How to Check Your Fluid Levels on Your Car

Checking your vehicle’s fluid levels is an important part of preventative maintenance. By regularly checking your car’s fluid levels, you can help to make sure everything continues to run smoothly, anticipating problems before they become too severe, and saving yourself time and money in the long run. Ultimately, effectively keeping tabs on your power steering fluid, transmission fluids, engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid can ensure you get the absolute most from your vehicle.

What Is the Purpose of the Fluids in My Vehicle?

For many car owners, fluids are an afterthought. They may not spend much time considering them, or the important role they play in their vehicle. But fluids are essential for effective vehicle operation, playing essential roles in fuel economy.

Each type of fluid has its unique role to play — in short, they are as follows:

  • Engine oil lubricates the engine and keeps its operation smooth
  • Power steering fluid allows for smoother steering of your vehicle
  • Coolant helps to regulate engine temperature in both hot and cold weather
  • Brake fluid allows for smooth braking when pressurized, by forcing the brake pads to clamp down on the car’s rotors
  • Transmission fluids help to lubricate the gears, valves, and clutches, to keep everything operating smoothly
  • Windshield washer fluid is used to keep the windshield clear and easily visible for the driver

How To Check the 6 Essential Fluids In Your Car

Checking vehicle fluid levels is not especially difficult but takes a little bit of time. Before checking fluids, you should take a couple of preliminary steps.

First, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual. This will have instructions on checking levels and will note particularities of where on your vehicle you should check levels. You will also want to ensure you are refilling any low fluids with the correct variety of fluid.

Second, set up an appropriate workspace. Ensure you are parked on level ground, with the emergency brake on. Assemble supplies, including necessary replacement fluids, funnels, catch pans, rags, gloves, and protective glasses.

Once you are all set up, here is how to check the necessary fluids in your vehicle.

Engine Oil

Engine oil plays an essential function in lubricating the movement of engine parts, which must spin thousands of times each minute. To check the engine oil, follow these steps:

  • Let the car cool down for at least ten minutes after driving, to allow engine oil to cool and settle
  • Remove the engine oil dipstick, clean it, and place it back in. Remove the oil dipstick a second time and confirm the reading. There should be “maximum” and “minimum” tabs on the dipstick, and you want the oil to be above the minimum, and ideally near the maximum.
  • If the oil is low, add more oil to your engine. You can confirm in the manual what type of oil is best to add.

Power Steering Fluid

It is vital to ensure power steering fluid levels are sufficient in your car. Power steering fluid allows for easy maneuverability, and driving can be much more difficult without it. You may notice your car’s turning is sluggish, which is a good indication to check the power steering fluid.

You will follow similar steps to check the fluid level. Depending on the type of engine, you may check the reservoir directly, or use a dipstick (as with engine oil).

  • (If filling a reservoir directly), identify the power steering fluid reservoir
  • Wipe it clean to identify the fluid level
  • If the level is low according to gauge, add more

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid keeps the transmission components — including gears, clutches, and valves — lubricated and sufficiently cool. Transmissions can be more complicated than other engine parts, and so you may benefit from a mechanic’s help. However, in some cars, you may be able to check it yourself with a dipstick, by following these steps:

  • Turn the car on, and place it in park or neutral
  • Check the fluid level, as you would with any other dipstick
  • Check the fluid condition; if it is unusually dark, milky, smells burnt, or has any material in it, it may need to be changed

Coolant

Coolant keeps a busily running engine cool, helping to regulate its temperature in all seasons. Check the coolant level with these steps:

  • Let the engine cool, because hot coolant can cause burns
  • If your car has an expansion tank for coolant, check the level and make sure it falls in the appropriate spot
  • If your car does not, ensure the coolant radiator is filled to the top. If it is low, top it off with the same type of coolant.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is essential for the proper functioning of hydraulic brakes. To check the fluid, follow these steps:

  • Identify the brake fluid reservoir in the engine
  • Note if the fluid is at an appropriate level in the reservoir; add more if low
  • Ensure the fluid is not cloudy or dark, and replace it if it is

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid is, in many ways, the easiest fluid to maintain, and it is vital to do so for good visibility. To check the level:

  • Open the reservoir, and fill it with windshield wiper fluid until nearly full; if the fluid is cloudy or looks abnormal, it should be replaced

When Is It Best To Check the Fluid Levels?

