Close up shot of a car motor oil deep-stick

Quick Tips for Checking Your Car’s Fluids

By the Mercury Team

Vehicle maintenance involves more than regular oil changes and tire rotations. One crucial aspect of automotive care is ensuring the various types of fluids in a car are at their proper levels, as these keep your vehicle running smoothly and safely. In this blog, we’ll cover quick automotive maintenance tips for checking and refilling essential fluids like power steering fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant, automatic transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid.

How to Check Engine Oil

Checking your vehicle’s engine oil is one of the most essential maintenance tasks you can perform to ensure its smooth operation. It’s a simple process that takes just a few minutes in your driveway.

  1. First, park your vehicle on a level surface and turn off the engine.
  2. Wait at least 10 minutes to allow the oil to drain back into the oil pan. In the meantime, you can locate your engine’s dipstick, which is typically a brightly colored loop or handle.
  3. Next, carefully remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a lint-free rag, and then fully reinsert it into its tube.
  4. Pull it out again and check the oil level. It should be within the safe range marked on the dipstick.
  5. If the oil level is below the safe range, you’ll need to add more oil. You can usually find the required oil in your owner’s manual.
  6. You should also check the oil’s texture and color. It should be slick and smooth and yellow or amber in color. Grittiness or particles in the oil can indicate that components are wearing down.

Remember, consistent checks and changes will help keep your vehicle running smoothly and extend its lifespan. Make it a habit to check your engine oil regularly so you don’t end up at a vehicle repair shop with a damaged engine.

How to Check Power Steering Fluid

Ensuring your vehicle’s power steering fluid is at the right level is key to maintaining easy and responsive steering. Checking the power steering fluid is not difficult and can be done at home with minimal tools.

  1. Start by locating the reservoir for the power steering fluid. It’s usually clearly labeled and located towards the front of the engine bay. If unsure, your owner’s manual will point you in the right direction.
  2. Once you’ve found the reservoir, clean the area around the cap to prevent dirt from entering the fluid.
  3. Then, carefully unscrew the cap and check the fluid level. Most reservoirs have markings indicating the appropriate level. The fluid should be between the “min” and “max” lines.
  4. If the fluid is below the “min” line, top it up. When adding fluid, be careful to use the type specified in your owner’s manual. Incorrect fluid can damage the power steering system.
  5. Also, the power steering fluid should be clear, not too dark, and free of particles. If it’s dark or has debris, it may be time for a fluid change.

How to Check Brake Fluid

Regularly checking and maintaining your brake fluid can prevent brake failure and other serious issues. Fortunately, it’s a simple task you can do at home.

  1. First, locate the brake fluid reservoir in your vehicle’s engine bay. It’s usually towards the back of the bay, near the driver’s side. The reservoir is generally a small plastic container clearly labeled as the brake fluid reservoir. If you need help finding it, your owner’s manual will provide exact details.
  2. With the engine off, look at the side of the reservoir to see the fluid level. Most reservoirs are transparent and have “min” and “max” lines to indicate the correct fluid level. The fluid should be between these lines.
  3. If it’s below the ‘min’ line, you need to add more fluid. Be cautious not to overfill, as brake fluid is corrosive and can damage your vehicle’s paint and components.
  4. Additionally, check the brake fluid’s color, which should be clear or slightly yellow and free of particles. If it’s dark and dirty, it’s time to replace it.

How to Check Engine Coolant

Engine coolant, or antifreeze, prevents your engine from overheating in summer and freezing in winter, so you want to ensure it’s at the proper level, no matter the time of year.

  1. First, it’s important to ensure that your vehicle is cool before checking the coolant level, as the coolant system builds up pressure when it’s hot. Avoid checking after driving, and ideally, wait until after it has been sitting overnight.
  2. Open your car’s hood and find the coolant reservoir. It’s typically a translucent plastic container with “min” and “max” lines on the side, often located near the radiator.
  3. If the coolant level is below the “min” line, add the recommended type of coolant for your vehicle. Unless your vehicle’s manufacturer specifies, use a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water.
  4. Inspect the coolant’s condition. The coolant should be bright green, yellow, or red, depending on the type. If it’s brown or has particles floating in it, it’s a sign that your coolant needs changing.

How to Check Automatic Transmission Fluid

Keeping your automatic transmission fluid at the correct level is essential for smooth gear shifting and the overall health of your transmission. Follow these steps to check your automatic transmission fluid:

  1. Before beginning, park your car on a level surface and let the engine run for a few minutes. This warms up the fluid and gives a more accurate reading.
  2. First, locate the transmission fluid dipstick. It’s typically located towards the back of the engine bay and is often colored (like red) or marked with “ATF.”
  3. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it clean with a lint-free cloth, and reinsert it fully.
  4. Pull it out again to check the fluid level. The fluid should be between the “fullrdquo; and “add” marks on the dipstick.
  5. If the fluid level is low, use a funnel to add the recommended type of automatic transmission fluid for your vehicle. Be careful not to overfill, as too much fluid can cause shifting problems.
  6. Also, inspect the fluid’s condition. Transmission fluid should be bright red and have a slightly sweet smell. If it appears dark or brown or smells burnt, you might need to change it.

How to Refill Windshield Washer Fluid

Keeping your windshield washer fluid topped up is crucial for maintaining clear visibility while driving. Here’s a simple guide to refilling your windshield washer fluid:

  1. Open your car’s hood and find the windshield washer fluid reservoir. It’s usually a translucent container with a windshield/water symbol on the cap.
  2. Some reservoirs have markings indicating the fluid level, but it’s often easier to see when it’s low. If the fluid level is below the fill line or you can’t see any fluid, it’s time to refill.
  3. Use windshield washer fluid that’s suitable for the current weather conditions. In colder climates, ensure you use a fluid with antifreeze properties to prevent it from freezing.
  4. Open the reservoir cap and pour the windshield washer fluid into the container until it reaches the fill line or is just below the top.
  5. After refilling, securely replace the reservoir cap to prevent any spillage.


Whether it’s power steering fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant, automatic transmission fluid, or windshield washer fluid, staying on top of these essential parts of your vehicle is key to preventing potential issues and keeping your car running smoothly.

Additionally, protecting your vehicle with the right car insurance is just as important as regular maintenance. With Mercury Insurance, you can find comprehensive auto insurance that fits your needs. Consider bundling your home and auto insurance to save even more. For a quick and convenient way to get coverage, explore auto insurance quotes online from Mercury today.

Mercury Team

The Mercury Marketing Team is made up of professionals in the fields of Content Creation, Public Relations and Social Media. The team works together to deliver professionally written and researched content to provide information for consumers.

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