If you are a car owner, we’re willing to bet, you prefer your car to drive as it was intended to. When a car is reliable, safe and efficient, it’s a good thing. When a car might or might not start, and if it does start, it is unknown if it will get you to your destination, or will leave you stranded on the side of the road when it abruptly decides to stop doing the one job it was put on Earth to do, it’s a bad thing.
One huge factor in achieving the first scenario and not the second is keeping up with your car maintenance. One huge factor in keeping up with your car’s maintenance is watching the fluid levels. If your eyes are starting to glaze over and you are no longer interested in learning about keeping a happy car because this sounds too complicated, don’t give up on us yet. Here is a dummy’s guide to maintaining your car’s fluid levels:
- Transmission fluid
Your transmission is responsible for telling your car which gear to drive in. These gears need to run like a well-oiled machine or they will seize up and your whole car will go kaput (bad situation). If your transmission seizes, transmission repair costs a pretty penny. If your car requires an entirely rebuilt transmission, we’re talking a no-Christmas-this-year kind of price tag. Save yourself this nightmare and get a transmission flush as required by your car’s manufacturer.
How Often? Your mechanic should take a look at your transmission fluid on its annual tune-up, or once a year, whichever is more frequent.
Signs You Need to Change Your Transmission Fluid: Unlike engine oil (which we’ll address in a minute), transmission fluid is in a closed system and most likely will never run low. You can’t pull a dip stick and see that the line is low like you can engine oil. This is more of a quality vs. quantity situation. If your transmission fluid starts look black and cruddy, it’s time for a flush.
- Engine oil
This one might be obvious to you. Engine oil is the life blood of your car. If your engine oil runs low, it will lock your engine up. If your car’s engine locks, it’s bad. So bad. Such as, time to buy a new car. If we can pound any one concept into your head today, it’s that you need to stay on top of oil change services for your car.
How Often? In the old days, it was recommended that you change your oil every 3,000 miles or three months. However, new oil refining methods produce cleaner oil that does not have to be changed as often. Now you can probably get away with changing your oil every 10,000 miles, or as recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
Signs You Need to Change Your Oil: From time to time, while you’re getting gas, pull the dip stick from your engine and take a look at it. You want to see the oil level at the “full” line and you want to see that the oil isn’t black and gunky. If it is low or in bad shape, it’s time to change it out.
It probably isn’t a surprise that your engine gets really hot. It gets so hot that bad things can happen if it isn’t properly cooled. If you’ve ever seen a car on the side of the road with flames pouring out of the engine, you know what we’re talking about. The coolant is responsible maintaining the engine’s temperature so it doesn’t overheat.
How Often? Top off your coolant levels at least twice a year, before the change of the season. If your car is particularly old or has a lot of miles, check it more often. If you add coolant, make sure that you add the same kind that is already in your car.
Signs You Should Check Your Coolant Levels: If your car overheats, it’s a good idea to check your coolant levels, but it might be too late. Check your coolant every few months, before you reach that point.
IMPORTANT! Always make sure the engine is completely cool before you remove the radiator cap to check the coolant levels.
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