Your car needs a variety of fluids to keep it moving. Without the right fluids, certain parts could become damaged or stop working altogether. Complete regular checkups of these fluids to keep your car in top condition, especially if it’s more than three years old.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: 15 minutes
- How often: Once a month
Car engine oil is essential to helping your engine run smoothly. Without it, your engine can overheat and wear down faster. Engine oil also lubricates the internal parts of your engine, including the bearings, pistons, pumps, and seals.
You should check the level and viscosity of your engine oil once a month. The cycle for oil changes will vary depending on your car, however. Typically, you should change your oil every 5,000, 8,000, or 15,000 km.
If you want to go longer between oil changes, you can opt for synthetic oil over conventional oil. All oil additives will eventually evaporate, though, so you should still change whichever product you use at least every six months.
Follow this guide for details on how to change your oil and oil filter.
Coolant Fluid / Antifreeze
Coolant/antifreeze is also crucial to regulating the engine’s temperature so it doesn’t overheat. In the winter, it’ll also stop the water in your engine from freezing. You should check the level of your car’s coolant fluid every six months, ideally once in the summer and once in the winter.
When should you replace your coolant? That depends on your vehicle type and the coolant blend you use. Many long-life blends need replacement after 150,000 km and then every 75,000 km thereafter.
Follow these instructions to fully assess your car’s cooling system.
Brake fluid applies pressure inside the braking system to allow your vehicle to stop properly. It also protects your brake system from corrosion by retaining water, thus preventing brake failure. If you leave it too long, though, the fluid will saturate, and your brakes will corrode.
To avoid issues with your braking system, change your brake fluid every 50,000 km or every three years, whichever comes first. You can also have the fluid changed when you go in to get your brakes serviced or replaced.
Check out this article for information on checking your car’s brake system.
Transmission fluid keeps the inner parts of your transmission system lubricated. How often to change your transmission fluid will depend on whether your vehicle has an automatic or manual transmission system. If you have an automatic transmission, you may only need to change the fluid every 50,000 km or two years.
Manual transmission fluid should also be changed at least every 50,000 km. In cases of intense use, this may need to be done every 25,000 km. You can’t mix automatic and manual transmission fluid, so be sure to get the right one for your car.
Some transmission systems claim to come with a “lifetime” fluid that lasts forever, but this is a myth. Although the fluid can last for a very long time, especially with a new car, you’ll still need to replace it eventually.
If you notice your vehicle is having trouble getting into gear, is taking longer to accelerate, or is making whining or grinding noises, it’s time for a transmission fluid change. You can also check your owner’s manual for more advice on how often to change the transmission fluid.
Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid is often forgotten about, especially since many steering wheels today use electricity instead of hydraulic power. If your steering wheel does use fluid and you start to notice a burning smell coming from it, it’s time for a fluid change. This is typically needed every three years or every 50,000 km.
Windshield Washer Fluid
Windshield washer fluid isn’t critical to keeping your car on the road, but you still need to keep your windshield clean to give yourself a clear view while driving. Check this fluid level every three months and top it up as needed.
To find the best windshield washer fluid for you, check out this post.
Other Things to Consider
Your owner’s manual will have more information on when to change your car’s fluids. Your driving habits and the conditions you drive in will also impact how often you need to top them up.
To stay on top of your auto maintenance routine, keep track of when you assess any part of your vehicle, including fluids, and take notes of what you observe. This can help you prevent damage and avoid expensive repairs.