towel.
- At the end of the dip stick you should notice a line that reads “Full” and one a bit lower down on the stick that reads “Add”.
- Insert it back into the tank and immediately pull it back out. If the oil lands closer to the “full” mark you do not need to add oil. If it lands near “Add” it’s time to add some more oil.
- It’s also important to check the consistency of the oil. Do this by rubbing a tiny bit of the oil from the dip stick in between your fingers. If the oil is a black, smudge-like consistency, it’s probably time to change it!
- If the oil is clean but was reaching the “Add” mark simply look for a screw-off cap on the top of the largest part of your engine. It may actually be labeled as an oil cap or something similar.
- Fill the tank with oil until you reach the “Full” mark.
2. Windshield Wiper Fluid
Next up is the wiper fluid. Who doesn’t love a clean window? Making sure your windshield wiper fluid reservoir is full is what helps ensure your window stays nice and clean. Plus, it’s a super fast and super easy thing to check!
- Find your car’s wiper fluid container. In most vehicles it is located toward the back near the base of the windshield and is clear or translucent making it easy to tell if there is liquid in the tank or not. There may also be markings to show if the tank is less than half full.
- If you find you are running low simply open the container and fill the tank. Windshield wiper fluid can be bought for as little as $2.00 at your nearest auto parts store or Walmart.
3. Brake Fluid
While you’re under the hood, you’ll want to make sure to take a peek at your brake fluid. Your car’s brake system needs fresh, clean brake fluid to work at its highest potential so make sure to take an extra few minutes to complete this step.
- We suggest utilizing your owner’s manual if you have one prior to getting started with this step. Cars with an ABS require you to pump the brakes 25-30 times before opening your fluid reservoir, so you’ll want to check the manual for any specifics, such as this, prior to starting. If you do not have a manual try searching for one online or calling your local mechanic.
- Once you’ve checked your manual for any specifics regarding the brake fluid, you’ll need to locate the tank. In many vehicles the tank is on the driver’s side up near the firewall for the master cylinder. Sitting with this should be your brake fluid reservoir.
- Like your wiper fluid you will use the markings on the tank to decide if you need to add fluid or not.
- If you are running low just add fluid until you reach the proper mark.
Note: Even with monthly maintenance, it’s suggested you have the brake fluid changed every 2 years to protect the internal components from corrosion.
The antifreeze in your vehicle not only protects the engine from freezing in the winter but it also helps keep things cool in the summer. Running your vehicle with a low level of antifreeze can cause your car to over-heat.
- Make sure your vehicle has rested for at least 30 minutes prior to checking the level of antifreeze.
- Once the vehicle is cool, locate your coolant reservoir next to your radiator. Like other tanks, manufacturers have made this tank somewhat see-through with markings that indicate if a tank is full or low.
- If you see that you’re far below the full line you’ll want to fill this up to the line with a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. Nowadays you can also purchase a pre-mixed coolant so make sure to check to see if you need to add water to the coolant you have or not.
5. Transmission Fluid
When checking your transmission fluid, you’re checking to make sure the fluid is clean and free of dirt and particles. Over time, the transmission fluid will become contaminated with pieces of the transmission. By checking the fluid regularly you’ll know right away if it’s time to have a mechanic drain and change your transmission fluid. This can potentially save you from having a very costly transmission bill.
- Unlike the other fluid checks listed above, your engine should be warm and running when checking the transmission fluid.
- To check your automatic transmission fluid, look for a dipstick handle sticking out of your transmission or transaxle.
- Remove the dipstick and place a small amount of the fluid between your index finger and thumb. The fluid should appear pink or almost clear. If you notice a burnt smell or particles of any kind it’s time to head to the mechanic to drain and change the fluid.
- If the transmission fluid is clear but doesn’t reach the “Full” line on the dipstick, use a funnel to pour just enough transmission fluid down the dipstick tube to reach the line. Make sure you don’t overfill!
Note: Transmission fluid in manual transmissions must be checked with a vehicle on a hoist.
Checking these 5 fluids every month takes only minutes and can save you in the long run, not to mention extend the life of your vehicle. Should you ever need to use your car as collateral for a car title loan, a vehicle with healthy parts under the hood is going to be worth more than one facing transmission and radiator problems.
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