The answer to this question varies depending on the type of fluid. For best overall results, it is good to be in the regular habit of checking levels. A good way to do this is to check them when you change your oil, which should be 3000-5000 miles (longer if using synthetic oil). While some may need infrequent changes (or even no changes), it is a good habit to know where they are at.

Windshield washer fluid is an exception. Because it is so easy to fill, it is worth regularly checking when refueling your vehicle.

What Happens If I Run My Vehicle With Low Fluids?

Running your vehicle with low fluids can do significant damage to your engine and other vehicle components, worsen the wear and tear on your car, lower fuel economy, and be very dangerous. Each fluid plays a role; consequently, low levels are problems for unique reasons. Low engine oil or coolant can lead to engine overheating, while low transmission fluid can lead to transmission problems. Low brake fluid can make braking difficult or more dangerous, and low power steering fluid can make turning cumbersome and dangerous. Even low windshield wiper fluid can worsen visibility and present a hazard on the road.

Conclusion

In short, the best course of action is to ensure that the fluids on your vehicle are checked regularly and are in good condition. They each play an essential role, and your vehicle will be worth it without this simple, but essential, maintenance.

It is often worth consulting a mechanic to ensure your car is running smoothly, and to safely address any problems that arise. If you are looking for a great auto mechanic in Gilbert, Arizona, the East Valley, or nearby, contact Highline Car Care. We have a wealth of experience dealing with a variety of car problems, as well as performing preventative maintenance, and can ensure your car gets the treatment it deserves.

Featured Image: zedspider/Shutterstock

4 Common Car Troubles Arizonans Face in the Summer

Here in Gilbert and throughout the surrounding areas, we get some of the hottest summers in the world. As a result, there are certain types of car trouble Arizona residents are more likely to experience. Just like excessive heat can make it hard for you to feel your best, high temperatures can be hard on your vehicle. Here are the four most common types of summer car problems in Arizona.

Battery Problems During Summer

When the temperature gets over 100°F here in Gilbert and the surrounding areas, your battery may corrode more quickly. The heat can also damage the wiring in your vehicle and cause structural damage to your battery by making its fluids evaporate. A faulty battery can get you stranded on the side of the road, and it may lead to other problems in your car’s electrical system as well. Have an auto repair professional look for signs of swelling or corrosion, clean your battery’s terminals, and check your battery voltage during the summer in Arizona.

Hose and Belt Damage

It’s also important to keep a close eye on your car’s hoses and belts when temperatures rise. The heat can lead to cracks, frays, and dry rotting on your belts. These belts may lose tension because of the heat, which will reduce their ability to function appropriately. Furthermore, slick or glazed spots will make the belts slip.

The hoses in your vehicle can also get soft in the heat. Soft spots may lead to cracks, leaks, and bulges. Hard spots on your hoses may be a sign that there has been some melting before the surfaces hardened again. If you notice any type of damage to the hoses in your vehicle, get them replaced before they start leaking.

Air Conditioning Problems

If you haven’t used your air conditioning very much in the last several months, we recommend testing it before the dog days of summer. Make sure the blower motor still works and that the air comes out at a good speed. If your vehicle isn’t getting as cool as it used to, or if it’s taking a long time to cool down, you may need to recharge your air conditioner. Your local car mechanic in Gilbert should be able to take care of this problem for you by adding more refrigerant. It’s a relatively simple solution, and you can save yourself from a lot of discomforts by getting your car air conditioning serviced before your daily commutes or long road trips through the desert in Arizona.

Flat Tires

The pressure in your tires changes with the temperature. When the temperature falls, the air contracts and your tire pressure decreases. During the summer, hot temperatures here in the Gilbert area can lead to excessively high tire pressure. Check your tire pressure regularly to ensure it’s at an appropriate level.

Hot roads in Arizona can also wear the tires more quickly. Inspect them for bulges, tears, punctures, and worn treads. You can slow this wear and tear down by cleaning and treating your tires regularly. If your tires are already damaged, get them changed at an auto repair shop.

Auto Repair in Gilbert

At Highline Car Care, we’ve been serving people from Gilbert and the rest of Arizona for over 15 years. Our team knows what it takes to keep your car running efficiently even on the hottest days of the year, so you can trust us to keep you comfortable and safe. Stop by today for a summer car tune-up.

