Check Oil and Other Fluids
This is by far the most important fluid you should check as it directly impacts the “heart” of your car. Waiting until the “Check Oil” light turns on is a very bad practice as it puts unnecessary wear on your engine.
How often to check: Oil levels typically should be checked at least every 1000 km, once a month, or before making any long road-trips. Older vehicles may require oil checks more frequently.
Before checking the oil level, make sure your vehicle has been turned off for at least 5 minutes. This will give the oil time to slightly cool and settle.
- Raise the hood and locate the dipstick. The oil dipstick is typically yellow or black and sometimes has a loop at the top.
- Pull out the dip stick and wipe it off on a lint-free rag.
- Re-insert it back fully into its slot.
- Pull it out and check where the oil fluid line is. If the line is below the “Operating Range” you need to add oil. If you are unsure what type of oil your vehicle needs, consult with an auto-parts store or service station that sells oil. Never go above the top “Operating Range” line.
To add oil:
- Locate the oil filler cap. The cap is typically located on the top of the engine.
- Remove the cap and begin adding new oil. Add a little at a time (3-5 second pouring intervals), to ensure you don’t over fill. Check the oil level with the dipstick each time. Adding oil above the “Operating Range” is bad for the engine.
Coolant Fluid (Anti-Freeze)
Probably the second most important fluid to check is coolant. This fluid is responsible for running through your radiator and keeping your engine operating at the right temperatures. A low level of coolant fluid can cause your engine to overheat and become permanently damaged.
How often to check: Typically every 4 months or at least twice a year.
NEVER open the cap to your radiator if it is hot to the touch. The contents inside is pressurized when hot and can explode directly in your face causing serious burns.
Once the car has cooled down the cap is perfectly safe to open. You will see line that the coolant should come up to. If it’s low you should add more, but again make sure not to overfill. It is important that you add the correct colour of coolant to your vehicle. If your coolant is green then you must add green. You may also purchase a universal coolant that works with all colours.
Checking your transmission fluid is similar to checking your oil, but you don’t need to do it as frequently.
How often to check: Typically once every 2-3 months for most vehicles.
Before checking the transmission fluid make sure the vehicle is running. When checking transmission fluid you are not checking the “level”. Since the fluid is part of a closed system, it never gets consumed like oil does in the engine. Instead when checking the transmission fluid you are inspecting the quality of the fluid. New fluid is red, so the fluid in your transmission will need to be replaced if it looks brown or smells burned.
Windshield Washer Fluid
This fluid is particularly important in the winter when our Canadian roads are all covered in salt. Salt spray from the road greatly reduced visibility if it is not quickly removed from the windshield. By ensuring you have a good level of windshield washer fluid you feel safe knowing that you will have good visibility when you need it most.
How often to check: It depends on how often you use it, but generally every 2 weeks in the winter and once a month for the other seasons.