If you’ll be driving over the river and through the woods to anybody’s house this holiday season, or just commuting to work, performing a simple under-hood inspection can keep your motor running smoothly and reliably. Checking the fluids is quick and easy enough—truly any driver can do it. We show you how in the accompanying video.
Five fluids to check regularly:
Start with the car parked on level ground and the engine cold.
1. Engine oil. Remove and wipe clean the dipstick, then insert it for a clean read. The dipstick should have a normal range indicated. If the oil is low, add more following recommendations in your owner’s manual. Be careful not to over-fill. Make sure, also, to change the oil as per the schedule in your car’s owner’s manual.
2. Coolant. Look for the clear overflow plastic container near the radiator. If the liquid is below the minimum line, fill with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze.
3. Power steering fluid. The small tank is located near the firewall, at the windshield’s base. Level should be between the minimum and maximum levels.
4. Brake fluid. Usually in a clear reservoir marked with minimum and maximum lines. Fill if it’s low, but then have the system checked: there could be a leak or the brake pads may be wearing.
5. Windshield washer fluid. Keep it full. It’s important to keep your windshield clean, esp. when there is sun glare.
While inspecting, go ahead and check the tire pressure. Use the inflation pressure recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer, not the maximum pressure embossed on the tire’s sidewall.
Should your inspection discover a fluid leak or other problem, have your mechanic take a look. Best to catch a problem early, rather than let it find you on the road.
Read up on more practical and money-saving car care tips. And learn about all-season and winter tires with our buying advice and Ratings.