Image: Patiwat Sariya

HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR CAR’S AC NEEDS A RECHARGE

How to Tell When Your Car’s AC Needs a Recharge

If you live in Gilbert, AZ, it’s nice to have functional air conditioning in your car for all the obvious reasons. We’re not in the business of telling you things you already know, though, we’re in the business of car repairs and keeping your vehicle in the best possible condition. With that said, let’s get straight into what an AC recharge is and how you know when you need one.

What is an AC Recharge?

Simply put, an AC recharge means adding more refrigerant to your vehicle. This process is a very common maintenance requirement for older vehicles that still use Freon as a refrigerant. Most modern cars have started using a refrigerant called R134a instead, which doesn’t need to be topped off quite as often. If you have a new vehicle that commonly needs more refrigerant, there’s a good chance you have an AC leak somewhere in the system. Either way, we’ll get to the root of the problem and help you stay cool on the road. 

How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner Needs Recharging?

Unless you have at least a little bit of experience in engineering or as a mechanic, you won’t always be able to tell the difference between low AC refrigerant and other problems. Don’t worry about that for now. All you need to recognize is that if you have a malfunctioning car air conditioners in the Arizona heat. When you can’t get cool in your car, it’s time to bring it into a Gilbert repair shop that understands your pain.

When you bring your car in, we’ll investigate an AC leak in addition to other problems. An excellent first step is to examine your AC compressor. By watching how the clutch and pulleys engage, we can usually tell quickly if the problem is low refrigerant, electrical malfunction, or something mechanical.

In the case of an AC leak, bad electrical signals, or mechanical failure, the system may call for other small repairs. In many cases, though, there is a good chance that you need more of a refrigerant like R134a in your vehicle. We’ll get you back to an appropriate level of air conditioning refrigerant and send you on your way. Since we have all the required equipment on-site, it’s as easy as that!

How Often Does My Car AC Need to Be Recharged?

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Some new cars that stay cool with R134a may only need to be recharged every seven years or so. Living in a hot place like Gilbert though, there’s a good chance you’ll feel the need for a recharge even more often than that. Older cars (from before 1994) will need an AC recharge much more frequently, but you can’t even find many good shops that work with R12 Freon in the United States anymore for environmental health reasons.

In 2014, some cars started running on R1234YF. 1234YF is an effective coolant, but unfortunately, not many shops service it. It requires specialized equipment, which makes it hard for these car owners to get their AC recharged. Luckily, we at Highline Car Care are one of the few shops with the appropriate equipment to work with R1234YF.

Air Conditioning Recharge near Gilbert, Arizona

If you notice your car blowing warm air from the vents even once it’s been running, we at Highline Car Care want to help. We live in Gilbert and spend a lot of time in vehicles, so car air conditioners are near and dear to our hearts. We’ve built our name by treating every car like it’s our own, and we’re ready to do the same with yours. Contact us today, then keep your cool and let us repair your vehicle.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/daniiD

Shocks vs Struts: How To Tell the Difference

Shock absorbers and struts provide stability to your car, steadying your tires and suspension in order to prevent jolts every time you accelerate or hit a rough patch in the road. Both of these features are vital to smooth steering and acceleration. Their internal structures are similar, but they work differently and take up a different position under vehicles. Below, you can learn the difference between shocks vs struts.

How Do Struts and Shocks Work?

Shock absorbers don’t support the weight of a vehicle, but they do control the movement of your suspension and springs to keep the wheels steady. They do this by taking the suspension’s kinetic energy and turning it into thermal energy that can be absorbed by the hydraulic fluid.

Shock absorbers generate resistance against the piston in response to the speed at which the suspension moves. Some are velocity-sensitive, which means that they adjust to driving conditions, counteracting the following:

  • Swaying
  • Bouncing movements
  •  Vehicle dive
  •  Squatting while accelerating

Struts can be found mostly on vehicles with front wheel drive and are a part of a suspension’s structure. This is one of the main difference between shocks vs struts because shocks are separate from the suspension system. The struts hold tires in place, keeping them aligned and supporting the spring.

Typical suspension systems have an upper ball joint and upper arm, but a strut takes the place of these two components, with the benefit of being more compact. By taking up this position, they allow the suspension assembly to move along with the vehicle as its direction changes. Struts support the weight of your vehicle using the coil spring, and a damping unit controls the movement of the suspension and the spring. The strut housing provides a rigid casing for these two internal parts.

