How To Check Your Fluids
-Your owner’s manual tells you when fluids must be checked, but this is just the minimum to keep your warranty in effect. Mark your calendar, or just check the fluids frequently.
-Park the car on a flat, level surface and set the parking brake.
-Open the hood (read the link in order to do this safely).
-Check the motor oil. The oil should probably be checked after the car cools down for an hour or so, so that oil in the return galleries, cylinder head valleys, etc. is drained down so you don’t get a false reading. Locate the oil dipstick (use the owner’s manual). Hook a finger through the loop and pull the dipstick all the way out, releasing any clips that might be holding it in place. Use a paper towel or rag to wipe the dipstick clean so that you have a clear reading. Insert the dipstick into the opening and push it firmly all the way back, as far in as it will go. Pull it out all the way, this time reading the oil level. When you are done, replace the dipstick in its opening.
-Check the transmission fluid. (if you have an automatic transmission, see Tips for manual). This is usually done with the engine running and fully warmed up, either in Neutral or Park, depending on the make and model. It will be the second of two dipsticks. As with the oil, locate it, pull it out (releasing any clips), wipe it off, push it all the way back in to the bottom of its travel, then pull it out and read the level. Again, look for a level between the two marks on the dipstick.
-Check the brake fluid. Consult your manual for the location, or look around for a plastic reservoir such as this one labeled brake fluid. If your reservoir looks like this one, you can read the level of fluid right through the plastic. Wipe dirt off the outside, if you need to. It might help also to jostle the car gently on its suspension with your hip, hands, or knee, so that the fluid level jiggles a bit. If you still can’t see it, take the cap off and look inside.
-Check the power steering fluid. This will generally also be a plastic reservoir. Read it through the walls, as you did with the brake fluid, by opening the lid and pouring more of an appropriate power steering fluid in. There may be two pairs of lines, one for a hot engine and one for a cold engine. Read the one that is appropriate to the current condition of your car.
-Check the coolant. Be sure the engine has cooled down, otherwise scalding water could spray out as you open the reservoir! The coolant will most likely be in a reservoir up front, near the radiator.