How to Check Your Car's Fluid Levels
One of the most important things you can do between service appointments for your vehicle is to routinely check the fluid levels. Here are some general guidelines for checking engine oil and other fluids. Your vehicle may have additional fluids not covered below. For specific details on your vehicle, including fluid replacement intervals, always consult your owner's guide and maintenance schedule.
Check the Engine Oil Level
- Park the vehicle on level surface. The engine should be turned off
- Open the hood and locate the dipstick. It some cases it will be labeled "Oil".
- Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Place the dipstick fully back in the tube, then remove it again. Check the level of motor oil on the stick. If the level is below the minimum indicator, oil should be added to bring the level back into the normal range.
- Examine the color of the oil on the dipstick. Fresh motor oil is usually a light amber colored fluid. It will darken under normal conditions. If the oil is black, it should be changed along with the oil filter. If the oil appears a milky grey or brown color, it could indicate coolant has contaminated the oil. Have the engine inspected by a qualified mechanic.
- Feel the oil from the dipstick between your fingers. If it feels gritty, the oil and filter should be changed.
- If the oil on the dipstick smells of gas, have the engine inspected by a mechanic.
Check the Transmission Fluid
Some vehicles no longer have a transmission dipstick and will need to be checked by a qualified mechanic. If you don't see a transmission dipstik on your vehicle, check your owner's manual for details.
- Your car should be running when you check the transmission fluid level. Set the emergency brake and put the car in park when checking under the hood.
- Pull out the transmission fluid dipstick. It is typically located at the back of the engine near the firewall. Wipe the dipstick off and place it all the back in the tube. Remove the dipstick and check the level against the markings at the bottom of the dipstick.
- Check the color of the fluid; it should be clear pink. If it's dark, it's time for a transmission fluid and filter change.
If the level is low or the color is dark, take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic for service right away. Because adding the wrong fluid can result in damage to the transmission, we recommend having your mechanic perform this service.
Check the Brake Fluid
Your car's owner's manual will tell your how often you should check the brake fluid.
- Locate the vehicle's brake fluid reservoir. It is normally located on top of the engine and labeled as brake fluid.
- It's important to prevent contamination of the brake fluid. Use an approved spray cleaner around the cap before removing it. Even small particles can contaminate the brake fluid, requiring a brake fluid flush to clean the system.
- Open the cap and check the fluid level on the dipstick that is attached to the underside of the cap. If the fluid level is low, have Parkway Auto Care inspect the brake system. Never used old brake fluids that have been opened. Once exposed to air and moisture, they become less effective and can harm the brake system.
Check the Coolant Level
Check your owner's manual to see how often your car's coolant should be replaced. Never open the radiator cap on a hot engine. Allow the engine to cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes before opening the radiator cap.
- Locate the coolant reservoir under the hood of the car. Check your owner's manual for the exact location. Some cars only have an exposed cap.
- Check the fluid level. On the side of the reservoir, there are markings that show fluid levels. If the level of the liquid is low, add more of the coolant mixed to the correct ratio.
If your vehicle need fluids topped-off or replaced, or you prefer to have a mechanic check your car's fluids, stop in at Parkway Auto Care. Your friendly service technician can check your fluid levels and perform any necessary fluid and filter changes.