Car Fluids

Checking Car Fluid Levels

by: Kevin Schappell

Keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape requires constant monitoring of vital fluids. Read you owners manual and look for a diagram of the engine. Most times there will be a diagram showing where to check all the major fluids. This should be your starting point. If your manual is lost in the glove box or you never had one, then ask your mechanic or a friend who knows cars to show you all the places to check. There are 4 major levels to check on most cars.

Car Engine oil

Usually towards the front of the engine and marked "OIL" Always check your oil level with the engine OFF. Remove the dipstick and wipe the oil off with the rag or towel then put the dipstick back into the hole. Now pull out and get a reading. You might have to hold the dipstick to the light to get a good reading as fresh oil can sometimes be hard to see. On the dipstick there will be two marks indicating a maximum and minimum level for the oil. Make it a habit of checking your oil every two weeks.

Car Transmission fluid

If you have an automatic transmission then you will have a dipstick to check the fluid level. It is most commonly found towards the back of the engine compartment or towards the passenger side. You should find out how to check the fluid by looking at the owner's manual or on the dipstick itself. Most cars have to be running with the transmission in park or neutral. Also the transmission should be warmed up to give a true reading. Make sure the car has been driven for a short distance to make sure everything is up to operating temperature. Checking the level is just like checking your oil, wipe off dipstick, replace, pull out again and check level. If you have a manual transmission there is no dipstick and to check the fluid level you must crawl under the car and remove a fill plug. I would have your mechanic check this for you once a year if you do not feel comfortable doing this.

Car Engine coolant

- -- CAUTION -- Never open your radiator cap when the engine is hot ! The pressure in the system can send hot coolant splashing out on to you. Most cars have an overflow bottle, which will have level markings. Keep the coolant between these markings. If you have to open the radiator, make sure the engine is cold.

Power steering fluid

Your car uses oil to assist in steering the car. The fluid is usually checked at the pump, but can be away from the pump in a separate reservoir. Like the transmission, this fluid should also be checked when up to operating temperature. Most commonly the level is measured by a small dipstick attached to the cap of the reservoir.

Car Brake fluid

On most newer cars you can check brake fluid level without removing the cap on the master cylinder. There will be level markings on the side of the plastic reservoir. If you have to remove the cover to check the fluid level, be careful not to spill any fluid on the surrounding paint. Brake fluid makes a nice paint remover :-)

Windshield washer fluid

That's the magic blue liquid that squirts out of your hood. Most reservoirs have the level marked on the side but some newer cars have them buried underneath everything so you can not see. Just fill to the top, there is no harm in overfilling.
If you need to add any fluids to bring the levels up, a funnel is helpful to avoid spills. Keep track of how often you add oil, and transmission fluid. Frequent additions can point to leaks and engine wear.

Give your car a quick check up and ensure that all of its fluid levels are at the correct level. Including oil, engine coolant, brake fluids, power steering and even the window washers.

Engine Oil - The SAE rating system for oils/lubricants. What does that 'W' mean?

Engine Cooling - The how's and why's on your car engine cooling system. Why is in required and how do you maintain it properly?

Electrical Workings - Details on how the various electrical systems in your car work, from the battery down to the spark plugs

Engine Maintainance - How your car engine works, and ways to maintain it properly

Changing Car Fluids - Brake fluid, oil changes, washer fluid, transmission fluid, and more!

Suspension System - Explains how car suspension works, why it is needed, and how to maintain it properly

Car Tools - Gives a full description of common tools that you need to look after your car. These are not car tools for mechanics, but just for everyday drivers.

Changing a tyre - How to quickly, and more importantly, safely, change your car tyre if it is flat or suffers a puncture whilst driving

Car Fuel System - Explains the different car fuel systems and how to get the most out of your car when filling up at the petrol station

by: Kevin Schappell

Kevin Schappell maintains where he gives advice on car maintenance, buying, selling, insurance, and financing. A mechanical engineer and car guy, Kevin has decided to spend his online time helping others learn about automobiles.

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"hi thanks for your info, very interesting. Yesterday i had a new alternator and a new battery put in can and now the temperature gage is slightly over normal mark. why do u think this is happening, thanks"


"Hey Kevin, This webpage was really helpful for me. My partner and I really got a lot of information for our project, and I got a lot out of it. I just wanted to say thanks, and keep up the good work!"


"thanks for this page. i know nothing about cars so when a light started flashing i knew i should stop. i pulled out the manual to find out what the light meant, it was low on coolant. i didn't know where to put the coolant into the car but i do now thanks to your information. (and i know alot more). "