RAC Cars News


Basic Home Maintenance - Checking Fluids

By raccars Published

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Apart from checking the oil, among the number of simple home maintenance tasks that can help your car to keep running smoothly, checking the other engine fluids is very important and easily accomplished on your driveway. Neglecting basic maintenance tasks can be both costly and dangerous - remedial work by a mechanic or an accident will both be more time consuming and expensive than half an hour spent once a week checking over your car.

Your car's manual will explain how to check and top up fluids but most cars run on the same basic principles. When performing any car maintenance, make sure the engine is turned off, the key is removed from the ignition and the handbrake is securely on. Check fluid levels when the engine is cool and the car is parked on a level surface.


Modern engines are usually water cooled, with the aid of coolant liquid. This is added to water and contains antifreeze, corrosion prevention and lubricant. It flows around your engine and through the radiator, then back to the engine, to make sure your engine doesn't overheat. Check water levels regularly, along with oil levels and add antifreeze during cold weather.

Your car must be completely cool before opening the radiator cap or other water system parts, as the pressured system could expel very hot water.

Brake fluid

Your brake fluid levels can usually be checked in the same way as an oil reservoir but check your car's manual to make sure. If your level is low, use a new bottle and throw away any residue, as it can't be kept. Your braking system is hydraulically operated and if the fluid is low, your brakes will not be as effective as they need to be. The handbrake has a separate system of its own.

Screen wash

Screen wash is not a purely cosmetic feature, it performs an important safety function. Being able to see clearly out of your windscreen not only allows you to admire the scenery, it allows you to see and navigate around the surrounding traffic. Without adequate windscreen washer fluid or indeed wipers, your car is unsafe, so check regularly along with other fluids. By the same token, your rear windscreen and side windows must also be clean enough for you to see out of them clearly. If the temperature is likely to dip below a certain level, make sure you are using a suitable washer fluid, dilute it according to the instructions on the bottle, and use a funnel when pouring it into the reservoir.

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