Mechanics

Fluid Level Inspection

This article shows step by step instructions on how to check automotive fluid levels in such items as power steering fluid, transmission and radiator.

Difficulty Scale: 1 of 10

Tool and Supplies Needed

  • Shop towel
  • Flashlight
  • Protective eyewear and gloves

Begin with the car on level ground, engine off, in park with the parking brake set. Release the hood latch and lift the hood. Visit - Open hood

Step 1 - Check the engine oil level, the engine oil level is usually indicated by a yellow handle. There are two level indicator marks on the dip stick, upper level and lower level. The distance in between these marks represents one quart, if the oil is in between the marks the level is okay. If the oil level is below the lower level mark oil should be added to avoid engine damage. Visit - Engine oil change and level check.

Step 2 - Engine coolant is used to transfer heat from the engine to the radiator by the cooling system. The radiator removes heat from the coolant by forcing air through the radiator cooling fins. Without coolant the engine will overheat, if left unattended severe engine damage will occur. Coolant leaks are a common problem that can lead to overheating. If the coolant level is low or empty the cooling system is leaking. Visit - Cooling system flush and level check.

Step 3 - The automatic transmission relies on the fluid level to be correct to operate properly. The transmission level dip stick is usually identified with a red handle. Visit - Automatic transmission service and level check.

Step 4 - Check the level of fluid in the brake master cylinder to keep the brakes working correctly. If the fluid level is extremely low a problem or leak can exist. Visit - Brake pedal goes to floor.

Its natural for brake fluid to be a little low if the front or rear brake pads have worn. Visit - Brake pad replacement

Step 5 - Windshield washer fluid is used with the windshield wipers to remove dirt and road grime from the windshield. Washer fluid is held in a plastic reservoir and is delivered to the nozzles via the washer pump which is located in the bottom of the reservoir. To check the level of the washer fluid inspect the reservoir (most are transparent), others are remote with a built-in float indicator.

Washer Fluid Reservoir Fill Port
Washer Fluid Reservoir Fill

Step 6 - The power steering system utilizes hydraulic fluid to transfer force from the power steering pump to the rack and pinion or steering box, without power steering fluid the system can not function. Visit - Power steering flush and level check

Step 7 - A differential is used in all vehicles. The primary purpose of the differential system is to evenly distribute force to both wheels. Visit - Differential service and fluid check

Helpful Information

A car operates using a variety of fluids, engine oil, standard or automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, front and rear differential fluids (gear oil.) All fluids must be maintained at a proper level, while some are easily checked others will require the car to be lifted.

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


COMMENTS TO THIS ARTICLE


Please use our question form if you have a specific question about your car as we are not able to give you a full answer on this page.



Article first published (Updated 2013-09-17)