A Brief Rundown of Automotive Fluids
March 7th, 2016
Under the hood of your vehicle, the engine, transmission and several other assemblies rely on fluids to be able to do their jobs properly. Fluids cool, lubricate, provide hydraulic pressure and perform several other functions, depending on the type of fluid and what it does. Here’s a brief rundown of engine fluids, what they do and how often they should be serviced:
· Motor oil: This is the big one, of course. Motor oil provides a film of lubrication between moving parts, reducing friction and wear and helping to disperse heat. Oil becomes contaminated with carbon, metal shavings, acids and water droplets, and should be changed every 5-7,000 miles for conventional oil, or 10-12,000 for synthetic oil. Dirty, worn-out motor oil loses its lubricating properties, will accelerate wear and cause buildups of carbon; it’s vitally important to stay up on oil changes for these reasons.
· Transmission fluid: Transmission fluid is magenta and has a slightly sweet smell; it cools and lubricates the internal parts of an automatic transmission and helps to deliver torque through the unit. It will also pick up contaminants over time, and can become burnt; neglecting transmission fluid changes can lead to transmission failure. Service intervals vary from 30-50,000 miles, so check your owner’s manual. Transmission fluid should be changed more frequently if a vehicle is used for towing, hauling heavy loads or other extreme duty.
· Antifreeze: Usually bright green in color, antifreeze is mixed 50/50 with distilled water to prevent freezeups or boilovers. Antifreeze contains corrosion inhibitors that protect the radiator, water pump, heater core and thermostat, but it should be changed (with a cooling system flush) at about 30-50,000 mile intervals. Check owner’s manual.
· Brake fluid: Many drivers never change their brake fluid, but it can admit water droplets over time. Water droplets can then boil off during hard braking, leading to air bubbles in the lines and compromised brake performance. Check owner’s manual for brake fluid flush information.
· Windshield washer fluid: Usually bright blue in color, washer fluid is important for safety and visibility, and its reservoir under the hood should stay topped-off all the time.
Use caution when topping off any of these fluids; transmission fluid, for instance, comes in about a dozen different formulations for different makes/models of vehicles, and using the wrong fluid can quickly damage or even ruin a transmission.
Fluid service and changes are important to keeping any vehicle on the road, and should be a regular part of your preventive maintenance schedule. Make an appointment with us at Miracle Tire and Total Car Care in Boise, ID for a fluid check and save yourself some trouble down the line!