Testing vehicle fluids is an essential aspect of car care and maintenance. Fluids are vital to the efficiency of your vehicle and ensuring it is performing at its best. With these tips on how to check car fluids, you’ll know what needs to be changed and when.
Do Lifetime Fluids Really Last That Long?
In the past, a regular maintenance schedule for changing car fluids has been encouraged. With new automotive technology comes new recommendations, and it’s more common to hear your fluids may not need such frequent checking. It seems hard to believe the fluids your vehicle runs on could really last a lifetime. This is indeed the case with some, but not all, car fluids. While several fluids may only require changing out every so often or even once or twice during the lifetime of the car, others, such as your engine oil, need to be tested more often.
Engine Coolant and Oil
Engine coolant change frequency can be tricky to decipher, especially if you’re used to the anti-freeze of years ago that stayed in your vehicle permanently. Some car manufacturers advise performing a coolant change every certain number of miles, information that can usually be found in your vehicle manual, while others claim the fluids will last a lifetime. It’s usually best to follow the guidelines recommended for your make and model and if you have the lifetime variety, simply top off your coolant when low.
Engine oil, on the other hand, is not a lifetime fluid; it should be changed at least occasionally, if not regularly, to ensure you get the most out of your engine.
Like with engine coolant, the transmission fluids change frequency is often set by the manufacturer of your vehicle. In the past, transmission fluid was considered a lifetime fluid and still is for the most part; however, if you own a vehicle that handles a lot of towing or other activities that are hard on the transmission, such as an RV, it might be a good idea to change your fluid every so often, around 40,000 miles or more.
With automatic transmission fluid change, it’s more difficult to know if your car requires service. There is no simple way to test the fluid, but if you notice your vehicle is leaving red drips in the spots where you park, that could be a sign of a leak in the transmission.
Power Steering Fluid
A common question vehicle owners may have is how often should the power steering fluid be changed? This fluid in particular often goes unnoticed, though it is capable of wearing out. If your power steering fluid is a dirty black in color when tested, from the bright red it would have been when new, it’s time to flush and replace the fluid.
Generally, brake fluid change frequency depends on the make and model of your vehicle. While some manufacturers suggest flushing and replacing brake fluid every 24,000 miles, others recommend doing so when the fluid begins to change color, from clear or gold to rusty brown.
If your brake fluid ever appears to be low, there might be a bigger issue at hand. There may be a leak in the system, which could make for a dangerous situation if the car continues to be driven. If you suspect a leak, have your vehicle towed to a repair shop for further inspection and if necessary, repairs.
Your vehicle is capable of lasting many years and miles as long as you provide the proper care and maintenance. Remember, some fluids will break down eventually, whether they’re marketed as ‘lifetime’ or not, so test your fluids regularly to ensure they don’t lose their effectiveness and leave your car in need of attention.