Are Shocks and Struts Interchangeable?

Shocks and struts have some internal similarities and perform a similar function. Both make use of a piston to push against hydraulic fluid, which allows them to stabilize against your vehicle’s movement. Shock absorbers house a piston and piston rod, which push against the hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube. When the suspension moves, hydraulic fluid is pushed through holes in the piston in order to slow it down. Once it slows, the suspension and spring slow down as a result.

Struts also include the piston and piston rod to control the movement of the suspension and springs, by pushing the hydraulic fluid. The struts resist the up-and-down movement of the suspension and respond to speed by increasing or decreasing the amount of resistance generated.

Though they are similar, vehicles will only have one of these parts at each wheel, never both on one. Any replacement parts should match the original. Shocks cannot be replaced by struts.

When To Replace Shocks and Struts

For most drivers, failing shocks and struts become apparent when they change how it feels to drive a car. Once your shocks or struts stop effectively providing stability to your car, your ride gets much rougher. Roads suddenly seem much bumpier than before, and steering often becomes more difficult and less precise. Braking can also seem shakier than before. Visible leaking fluid is another sign they are worn out.

Because this feature controls so much about your tires, it can cause unusual patterns of tread or tires that seem to be wearing out faster than usual. Lots of driving can also cause them to wear out faster, and an inspection every 50,000 miles can help you identify old or damaged parts before they cause any issues.

Replacing Your Struts or Shocks in Mesa, AZ

Both shocks and struts are vital to controlling your car’s movement. For a smooth, comfortable ride, it’s important to have them inspected regularly. Make an appointment for a thorough inspection at Highline Car Care today.

 

Image: Nixx Photography

Car Tune-Up Checklist for Arizona Drivers

How to Maintain Your Vehicle to Survive the Arizona Summer

Why Is My Car’s Air Conditioner Taking So Long To Cool?

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

How Long Do Hybrid & Electric Batteries Last?

Problems You Can Avoid with a Routine Oil Change

At Highline Car Care, we believe the informed customer is the happy customer. Do you know what is one of the best ways to keep your automobile in tip-top shape? Make sure your vehicle receives its routine oil change!

Reasons for an Oil Change

If you live in a hot and dusty climate, like in Mesa, Arizona, regular car maintenance is vital. In the often sizzling heat of Mesa, Arizona, performing an oil change can decrease the likelihood of needing expensive car maintenance later on.

Here are a few reasons why oil changes are so important:

  1. When the oil is changed regularly, the detergents in the oil effectively break down harmful deposits that attack your engine and cause expensive damage.
  2. Clean oil successfully lubricates to ensure your engine’s inner components don’t encounter excessive friction. If oil isn’t clean, the lubricant fails and rubbing metal on metal parts can trigger catastrophic engine damage. The dust and grit on many roads in Mesa can also dirty your engine’s oil and lead to major problems.
  3. On busy freeways like I-10 Eastbound near the Phoenix metro area, stop-and-go traffic is detrimental to your engine’s health. Stop-and-go traffic falls under the umbrella of severe driving conditions. In heavy traffic, engines can’t reach the proper temperature to push fluids like oil through. Deposits that are typically flushed out by fresh oil, with unchanged oil cause sludge to clog the inner workings of your engine.

How to Know When To Come In

Can’t remember the last time you got an oil change? Here are some ways you can determine if it’s time to take your vehicle in for service:

  • Check your oil’s color. Dark colored oil that looks almost black has been affected by grit and grime. Clean oil will have light caramel color tones.
  • Listen to the engine. If the engine is making unnatural grinding sounds, this is not a good sign. Oil is a lubricant, so the lower the level of oil or the dirtier it is, the louder troubling engine noise may become.
  • Know your vehicle. Typically, an oil change should be done every 5,000 miles. Harsher climates and car models factor into when routine oil changes should be scheduled.
  • Check your dashboard. Most vehicles with working warning signals have a maintenance or oil service light that appears when your engine is in need of an oil change.

Come into Highline Car Care and let us help you keep your vehicle running smoothly. You’ll soon discover why Highline Car Care is the best oil change service in Mesa!

 

 

Feature image: 4 PM Production/Shutterstock