It’s All About the Wet Stuff . . . Why Keeping an Eye on the Fluids in Your Car Will Extend Its Life
If you don’t drink enough water, your body gets dehydrated and things start to go wrong with your energy, digestion, heart, kidneys, joints, and lots more. If you completely stop drinking water, you will die.
If you don’t keep an eye on the liquids your car needs to run well, similar problems arise. Your car, like you, needs wet stuff to function properly. But what fluids does your car need? Since there is a chance you might not know about them all, let’s review.
You know about oil. It’s the lubricant that keeps all the internal components in your engine from rubbing against each other and wearing out. It’s also the stuff that you have replaced when you take your car in for an oil change.
The first key to using oil correctly is to make sure you are using good-quality oil that conforms to the recommendations of the company that made your car. The second key is to change your oil as often as the manufacturer recommends. Why change your oil? Because oil that has been in your engine for too long starts to contain abrasive particles of metal and other materials. The result is that the oil can begin to cause engine parts to wear. So the message is, buy the right oil and change it frequently.
Did you even know about this stuff? Well, you should. It fills the outer casing of your transmission and lubricates the gears, shafts and all the other parts inside. If it gets dirty, its ability to lubricate those parts degrades, causing wear. You can avoid the problem by having your dealership perform required maintenance (if you have a new car) or by having your mechanic check and replace your transmission fluid when it becomes contaminated or dirty.
This is the fluid that flows through your engine and fills your radiator. Its function is to carry heat away from the inside of your engine and dispose of it. That assures that your engine runs at the proper temperature and lasts longer.
What do you need to do about your coolant? The first issue to address is making sure that your cooling system contains enough coolant; if it doesn’t, your engine will run too hot, which can cause wear and permanent damage. The second issue is to change your coolant at the intervals that your car’s manufacturer recommends.
Power Steering Fluid
This is a petroleum-based liquid that your power steering pump uses to reduce the effort it takes to steer your car. Virtually all modern cars have power steering, which means that you almost certainly have this fluid in your car. Like oil and power steering fluid, it doesn’t burn or “go away.” Yet like those other fluids, it can become dirty and cause your power-steering components to wear out.
One way to make sure you have enough contaminant-free power steering fluid is to locate the power steering fluid reservoir under your hood. (Your car’s owner’s manual will tell you where it is.) Open the reservoir, make sure there is enough of the fluid, then stick your finger in and rub some of the fluid around in your hand. It should feel completely smooth and free of little particles; if not, it’s time to change it. Another way is to have your dealership or car mechanic check your power steering fluid when you take your car in for routine maintenance.
There are no big secrets about this stuff, beyond the fact that you need to have enough of it in your car’s storage tank, especially in cold months when you use more of it. But buying good-quality power washing fluid is smart; if you buy cheap fluid that doesn’t contain a high enough percentage of alcohol (which raises its freezing temperature), it will freeze on your windshield, limit your vision, and potentially lead to an accident.
So buy good quality washer fluid and make sure your reservoir is full before you hit the road for a long trip, especially during the winter.
This is a petroleum-based liquid that allows your brake system, which is essentially a hydraulic system, to function. (You step on the brake pedal, which compresses the brake fluid in your master cylinder, which then flows through tubular brake lines to your wheels and actuates the brakes there . . . got it?) This stuff does not burn, it remains in your brake system.
The big thing to remember about brake fluid is that if you don’t have enough of it, your brakes will not work. How can your brake fluid level fall? It happens if there is a minute leak somewhere in your brake system. You can check your brake fluid level easily, by looking at the level that is present in the brake fluid reservoir that is located in your engine bay (most often behind your engine on the firewall, close to the passenger compartment.) Be sure to have your mechanic or dealership check your brake fluid when you take your car in for routine service.
Air Conditioning Coolant
This fluid, which is somewhere between a liquid and a gas, is also called Freon. Because this stuff evaporates easily, the quantity of it in your car can drop after a year or two, especially if you live in a warm climate. You will know that has happened if your AC system doesn’t blow cold enough. You then need to have your system “recharged,” which is another way of saying your mechanic needs to pump in more Freon. If you want to be proactive about it, you can have your dealer or mechanic check the pressure in your AC system whenever you take your car in for maintenance.
One good thing? If you run out of AC coolant and drive without it for a while, you are not going to damage your engine. You are simply going to feel hot. And who wants to put up with that?
And then we come to gas, which is what your engine burns to generate the power to move your vehicle.
Unlike the other fluids described above, gas doesn’t become dirty in your engine because of friction or wear. However, if you buy cheap gas, chances are it will be dirty even before it enters your engine, where it will affect performance and cause the failure of fuel injectors and other mechanical components.
How do you know whether you are using substandard gas that will not harm your vehicle? Simply install the EzFill gas app on your phone and make sure that you are using only the highest quality gasoline in your car.
Download the app now!
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