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5 Essential Fluids to Keep Your Vehicle Healthy

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, it’s easy to let it slip by the wayside. But if you don’t keep up, your vehicle and wallet may suffer the consequences. Checking your fluids is one of the easiest ways to keep it running for a long time. Here are 5 fluids to check up on before you get stranded on the side of the road.

Engine Oil

When you think about your vehicle’s fluid levels, your engine oil is probably the first thing that comes to mind. How often do you change your oil – is it every 3,000 miles or longer? It depends what kind of engine you’re running and what sorts of driving do you do?

Checking your engine oil is as easy as opening the hood, finding the oil dipstick, pulling it out, wiping it off and sticking it back in again before pulling it out one more time to see the level indicated on the dipstick. If it’s at a safe level, you’re golden. If not, you might need to add more.

How often to check it: It was once recommended that you check your oil every time you fill up with gas, but today’s vehicles you’re safe checking once a month.

How often to replace it: This might depend on the vehicle, manufacturer and year. The old standard or rule-of-thumb is an oil change intervals is 3,000 miles for conventional oils and 5,000 for synthetics.

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Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is responsible for keeping the vehicle’s gears moving smoothly. You can check your transmission fluid the same way as your engine oil, except the vehicle should be running when you do it. While you shouldn’t need to change the transmission fluid other than every 30,000 miles or every other year as a preventative, you may need to change it more frequently. Those include:

• Grinding or squealing noises while shifting
• Shifting is difficult
• Unexplainable surging
• Gears slipping
• Delay in movement after shifting?

Have you experienced any of these issues while driving? If so, you may want to get a mechanic to check it you.

How often to check it: Monthly.

How often to replace it: Varies depending on vehicle and transmission type, but typically it’s between 50,000 - 100,000 miles. 

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When it comes to maintenance, coolant is often an overlooked fluid. Coolant or antifreeze keeps your engine from getting too hot and damaging engine parts, gaskets and seals, regardless of the time of year. It also keeps your engine from freezing during the winter months. If your coolant is low, be sure to add the same type of coolant already in the vehicle.

How often to check: At least twice yearly; once before summer and again before winter. 

How often to replace it: Flushing the system prevents clogging so every 2-3 years.

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Brake Fluid

Brake fluids are mainly used in the breaking and clutch systems, and just like your transmission fluid, it’s important to not it get too low. If you feel like your braking is a little off, most likely it’s the brake fluid. Checking your brake fluid is easy – just look at the outside of the container. It should be golden in color; if it’s brown, it’s time to replace it before it becomes contaminated from deteriorating hoses and lines.

How often to check it: When you change your oil.

How often to replace it: Every 2 years.

Power Steering Fluid

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, power steering fluid is critical because it keeps steering smooth and easy. Be alert to weird sounds and “creaking” if the power steering fluid starts to get low. When you’re checking it, the power steering fluid doesn’t usually drop too much, so if it’s low, consider taking to a mechanic or check for a leak.

How often to check it: Once a month.

How often to replace it: Between 50,000 miles and never. Typically speaking, most vehicle manuals recommend keeping the power steering fluid levels topped off, but you'll rarely need to flush and replace it.

When you get in your vehicle, you’re focused on getting from Point A to Point B safely, but it’s easy to overlook your vehicle’s fluids. Make sure you connect with a Farm Bureau agent to learn about roadside assistance.