Coolant is the fluid under your hood and attached to the radiator that does exactly what it sounds like. By keeping your radiator cool as a cucumber, coolant prevents damage and overheating. Overheating, if left unchecked, will cause your engine to stop running.
Coolant, also called Antifreeze, is usually colorful. Common colors include blue, green, yellow and red. If your coolant looks colorless or has material floating around inside, it’s time for a change. If your coolant does not reach the “full” line on its container, go ahead and use this opportunity to restock.
Before you begin the pouring process, it’s very important that your engine is already cool. Ensure this by leaving it off for at least ten minutes. If your engine is still hot, don’t open the coolant container as the still-hot liquid could pop out of the bottle and burn you. You could also end up cracking your engine block, so it’s important to do thing safely and carefully!
Start by checking the bottle on your coolant of choice to assess whether or not it is pre-mixed. If it is, you are good to pour. If it isn’t, this means your coolant still needs to be mixed with water. So go ahead and mix a separate bottle 50/50 with water and coolant and fill ‘er up!
Brake fluid is the substance that slides around in the cylinders to push the brake pads against the rotors and allow you to stop on a dime. Without brake fluid, there’s no braking.
To begin, make sure your brake fluid is good to go. Many vehicles commonly call for DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake fluid. Also make sure that your brake fluid hasn’t been left open to the air or exposed to water vapor. This contaminates the fluid, lowers its boiling point, and can result in system rusting or the system not working at all. If your brake fluid can has been open to air, it has a shelf life of a few weeks, and should be disposed of at that time.
Once you’ve ensured that your brake fluid is the right stuff, locate the master cylinder reservoir. This reservoir is located on the driver’s side of your car in a plastic canister. Then continue on to the next step: take a note from Rihanna and pour it up! Pour until it reaches the “full” line and replace the cap.
Power steering fluid is what allows you to turn your steering wheel, guiding your car as if it were light as a feather—and not the ton of hulking metal that it is. Without power steering fluid, driving your vehicle can become quite the drag.
Your power steering fluid should be either lightly colored or dark without any chunks or metallic inconsistencies. If has shiny metallic pieces floating around, looks almost black or smells burnt, the system needs to be flushed. This is a guide for how to refresh the fluid. Only do this if your owner’s manual has recommended it, the fluid is dark or you do a lot of heavy-weight driving. Although these circumstances are fairly rare, this is still something good to be familiar with in the case of an emergency.
Begin by locating your power steering fluid reservoir, typically denoted by a steering wheel icon on the cap. Note the level to which the fluid rises in the container, because this is exactly how much we’re going to put in later. Now if you’ve changed your brake fluid, this part should feel very familiar. Use a turkey baster to draw the old fluid out. You won’t get all the fluid, but this is okay. Replenish the fluid up to its prior level and hit the road!
(Note: If your vehicle is in need of a full flush, try refreshing first. Drive around for a few weeks to circulate the new fluid, and repeat the process. This should give you most of the effects of a full flush without all the accompanying complications of the flushing process.)
Oil is the main substance that keeps your car’s engine running as it should. If the oil level gets too low, then your engine could lock up. This can be very expensive to repair, so luckily there are some preventative measures that you can take yourself.
Begin by locating your car’s oil dipstick, pulling it out and wiping it clean on a lint-free rag. Next dip it back into its place and remove it again. Your dipstick should be marked with notches that read “Add” or “Full.” If oil needs to be added, do not try to pour it into the little hole that the dipstick came out of. Instead, look for the screw-off cap on the biggest part your engine. This is your oil cap. Add oil as needed. Replace the cap, and you’re all done.
Congrats, girl: you are now certified in keeping things all good under the hood.
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