Are You Familiar with Your Car's Different Fluids?

Just like your body has blood and other vital fluids pumping through it to keep you alive, so does your car. There are several different types of fluids that you will find in any vehicle. Some are more important than others, but all need to be maintained for performance and dependability.

Let's take a look at the standard fluids in your vehicle in order of importance. This guide will help you with fluid maintenance and if you find a fluid leak, this list will help you identify what it might be:


With the exception of fully electric vehicles, all cars and trucks require fuel to power the engine. Whether your vehicle uses gas, diesel or alternative biofuels, you probably already know when and how to refill the fuel tank at the service station. So, we don't need to spend much time on this.

Engine Oil

This is the other fluid most people are familiar with because regular oil changes are a routine part of life. You want to get your oil and oil filter changed every 3,000-5,000 miles in most vehicles. It is typically light gold or tan in color and you can easily check the oil level and quality by using the dipstick in your engine compartment.

Transmission Fluid

Your transmission transfers power from the engine into the wheels, so it needs to be running right for your car to move. Transmission fluid keeps all the internal components properly lubricated. If the fluid level is low or the fluid is corroded/burnt, it could lead to major transmission damage that is usually very costly to repair or replace. You typically want to get your transmission fluid, pan gasket and transmission filter changed every 30,000-60,000 miles and a full fluid flush is sometimes in order if the system is really gunked up. Transmission fluid is generally bright red and there will be a separate dipstick under your hood that allows you to check it. If you ever notice a transmission fluid leak under your vehicle, get it checked by an auto repair technician as soon as possible.

Radiator Coolant (Antifreeze)

This will usually be bright green/yellow and most mixtures will contain a recommended percentage of water. Your radiator also acts as the reservoir for the fluid that you can check safely when the engine is off and fully cooled down. If you open the radiator cap when the engine is hot, it can be very dangerous with steam or fluid pressure built up inside. The fluid is pumped through the engine to keep it from overheating. If you notice a coolant leak or your car begins to overheat, then you'll want to get your cooling system inspected right away.

Brake Fluid

The other fluids so far make your car go. Well, hydraulic brake fluid is a crucial part of the braking system that makes your car stop when you hit the brakes. It needs to maintained at certain levels and pressures for performance, just like your brake pads and rotors. These are all things you should have checked regularly as part of a routine brake inspection or brake service. Brake fluid is generally a very light yellow/brown in color. It is almost clear when brand new, so the darker it appears the older it is.

Power Steering Fluid

If your vehicle has power steering, and almost all cars made within the past several decades do, it will require power steering fluid that needs to be maintained and replaced from time to time. If you are noticing steering problems or find a fluid leak (usually light red or pink), it's worth getting the power steering system looked at by a professional.

Air Conditioner Coolant (Freon)

Your air conditioner will use special coolant (commonly referred to as Freon) to produce the cool air coming out of the vents. If your AC isn't working properly, there may be a leak in the system or your coolant level just may be low. It is best to have it recharged or inspected by an expert because dealing with these fluids are not safe. Coolant comes in a variety of different colors, so it can be tricky to identify.

Windshield Washer Fluid

This is certainly not a vital fluid in your vehicle, but it sure helps with safety. When you turn your windshield washers on, you want the glass to clean up as well as possible. You'll find a clear plastic reservoir under your hood with light blue liquid in it. It's easy to check the level of your windshield washer fluid and you can simply top it off yourself as needed with over-the-counter fluid. Otherwise, it will generally be topped off as part of any standard maintenance service visit. You'll probably only need to refill it yourself if you really use the washers a lot.

So there you have it. These are the different fluids that help make your vehicle run and perform the way it should. You want to take care of your car's vital fluids with standard maintenance and fluid checks.

For all your automotive fluid repair, change or flush needs, count on the Mid-Atlantic auto repair experts at Fox Run Auto in Bear, DE. Call our shop today at (302) 597-9205 or schedule your next maintenance service appointment online.



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