I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that car maintenance can be complicated and hard to keep track of. With its many moving parts and fluids as well as the cost of parts and fluids, it’s easy to overlook some maintenance. Fluids are imperative to keep a car in top running condition, but they’re often the most overlooked maintenance item. I’ve found that there are five types of fluids that tend to be ignored or have maintenance deferred.
Oil: Oil is one of the most important fluids as it helps lubricate the engine and keep it running smoothly. Running a car with low or dirty oil can cause expensive damage to internal engine parts. This may lead to early engine failure. Experts often vary on the duration between oil changes, but it is generally agreed that cars used in extreme conditions (such as taxis, police cars, or being operated in high temperatures), should have their oil change about every three months or 3,000 miles. Most cars using non-synthetic oils may be able to go almost twice as long between 5,000 and 6,000 miles. Cars using synthetic oils can usually go between 7,500 to 10,000 miles between oil changes. Always change the filter at each oil change.
Transmission Fluid: Many people don’t know that they should change their automatic or manual transmission fluid at certain intervals. Throughout time, small pieces of debris from normal wear and tear can build up in the fluid. Also, as the fluid ages, it may be less effective at lubrication. This may cause problems with shifting. Maintenance intervals depend on the vehicle and type of fluid used. It’s best to consult your owner’s manual or dealership to get the correct fluid change information.
Brake Fluid: Brake fluid lubricates and absorbs moisture from the lines and other internal parts of the hydraulic system. These parts are capable of rusting and clogging as they get older. There’s lot of confusion as to how and when brake fluid should be changed. Some mechanics tell customers that it’s unnecessary, others change it every time there is any brake work on the car. The average is about every four to five years. Check your owner’s manual or dealership for more detailed information.
Coolant: Coolant, as the name suggests, keeps the internal engine parts from overheating. Like other fluids, it can lose its effectiveness and collect debris as it and the hoses and seals it passes through age. Changing it at regular intervals can keep components from failing prematurely. Most manufacturers recommend changing the coolant every two years or 30,000 miles.
Power Steering Fluid: This is one of the fluids that is most often overlooked because many people don’t realize it needs to be attended to. Some experts will say that there’s no reason to change it at all while others say to change it about every other oil change. Many owner’s manuals do not mention an interval for this part, so it’s usually up to the owner and their mechanic to decide on how often to change it.
Keeping on top of fluid changes is one of the steps to keeping a car well maintained and in service for years to come. Fluids help components run smoothly and keep them from wearing out faster than they should. Consulting a mechanic and reading the signs on when to change it can save the average person time and money in the future.