How to check the fluid levels in your car

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Once upon a time, service station attendants would fill your tank and offer to check the oil. Nowadays, it's do-it-yourself...or else. Allan Stanley of AAA shows you how to check all the important fluid levels in your car.

How to check the fluid levels in your car

There are four fluids that you should check on a regular basis:


Radiator Coolant
Check it first thing in the morning when the engine is cold. NEVER check it when the engine is hot as it can be extremely dangerous and can burn you. Notice the reservoir has a cold fluid level. You want to confirm that the coolant is up to that level. If not, add more coolant.

Windshield Washer Fluid
The fluid reservoir holds about a gallon. You can get washer fluid at an auto parts store for a couple of bucks. Make sure to never use water though as it can freeze and cause damage to the reservoir. In a pinch, Windex will do.

Engine Oil
Probably the most important fluid in your engine is your engine oil. Sometimes locating the oil dipstick can be tricky. Look for the bright yellow or red handle. Remove the dipstick to check the oil level and make sure the level is between the crosshatch areas. If it's below, you'll need to add some. Be sure to never over fill your oil as this can cause just as much damage as an under filled engine. If you do need to add oil, the filling cap on the engine block is the place to do it. Listed right on the filler cap is the weight specification recommended for your engine.

Brake Fluid
The brake fluid reservoir has a minimum and maximum amount. Make sure that the fluid is in between the two. The type and specification for brake fluid you should use is indicated on the cap.

Transcript

I'm Allan Stanley for howdini.com and today we're going to be checking fluids.

The first fluid we're going to check is your radiator coolant. Never check this when the engine is hot as it can be extremely dangerous and can burn you. Check it first thing in the morning when the engine is cold. Notice it has a cold fluid level. That's where you want to check if it’s up to that level. If not, you want to add a little bit.

The next fluid we want to check is the washer fluid. The container holds about a gallon. You can get it at a parts store for a couple of bucks. Make sure to never use water though as it can freeze and cause damage to the bottle. In a pinch, Windex will do.

The next fluid, and the most important fluid probably in your engine, is your engine oil. Sometimes locating the oil dipstick can be tricky. Look for the bright yellow or red handle. You're going to check the level to make sure it is between the crosshatch areas. If it's below, you'll need to add some. Be sure to never over fill your oil as this can cause just as much damage as an under-filled engine. If you do need to add oil the filling cap is the place to do it. And listed right on the filler cap is the weight recommended for your engine.

The last fluid we'll check is the brake fluid. Notice it has a minimum and maximum amount. Make sure that the fluid is in between the two. This particular vehicle uses DOT 3 brake fluid and it is indicated on the cap.

Those are the fluids and I'm Allan Stanley for howdini.com.

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  • Allan Stanley

    Allan Stanley Manager, Technical Training and Research, AAA Allan Stanley is the Manager of Technical Training and Research for AAA. Stanley is an Automotive Service Excellence, Master Certified Auto Technician and has extensive experience in many facets of the automotive repair industry. He serves as Vice President of the Automotive Managers Training Council. more about this expert »

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