Check Your Fluid Levels

The fluids in your car are essentially the lubricating life blood needed to keep things running smoothly. In many of our other blog posts we have spoken briefly about the advantages of keeping your engine and drivetrain components sufficiently lubricated, and here we look at how you achieve this.

These are the most common fluids in any modern car engine – and the post gives instructions on how to check and keep on top of the fluids in your car.

Shouldn’t I leave such things to a trained professional? BY all means there are some tasks that you should only ever leave to a trained professional, but the following tips can be completed by an absolute novice, just follow the instructions carefully and you and your car will be fine. Of course, if you would like any further assistance with this or anything else feel free to get in touch and we will gladly assist you.

Engine Oil

We start off with the big one. Everyone should at least be aware of this, what it looks like (in the aisles of Tesco* and Halfords* if not in the flesh). The main thing with getting your engine oil levels right applies to all of the lubricants in this guide – Make sure you know where it is meant to go!

To find where your engine oil (and the other fluids) is put in, consult your owners’ manual. You will likely find the location of the dipstick in the owner manual also – this is how you check your current engine oil levels.

Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a clean cloth, reinsert the dipstick fully and then take it out immediately to measure the level currently in your car. There will most likely be divots on the end of the dipstick alerting you to minimum and maximum recommended levels. If your car is low on oil, add more to the engine in the correct location – this was checked earlier in the owners’ manual.

How often should I be checking this? With modern cars there is sometimes an oil alert on your dashboard when levels are, however you should ideally be checking your oil once a month at least.

How long does the oil last? Again, referring to your owners’ manual, check out the recommended oil change intervals – stick to these to ensure your car is properly lubricated and your engine keeps running smoothly.

Some cars burn more oil than others, but if you notice your car is getting through a lot of fuel then give us a call – there may be a leak or other issue we can help with.

Transmission Fluid

This is the official term for the fluid that lubricates your gearbox, and is just one of the many things that works to keep your gear changes smooth.

The transmission fluid should be checked while your car is running, unlike the engine oil which should be checked with a cool engine. The transmission fluid is also different form the engine oil in that it is held within a closed system – so the level should not drop as it should not be burned off like your engine oil can be. If the level is low then it means there is a leak and you should seek our help at your earliest convenience. In addition to the level botht he colour and odour of the transmission fluid can point towards potential issues. The fluid should be a see-through red colour, which indicates transmission fluid in good condition. If the fluid is brown or black and smells of burning then it is time to get the fluid changed. Typical intervals for replacing the transmission fluid range form 50,000-100,000 miles so again consult your manual to see what it says for your vehicle.


Coolant, also known as anti-freeze helps keep your car engine at the desired temperature – not allowing it to overheat. If your car is low on coolant then it is more likely to overheat, and this can cause all sorts of problems. Again, topping this up yourself is a fairly straightforward procedure in the majority of cases – simply following the instructions in your manual and check the levels regularly.

How regularly should I be checking? As an absolute minimum you should check in advance of periods where the car engine is going to be put under most stress – so check your coolant levels before the start of summer and before the start of winter.

 Power Steering

Have you noticed your steering becoming heavier? Your turns are not as easy to pull off and there is more effort required to turn the wheel? Well this could be down to a number of factors, but if it is accompanied by some strange creaks or other noises from your steering wheel then it is most likely down to your power steering fluid level being low.

The power steering fluid is not usually one of the fluid that drops too much – so if a visual check shows it is in fact lower than it should be, then give us a call and we can arrange to have it topped up for you. This is an easy check, but not always a fix that can be made at home.

How often should I be checking? We would recommend checking your power steering fluid at least quarterly, so 4 time a year. How often does it need replacing? Well as there is no heavy friction in action, and overheating is very unlikely then this answer could range from 75,000miles to 500,000 miles – check your owners’ manual for details on your car and when you should get it checked. Once again I refer to my famous 3 series – 13 years old, 150,000 miles on the clock still on the original clutch and as far as I know, still on the original power steering fluid too!

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is similar to your transmission fluid, in that it is part of a closed system and so shouldn’t run low. If it does run low your brakes will see a huge drop in performance – the fluid is the main part of the interface between your foot pressing down on the brake pedal and the friction being generated by your brakes to stop your vehicle. As with all other fluids it is essential you use the right one for your vehicle, so please refer again to your owners’ manual.

When you unscrew the cap of the brake fluid reservoir, make a note of the colour of the brake fluid – it should be yellow/golden, if it has turned brown then the time ot get your brake fluid changed is fast approaching. The brake fluid reservoir will have a maximum line on it – fill up the reservoir to this level. Once you have filled it up to this level you must discard any unused brake fluid still left in the bottle – This is important as the brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it draws moisture from its surrounding and this will effectively dilute the fluid and make it useless the next time you come to use it.

How often should I be checking my brake fluid? Well, best practice suggests you should check your brake fluid at the same frequency as your check your engine oil – you should look at getting it changed every 2 years as the very least.

So keep on top of your fluid maintenance and give us a call whenever you need a bit of extra help, when the time has come for a fluid change rather than just another top up.

*Other retailers are available!