Sometimes avoiding a breakdown just requires a bit of preventative maintenance. Keep your driving, ahem, fluid, by focusing on a few liquid checks.
Make sure your car is parked on level ground and the engine is cold, so you don’t get a false reading. Locate the dipstick, pull it out, wipe it off, then reinsert and pull it out to check levels. If it’s low, gradually fill with the right type of oil and recheck, so you don’t overfill.
There should be a clear reservoir marked, um, “brake fluid.” Jostle your car to see the fluid move in the reservoir, and it should be above the minimum line. Note: brake fluid shouldn’t decrease over time. If it does, it could mean there are brake line problems or a leak.
Make sure the car is cool, so you don’t risk getting sprayed with hot liquid under pressure when you remove the cap to the coolant reservoir. Check levels to determine if you’re in a good zone between “min” and “max.” Also, don’t substitute water for antifreeze. And, by all means, follow directions: some coolants require a 50/50 mix of antifreeze to water and some are used full strength.
Keep washer fluid topped off—also, consider there are different types. Some are rated for extreme weather, and show temperature performance on the bottle, while others provide a protective coating, so rain or sleet beads off.
Do this when the car is running and fully warmed up. Some cars require the transmission to be in neutral instead of park, so check your car manual before checking fluids. This also has a dipstick like the oil reservoir, so pull it out, wipe it down, then reinsert it and remove it to check appropriate levels. The fluid itself should be reddish in color; if it’s dark, take your car in and have the fluid replaced.
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