What Fluids Need to Be Changed in Your Car?

Published on

May 29, 2024

Mechanic pouring windshield wiper fluid into a car

Just as we as humans consume water to quench thirst, energy drinks to refuel, and other beverages for either personal pleasure or nutritional value, your vehicle also relies on several fluids to help it operate effectively and efficiently. All you need to do is pop the hood of your vehicle to see the bevy of fluids that help your car tick.

But have you ever wondered just what the key fluids in your vehicle are? And how often do they need to be changed? You've come to the right place. At your neighborhood GreatWater 360 Auto Care-affiliated location, our goal is to educate you on the keys to keeping your vehicle on the road and provide the support and expert service to make that happen.

Essential Fluids Every Car Owner Should Know

Here's an overview of some of the essential fluids that every vehicle owner should know:

Engine Oil

The engine is the single most important component in your vehicle - and the engine oil is one of the most important fluids within the car. You should already know the importance of getting regular oil changes. Similarly, when engine oil becomes too dirty, it's not going to adequately lubricate all the pistons and gears that make the engine function the way it should. This can impact engine performance and lead to premature engine failure.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid does exactly what the name implies - it keeps your windshield clean and clear while you're driving. Think of it like this: If your windshield washer fluid isn't at an adequate level, the alternative is literally getting out of your vehicle and cleaning it yourself when it becomes too dirty. A good rule of thumb is to replace your washer fluid at least once a year and periodically keep an eye on the levels.

Brake Fluid

Low brake fluid can result in a serious safety issue. Brake fluid assists with the transfer of pressure from when you press the brakes to when the brakes stop the vehicle. Hence, keeping your brake fluid levels topped off is extremely important when it comes to your vehicle's stopping efficiency.

Coolant (Antifreeze)

The main role of the coolant is to prevent your vehicle from overheating. When the engine overheats, it is at risk of significant damage, especially to components like gaskets, cylinder heads, and more. That said, it's crucial that you keep your coolant at healthy levels and occasionally have it flushed and replaced to keep the engine running cool.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering is a luxury that most drivers take for granted these days, as this feature allows us to turn the wheel with reduced effort. But it's the power steering fluid that acts as the key cog in the system - and if it's running low, you're going to feel it when you turn the wheel.

Transmission Fluid

Next to the engine, the transmission is the most important component under the hood of your vehicle. And like the engine, the transmission relies on fluid to keep the gears functioning properly. If you're running low or your transmission is running on old fluid, you'll likely notice it in slower shifting and stuck gears. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing the transmission fluid once every 30,000 to 45,000 miles.

How to Check Your Fluid Level

The good news about fluid in a car is that they're all pretty easy to find and check. All you need to do is pop the hood and look for the corresponding symbol or level to find the fluid you're looking for. From there, just open the cap to see the fluid level within the tank. In the case of the engine, you'll remove the dipstick to inspect the fluid level. Or just stop by your locally operated shop in the GreatWater network to have one of our experts take a look. 

Here's a look at some of the symbols and labels to look for to identify the fluid:

  • Engine oil: Most have an oil canister symbol
  • Coolant: Look for "engine coolant," "antifreeze," or similar wording
  • Power steering: You should see a power steering label
  • Brake fluid: Look for "brake fluid" label or a hexagonal image
  • Transmission fluid: You should see a "trans fluid" label
  • Windshield washer fluid: Look for a symbol that mimics a windshield

When to Replenish Your Fluids

All fluids tend to need replenishing and flushing at different intervals. The best thing you can do is consult your owner's manual or contact your local shop in the GreatWater network to know when fluid changes should occur. In addition to this, there are some general rules of thumb that you should follow:

  • Engine oil should be changed the most regularly. The general guidelines have long been three months or 3,000 miles, but advanced blends now last for several more thousand miles before a change is necessary.
  • Usually, a technician will check all the fluid levels in your vehicle at the time of your oil change. At any of our local shops, we always conduct a thorough check of all fluid levels and top off any low fluids if necessary.
  • Transmission fluid is another important fluid to flush and change at more regular intervals. If the fluid becomes too low or too soiled, it's going to impact overall transmission performance. Many vehicle manufacturers recommend flushing transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. Consult your vehicle owner's manual for more information.
  • Most mechanics suggest checking fluid levels at least once a month.

Consequences of Neglecting Fluid Changes

If certain fluids are running too low, your vehicle can run the risk of breaking down or even more importantly, impact its overall safety. Don’t let something as easy as keeping your fluids in check cause long-term and expensive damage to important vehicle components, like the engine and the transmission. Please make sure to ask your advisor about your fluids at each visit to ensure your ride stays at its peak performance. 

Reach Out to a GreatWater 360 Shop with Any Questions!

For more information on fluids in your vehicle and how often they should be changed and filled, contact your local GreatWater 360 Auto Care-affiliated location today.