How do I Take Care of My Engine Fluids?

John Nielsen from the American Automobile Association’s Approved Auto Repair group is here to talk about car maintenance, which he characterizes as being generally pretty easy… but with a caveat: it’s also easy to make a mistake, cost yourself a lot of money, and do some serious damage to your car. How? By not using the correct fluids.

Think of it this way: fluids are like your won lifeblood. Just as your body requires the free movement of blood throughout its system, so does your car requires the right fluids moving through its systems as well.

Seven fluids

There are seven fluids that your car needs in order to run optimally. They include oil, radiator fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, air-conditioning coolant, and windshield washer fluid. Working together, they keep your car lubricated, which is what it needs for its best performance. The oil keeps the car lubricated. The radiator fluid keeps your engine from overheating. The transmission fluid keeps your transmission (one of the most important parts of the car) lubricated. The power steering fluid adds to your ability to control your car. The brake fluid adds to your braking ability because it is pressurized. The air-conditioning coolant or Freon keeps your air conditioner working. And of course the windshield washer fluid maintains safety by keeping your windshield clean and your view unobstructed.

Why fluids?

The point of a car is to transform chemical energy into mechanical power. This process generates a significant amount of heat, and the various cooling systems are meant to harness and control that heat. You don’t want to do away with the heat altogether: there’s a reason why we “warm up” our cars before we get in them. Running your car cold is very bad for it, it destroys parts and components, pollutes more, and is altogether less efficient.

But what fluids?

Here’s where the AAA comes in. Nielsen is concerned about an increase over the last few years in the variations between fluids. You can buy any number of kinds of fluids to work with all of the different engine components described above, and it’s imperative, says Nielsen, to get the right ones. Different care are designed with different specifications, and if you want your car to operate optimally (not to mention keeping the warranty!) then you’ll want to pay attention to what the manufacturer says.

Nielsen agrees. Your best friend, he says, is the owner’s manual. It will give you the names of the recommended fluids for your specific vehicle make and model so that you can be sure that you’re using the right fluid for all your car’s different needs for each one of its systems.

What if you don’t?

If you don’t use the right fluids, you will definitely be affecting your car’s performance. There can be long-term problems that your warranty won’t cover if you haven’t followed the manufacturer’s specifications. You also will notice a difference in how your car responds to you in terms of acceleration and deceleration, handling, and more.