Having the proper fluids for your vehicle is vital to keeping your car running smoothly and preventing costly auto maintenance. In recent years this has become more complicated with changes in automotive design and manufacturing. In recent years, new types of engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and power brake fluid have all been introduced as a result of these changes.
Let’s take engine oil. Twenty or thirty years ago, there were just a handful of different weights of oil. The weight of an oil is a scientific measure of its properties, particularly its viscosity or thickness.
It was common in those days to use a lighter-weight oil in the winter when it was cold outside. That way the oil would be able to splash around inside the engine and protect the parts before it was fully warmed up. A heavier weight oil would be used in the summer since the thicker oil wouldn’t thin out too much in the summer heat and vaporize in the engine.
Modern valve trains have become very complicated with more moving parts and small passages than ever before. The valve train is at the top of the engine, so when the car has been turned off for a while, the oil tends to run down to lower areas. This makes the valve train parts vulnerable at start-up before the oil starts circulating.
As a result, new weights of oil have been introduced to meet the engineering specifications of these newer engines. Manufacturers recommend specific weights of oil, which are often printed on the oil fill cap and in the owner’s manual. Your local auto service center can also look it up for you and answer any questions you may have about your oil. It’s more important than ever to have the correct weight of oil. The wrong weight could actually harm the engine and lead to costly engine repairs or even an engine replacement.
Previously, cooling system components were all made out of steel or iron and the hoses were rubber. Now, various parts are made of plastic, aluminum, or other materials. As a result, the anti-corrosion additives contained in the coolant, or anti-freeze, need to be different in order to protect the different materials used to make the cooling system.
If you use the wrong coolant that wasn’t formulated to protect your plastic cooling system parts, they could become corroded and fail. Additionally, if you’re using the wrong coolant, your cooling system won’t be covered under the warranty. It’s very important to use the right coolant and not to mix different types of coolant. *Universal coolant/global coolant can be added to other types of coolant without harmful reactions. This is okay for an emergency top-off, but following the manufacturer’s recommendation for your car is always the safest bet.
Your owner’s manual or your local service advisor at All Pro Servicenter can make sure you’re using the right type of coolant.
It’s important to have enough transmission fluid. If it runs low, the transmission will run hotter and won’t have the protection it needs to cope with the added stress of towing. Transmission fluid breaks down and gets dirty over time. Whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, you need to have it serviced on schedule to make sure it runs efficiently.
The brakes themselves are applied at the wheel using hydraulic pressure. When we step on the brake pedal, we create pressure in the power booster that’s multiplied by the vacuum from the engine. The resulting pressure pushes brake fluid through the master cylinder into tubes and hoses that run to the brake at each wheel. When there’s a problem, it’s usually a fluid leak somewhere along the line. It could be at a fitting or a hose, or even an internal leak in the master cylinder. A leak gives the pressurized fluid somewhere to go other than to the brakes, so stopping power is hurt. Lose enough fluid and you can’t stop at all, which is extremely dangerous.
If you notice any decrease in stopping power or if your pedal seems mushy, you could have a problem. There are some preventive maintenance items for the power brake system that will help them last longer. Obviously, you’d want to make sure your brake fluid is filled to the recommended level. Low fluid in the master cylinder could indicate a leak or worn brake material. Master cylinder leaks are usually just because it’s worn out but, leaks in the brake lines and connectors can be minimized by replacing the brake fluid from time to time. Brake fluid has additives that protect against corrosion that can damage brake components.
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Vehicle Fluid Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you change your oil?
Cars can generally 5,000 – 7,000 miles before needing an oil change but this can vary depending on the type of oil you use and your car.
How often to change transmission fluid
Most manufacturers will recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, but this can vary depending on your car. Consult your local All Pro service technician for more information.
What does coolant do?
The coolant’s job is to keep the engine at optimal operating temperature, protect from freezing, and heat the cabin.