How to check and top the Coolant, Brake, Power Steering and Washer Fluids.

The most critical aspect of topping these important fluids is NEVER to get it done by the franchise auto repair shops. They may not use the recommended fluid for your car. Do not jump out and buy the fluid from the discount stores with out consulting the owners manual.

The exception is the windshield washer fluid – this is the fluid that is sprayed over your wind shields to clean it up. It is pretty generic and you can purchase it from Wally or Advance auto and such.

I cant simply begin to highlight the importance of the recommend fluid and the what if a different fluid scenarios :-

1.) Incorrect Coolant :-  Possible water pump failure in a few months

2.) Incorrect Power Steering Fluid :- Possible steering rack failure or such in a few months.

3.) Incorrect Brake Fluid :- Possible damage to braking system.

Now with that said , it is really really easy to check and make sure the fluids are filled up

  1. Coolant : - The coolant tank is near to the radiator and you can easily see the MIN and MAX level on the tank. In the picture below , the coolant tank is shown by the red arrow. The coolant filling cap is shown by the Green arrow. Please buy coolant from the car dealers PARTS section. For example BMW uses a Blue color coolant and Toyota used a red color coolant. The coolant container will tell you how much of distilled water to mix based on the weather conditions. Winter climate will have more concentrations and less of water.  You can buy distilled water from most grocery stores , NEVER use tap water.  Sometimes the coolant are pre-mixed with water, in that case you should not need distilled water to be added. For >10 year older cars you should be ok by using the DEXCOOL or similar stuff available at the discount parts stores. Make sure what is the color of the coolant that was originally inside it and the guy at the parts store will be able to help. For European cars check manuals for the specifications and never take a chance.  Mix the coolant to the specified ratio and add to the coolant tank to the recommended level. See an example of a generic coolant and manufacturer specific coolants here.
  2. Power Steering Fluid :- Locate where the reservoir for this fluid is. Usually the cap has a level indicator or there will be a float type level indicator. Remove the cap and add the recommend fluid. Like the coolant make sure the fluid is the correct type. For example most Audi and VW use a hydraulic 'mineral'  fluid that you can only buy from your Dealer's parts section. Add the fluid to the recommended level.
  3. Brake Fluid - These fluids do not usually drain , unless there some underlying issue and basically a  visual inspection is good for most cases. Locate where the Brake Fluid Reservoir is and note the min and max level and make sure the fluid is within that level. Sometimes the level is hard to see, so I push the car or nudge up-down and see the fluid shake to get an idea.  Do not open the cap of the Brake Fluid reservoir to peek into it. You don't want the moisture to enter it. If the fluid is below MIN ,add recommended fluid and keep it under observation for a few weeks , just to make sure there is no underlying mechanical issue.
  4. Washer Fluid :- To Fill up open the cap of the washer fluid reservior and fill it up. For cold weather , make sure to get the low freeze point de-icing washer fluids.  See example of washer fluid and where to fill.

Inspection Interval :-  I check these levels once a month and during Oil Changes.  I also check before long road trips. See the maintanence time line for inspection intervals.