How to Guides

What’s With all Those Fluids Flowing Around Your Engine?

Zaki Moulvi posted this on Jun 9, 2014

People love to say how our bodies are mainly made up of water.  The same can be said for your engine, except instead of water, there are a variety of different types of fluids that all are there to serve a unique and vital purpose.

  • The most well known fluid that your car is dependent on is motor oil.  This liquid is designed to withstand the high temperatures created by your engine and coat its moving parts.  Otherwise they would just seize and become useless.  You should be checking the oil level and quality in your car often.  This is done by pulling up the dipstick in the middle of the engine bay while your car is off.  If it is low, you should replenish until it reaches the fill line.  If it is black and thick, it is time for a change. 

Fun fact:  Never add engine oil while your car is running.  What you have in the reservoir will be busy making its rounds through your engine.  You can add gallons at this point and never make it to the fill line.  What you might do though is cause some serious damage.

  • Brake fluid is to the safety of your vehicle what motor oil is to the life of your engine.  Without it, your entire brake system is useless.  Check the levels of brake fluid by looking at the outside of the master cylinder.  You should avoid opening this reservoir as much as possible.  Top it off if necessary and then check the level again in a couple of days.  If you notice a significant decrease then there is a leak in one of the brake lines.  Find it and fix it fast before you end up rear ending the guy in front of you.

Fun Fact: Air in the brake lines can cause brake failure, just like a lack of brake fluid can.  Anytime you do brake work on your car you should bleed the air out of all four brake assemblies.

  • You need to have something inside of that engine to help keep it cool.  Antifreeze runs through the motor parts almost the same way as motor oil does.  Instead of lubing the parts though, antifreeze is absorbing the heat and carrying it away from the engine.  There are reservoir tanks located on either side of the cars radiator.  Check the antifreeze level here.  If the temperatures are starting to drop, you will also want to check that it is not more than 50% water.

Fun Fact: Antifreeze is a bright green, sweet liquid poison that attracts animals.  If you spill any on your floor clean it up fast before one of your pets finds it and eats it.

  • Transmission fluid does to the gears what motor oil is doing to the pistons.  Reddish brown in color, many so-called experts will try and tell you that <

Fun fact: Transmission fluid also works at keeping the transmission cool.  It passes through the antifreeze reservoir to cool down before making its rounds through the transmission.

  • You are able to car with ease thanks to the power steering fluid.  Without it, trying to turn the steering wheel is like trying to lift your car into the air.  You can easily check and add power steering fluid as needed. 

Fun fact: The hydraulic pump responsible for distributing the power steering fluid is run by the engine, not the electrical system.  That’s why when your car stalls, so does your ability to steer it.

  • Some cars have a maintenance free battery that never requires you having to worry about how much water is inside the individual cells. For the rest of us, we need to keep an eye on that fluid level, especially during the hot months as heat can cause the water to evaporate.

Fun fact: Only add distilled water to a battery if the levels drop off.  This will prevent any damage to the battery.

  • Last, but certainly not least is the windshield washer fluid.  While you may think it’s irrelevant now, you will think again when your windshield is full of ice.  Keep the reservoir full at all times to help you maintain visibility when on the road.

Fun fact: Windshield wiper fluid contains a special compound that prevents it from freezing in cold weather, so don’t try and be smart by filling the reservoir with Windex.

That’s a lot of liquid at work keeping your engine and you safe.  It only takes a few minutes to check the fluids of your car, but those few minutes can save you hundreds of dollars in car repairs down the line. 

Categories: Autowiki Car Systems