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Aug 26, 2022

7 min. read

Whatever the weather, it’s always the right time to keep an eye on your vehicle’s fluids

Your vehicle is full of liquid assets: fluids that keep systems functional, well-lubricated, cool and clean. Modern cars and trucks are even simpler to maintain than in the past when owners were expected to top up various liquids regularly. Thanks to advanced components and system replacements such as hydraulic power steering, there are fewer fluids to stay on top of. Nevertheless, here are some of those essential fluids.

Engine Oil

Not sure when to change the oil? Follow your manufacturer’s recommendation in the service schedule, even in cold conditions. For a Honda CR-V, for example, that means a change about every 10,000 kilometres. Consider using synthetic vs. conventional mineral oil, as synthetics are better at combatting deposit buildup, reducing wear and protecting against high temperatures.

Brake Fluid & Coolant

If you notice a low level of either fluid, or if a warning light comes on, it’s likely symptomatic of a problem. Low brake fluid could mean the brakes need replacing or you have a leak requiring attention in order to maintain safe braking. As for radiator coolant, “if your vehicle indicates it’s running hot, stop right away,” says Ryan Peterson, Manager of Automotive Services with CAA Manitoba.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid

This fluid, typically called DEF, helps clean up the exhaust systems of newer diesel cars and trucks. All vehicles have a gauge that monitors the level of DEF. When you hit one-quarter on the gauge, that’s your cue to fill up at the next fuel stop. Peterson suggests carrying an emergency bottle in your vehicle to avoid getting stuck without this essential fluid.

Transmission Fluid

You won’t find a transmission-fluid dipstick on most late-model vehicles. Hence, maintenance involves watching for a warning light or burning smell, and monitoring for leaks. As with other fluids, transmission fluid changes will be factored into service schedule. Depending how often you drive, this ranges from every 40,00 to 100,000 km. Always refer to your owner’s manual.

Windshield Washer

It may seem obvious but keeping the windshield washer topped up is easy to do and crucial for safe driving year-round. “If you choose to use a summer windshield washer fluid to help remove bugs, put the winter fluid back in earlier than you think you should,” Peterson says. “Even a few ice crystals on a frosty October morning can crack the hose or the washer nozzles on your hood.”

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