And which ones to leave to the professionals (Part 1)
Fluids levels are as important to your car as they are to you. If your fluid levels are not where they are supposed to be, you do not work well, and neither does your car. Most of the fluids in your car are easy to check and change if needed. Low fluids can also be a sign of a bigger problem, and you can probably take care of it before a lot of damage is caused by checking the fluids regularly. Other fluids in your car require the knowledge of a professional, so it is a good idea not to try to undertake these tasks yourself, unless you have the proper training and tools to do so. No matter is you drive your car 5,000 miles a year or 50,000 miles a year, the fluids should be checked regularly and changed at the required intervals. The following is a list of the fluid containing components in your car and how to handle their maintenance.
Your engine is the obviously the most important part of your vehicle to maintain. You should check the level of your oil every time you put gas in your car. It only takes a few minutes, and can save you thousands of dollars in repairs. Simply locate your dipstick under the hood, remove it, wipe it off, insert it, remove it again, and check the level. As long as it is within the normal range you are fine, if it at the add level, top it off immediately, do not wait. For most people it is easy to just top off the oil if the level is slightly low, which happens with normal driving. If a large amount of oil disappears over a short period, you want to take your car in and have it checked for leaks or any other problems. As far as changing your oil, most people find that it is easier and quicker to use one of the many “quick change” oil facilities that are on almost every corner these days. If you do not have the time or the mechanical aptitude to change your oil, this is the best way to change your oil when needed and an easy way to keep track of scheduled oil changes. You may also want to choose to take your car to a franchise auto repair shop for oil changes, as they will inspect your entire vehicle as well, and advise you of any other repairs that need to be done.
If you are someone that chooses to change your own oil, make sure you check your owner’s manual before you go to the auto parts store to purchase all the supplies. If you are going to change your own oil, it is more than likely something you have done before, so instead of patronizing you with step-by-step instructions, here are some tips when changing your own oil:
Always buy at least one, if not two extra quarts of oil than your car requires. This not only gives you a little extra in case you need it for the oil change, but gives you an extra quart in case you need to top off the oil level at any time as well.
If you do not drive often and your car sits for long periods, invest in synthetic oil. Synthetic oil absorbs less moisture than regular oil, which can help stop rust build up in the engine of a car that sits idle for long periods.
Make sure you dispose of your oil properly whether you take it to your local garage or the city you live in provides pick up for used oil. Make sure you use an approved container and dispose of it properly.
Transmission – Automatic and Manual
Always check your transmission fluid with the engine running and warm. Typically, the dipstick for the transmission is located behind the oil dipstick closer to the firewall. Usually it will be marked in a bright color, usually yellow, so it is easy to find. If it does not stand out or you cannot locate it, you can always consult your owner’s manual for its location. Checking the transmission fluid is just like checking the oil, except transmission fluid will have a pinkish-purple color.
To check your transmission fluid, start the engine run until it is at normal operating temperature. Locate the transmission dipstick if you already have not and pull it out. Wipe it clean and reinsert it, take it out again and check the level. The transmission dipstick has similar level markings as an oil dipstick, one mark for low and one mark for high. If your transmission fluid is low, you have a problem. The transmission is a sealed system and a leak means that you have a worn seal or crack that needs to be checked by a mechanic immediately. If the level is ok, but the fluid is not a clear pinkish-purple color, check your owner’s manual for the recommended mileage for a transmission flush and get it done as soon as possible.
Most mechanics will tell you, if you think there is a problem with your manual transmission, take it in and have it checked. Checking the fluid in your manual transmission requires getting under the car, finding the fill plug, removing it with a wrench, and using your finger to check if there is fluid in it. You also want to keep in mind that many cars have a hydraulic clutch system, which require brake fluid to keep the parts working properly. Again, it is better to leave this to your mechanic, and ask if they can check it the next time you get your oil changed.