Your main concern with engine oil is to check for proper oil levels. Engines can not run without oil, not even for a minute. Oil lubricates, cleans, and cools critical parts of the engine. Engine oil additives help suspend dirty, where it can be drained at the next oil change. The color of the oil can be dark as long as you know you are changing it at the correct mileage/month intervals. It should never be foamy or have a strong smell (like gas). To check your oil level, make sure your engine is turned off. Find and remove the oil dipstick and wipe it off with a rag. You should see a mark for ADD and FULL on the dipstick. Replace the dipstick and immediately remove it. Inspect your findings. If you find you need to add oil, do so slowly. Never add oil above the FULL mark, doing so can cause engine damage. Coolant The cooling system of a car is under high pressure and the fluid is usually hotter than boiling water. Never remove the radiator cap of a car that has been running. Look for the reserve tank (normally white -don't confuse with the washer fluid) that reads "FULL HOT" and "FULL COLD". If the level is below "FULL COLD" frequently after adding coolant you probably have a leak. This should be checked as soon as possible at a repair shop. A leak or corrosion inside your system can cause the failure of components, overheating, and possibly damage your engine. This system should always be checked periodically and preventive maintenance services should be performed at recommended intervals.
Most automatic transmission fluid should be check while the engine is running (fully warmed up) and on level ground. As with engine oil, the dipstick will have markings for "FULL" and "ADD". Clean the dipstick first then check for proper fluid level. Never add fluid unless it is below the "ADD" mark and never add fluid over the "FULL" mark. The color of Transmission fluid should be pink or red and slightly thick. It is very important to check the owner's manual for the proper type of fluid to add, do not substitute anything else. If you have a noticeable fluid loss, your fluid has a muddy look or a burnt smell it should be checked out at a repair shop.
Most brake fluid reservoirs are transparent so you can easily check fluid levels. As your brake pads wear the brake fluid level will go down. If the fluid level is below 2/3rds full, have your brakes inspected for service. Brake fluid must maintain a high boiling point so it is necessary to keep the reservoir closed (and brake fluid bottles) due to moisture exposure from the air. Most importantly, do not add anything but approved brake fluid to your reservoir, this can cause sudden brake failure.
Power steering fluid usually has a small dipstick attached to a cap. The fluid level should remain in the normal range on the dipstick. If the fluid is needed more than once or twice a year a leak inspection is recommended. When the fluid becomes low noise is sometimes heard from the power steering components. Low fluid can cause damage to the steering system.
At most shops, belts and hoses will be checked during your routine oil change and any service will be recommended. If your vehicle has a serpentine belt you will see one single belt that handles all engine components (don't confuse this with the timing belt). This type of belt looks flat on one side and has several ribs on the other side. Inspect the ribbed side of the belt with a flashlight and look for signs of dry or cracked rubber. If your vehicle has several "V" belts inspect each one for cracks and tightness. Some belts are hard to reach and view so if unsure, have a technician check is out as preventive measures. Radiator hoses and heater hoses should be visually inspected and felt. Pay special attention to the ends where they attach to components. Inspect for dry cracked rubber, ballooning, or areas that seem softer than other parts. If you notice any of these signs have your hoses replaced as preventive maintenance.
Wiper blades are recommended to be changed every 6,000 - 10,000 miles. Clean the blade with a paper towel and window cleaner as you are cleaning your windshield. Washer fluid can be filled at any time during the year, make sure to use washer solvent tolerable to the season so freezing won't occur.
Keep a tire gauge in your glove box and understand how to use one. Improper tire pressure affects your tire wear, riding, handling, and gas mileage. Always check tire pressure when cold. Tire pressure changes with seasons due to the ambient temperature, so check for under inflation when the temperature drops.
Filters air going into your engine. The cleaner the filter is the more airflow your engine receives. When air flow is restricted the air/fuel ratio of your vehicle becomes too rich (meaning to much fuel is present). Extra gas is then burned in the combustion chamber and any cause black smoke from the exhaust. Depending on where you live and miles driven, air filters should be checked at every oil change and replaced if dirty as preventive maintenance.
Fuel filters are found in the engine compartment, near or in the gas tank. These filters are designed to filter even microscopic contaminants from your fuel. Changing the fuel filter at recommended mileage intervals will help maintain engine performance, gas usage, and prolong fuel pump life (fuel pumps don't work as hard with a clean unrestricted filter)
Most cars since the early 90's have cabin air filters. This is a filter in your air conditioning system that cleans the air before allowing it into the passenger compartment. This filter is normally located under the dash. The recommended replacement interval should be found in the owner's manual or have your technician check. New vehicles may have more than one cabin air filter. Driver's may notice an odor when a cabin air filter is dirty and needs to be replaced.
Sifts out contaminants allowing the oil to flow through the engine unrestricted.
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