Why are fluid inspections important?

July 7th, 2022 by

Several types of fluid keep your vehicle safe on the road. Fluids ensure the engine is cooled and lubricated. They operate the hydraulic brake and power steering systems, ensuring your transmission shifts flawlessly. Some fluids require periodic topping off, while low levels of other fluids indicate likely problems. Check your owner’s manual for recommended fluid replacement times. Car owners should monitor fluid levels, helping to flag potential issues and keep their vehicle’s systems operating safely.

Follow your owner’s manual or your mechanic’s recommended service schedules. If needed, schedule a service today with Meadowland of Carmel.

Vital Fluids to Monitor

Meadowland of Carmel Auto Technician applying engine oil

step 5 by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed with CC BY 2.0

Lacking the necessary levels of fluids such as coolant, motor oil, and transmission fluid can cause extensive damage. Check fluids regularly during gas fill-ups or oil changes to ensure that levels are in operating range and are not contaminated. Watch for any suspicious leaks or smells.

Motor Oil

Your oil should be light-to-medium brown and changed approximately every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but always consult the owner’s manual. Synthetic motor oil and high-quality oil filters last for more miles. Oil will get darker as it gets old. Ensure it’s within the normal operating range since the engine doesn’t receive proper lubrication if the oil is too low. If it’s low or looks bad, check for leaks and determine if your vehicle is past due for service. An oil change is typically an express service at a service department such as Meadowland of Carmel.


The coolant is bright green or pink depending on the formulation used and is suitable for up to 100,000 miles depending on the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedules. Top off with a 50-50 ratio of coolant to water, or use a pre-mixed coolant that matches your vehicle’s requirements. Watch for leaks from the hoses, water pump, or engine block. While checking at home, remember that fluid is dangerous for pets. Low coolant can cause overheating and significant engine damage.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

Automatic transmission fluid has a reddish tone and an oil-like texture and may need to be topped off occasionally. Darker colors, odd smells, and low levels may indicate a fluid and filter flush is past due or that there are other issues. Low fluid levels can cause shifting problems, overheating, or damage to the transmission. Transmission service frequency is recommended in the owner’s manual and includes a fluid flush and a new filter.

Brake Fluid

This fluid is a light yellow-brown color, with low levels usually indicative of brake wear or a leak in the brake system. Brake fluid replacement intervals should be available in the owner’s manual. This service replaces old fluid, helping prolong the life of the brake system.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid has a yellow-brown color and requires periodic topping off. Low levels may indicate leaking seals or hoses, leading to steering difficulty and damage to the power steering pump.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid is water-like and comes in various colors, commonly blue. Options include summer blends that must be used up before cold weather arrives since they may freeze. Washer fluid requires regular filling depending on how often the windshield washer is used.

Fluid Mishaps: What Are the Remedies?

Sometimes mistakes happen when fluids are being topped off or refilled. Depending on which fluid was mistakenly added, this may not cause problems, or it could require flushing and replacement with the proper fluid.

Below are some common mistakes and their implications:

  • Motor oil should match the specifications in the owner’s manual. Switching brands has little effect, but switching viscosity like adding 10W-30 instead of 5W-20 alters the oil’s lubricating properties. Adding synthetic oil to conventional motor oil doesn’t cause any harm as long as the viscosity ratings match, but it doesn’t offer any benefits.
    • Remedy: One quart of mismatched viscosity oil shouldn’t cause issues, but improper oil can be fixed with a prompt oil-and-filter change. Anything other than motor oil added to the oil requires an immediate oil-and-filter change and consulting a mechanic in case engine flushing is necessary.
  • Engine coolant should generally be mixed with water at a 50-50 ratio unless it’s pre-mixed. Too much water in the coolant makes it susceptible to freezing in cold weather or boiling over on a hot day.
    • Remedy: A coolant flush may be required if many coolants were improperly added or a different fluid was added by accident. Otherwise, adding some straight coolant can even out the required 50-50 ratio with water.
  • Automatic transmission fluid must match the manufacturer’s required specifications, such as Mopar ATF+4. Improper transmission fluid can cause poor lubrication, overheating, poor performance or clunking noises, or transmission failure. Adding motor oil or brake fluid to the transmission can cause severe damage.
    • Remedy: A quick transmission fluid flush and filter replacement can fix this issue as long as it’s done quickly. Let your mechanic know about the issue, as extra transmission cleaning may be necessary.
  • Brake fluid is a specialty hydraulic fluid that can’t be replaced with power steering fluid. Improper fluid can damage seals and hydraulic components and lead to brake performance issues.
    • Remedy: Brake fluid flush service, recommended at specific times by most owners’ manuals, can replace contaminated or old brake fluid and preserve the components.
  • Washer fluid cleans the windshield and removes bugs and other debris. Summer fluid works well for cleaning but will freeze and cause damage to the tank and components. Water doesn’t clean well. Substituting household cleaners with ammonia can leave residue, damage the car’s finish, and allow potentially harmful odors to get into the car.
  • Remedy: It’s relatively easy to drain or remove contaminated washer fluid. If accessible, remove the hose off the bottom of the reservoir and take off the reservoir cap to allow the fluid to drain. Another method is to dilute the contaminated fluid with a cup of hot water and remove the old fluid with a turkey baster or siphon.

Consult Meadowland of Carmel

Regularly checking your vehicle’s fluids is a crucial way to prevent damage and, over time, gives you a sense of how the fluids should look. Monitoring the levels is essential, but following recommended fluid replacement schedules is another way to make your vehicle last longer. Meadowland of Carmel can monitor your vehicle’s fluid levels, replacing old fluids and fixing leaks at its fully equipped service center. Factory-certified technicians have expert knowledge of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, and Fiat vehicles and a large inventory of OEM Mopar parts. Call us at 845-842-7355 or complete our secure online form for service today.

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