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Maintaining Proper Fluid Levels

Engine:
Oil is the lifeblood of your car. The oil in the crankcase of your engine is critical to long and healthy motor life. Without it, your engine would freeze up in a matter of minutes. Checking your oil level is a fairly simple procedure. Experts generally agree that it’s best to drive the car first before checking it. So take a little spin, then find a cool, shady spot to pop the hood. The oil mark should fall between the two hash marks on the dipstick. If it’s below the lower level, you need to add oil — a quart will usually do it.

Automatic Transmission/Transaxle:
The automatic transmission fluid should be checked with the engine running. The transmission dipstick is typically located behind the oil dipstick, and doesn’t stick up as high. Start the engine and locate the transmission fluid dipstick. With the engine running, extract the transmission dipstick. Wipe it clean and reinsert it, then extract it again. It will have similar markings to the oil dipstick, one mark for too low, another for too high. If it is very dark or black, check your records and owner’s manual and plan on getting it changed; it’s probably overdue.

Radiator/Cooling System:
This should be done when the engine is cool or lukewarm, not cold. Locate the radiator cap. Never open when the engine is hot. It should be in the center of the engine compartment, in the very front. Use a rag to remove it. Look down into the radiator and see if you can spot fluid. If it’s near the top, you’re in good shape. If not, you’ll need to add some. Engine coolant is added on a 50/50 basis — 50 percent water, 50 percent coolant. Read the instructions on the coolant container for details.

Brakes:
To check the fluid level, locate the brake fluid reservoir. It’s usually in the engine compartment. If you can’t find it, consult your owner’s manual. Remove the lid and check the level. It should be at least two-thirds full. If not, fill to the “full” line with brake fluid. Window Washer. It looks a lot like the coolant overflow reservoir, but will be located closer to the rear of the engine compartment. Also, both of the caps will be labeled “coolant” and “windshield,” or something similar, to distinguish one from the other.

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