Consumer Guide to Fluids in Your Vehicle

Once upon a time, the average vehicle on the streets ran on the same parts. This was when technology was limited, and different brands had fewer options on how their vehicles were built. Fast-forward a few decades, and sophisticated leaps led to the creation of high-tech capabilities that vastly differed across brands.

The same can be said about all the fluids that go into our vehicles. Take a walk down the vehicle fluids aisle at any automotive store, and you’ll get a small idea of the sheer number of options out there. But there are five common vehicle fluids every car owner should know.

Control Your Engine Component’s Temperature with Coolant

Coolant, like antifreeze, helps control the temperature of your engine parts. While many people use “coolant” and “antifreeze” interchangeably, antifreeze has a much higher resistance to freezing in very cold temperatures–exactly what Minnesota drivers need.

For a long time, there was only one kind of coolant needed to protect your engine components from corrosion. Now, cooling systems are made from plastic and metal alloys, which requires a different set of additives to protect the material. To make matters more complicated, the materials used to make the cooling systems vary by the manufacturer and each requires their own kind of coolant.

Your car’s manual will specify the exact kind of coolant you need but be aware: if you use the wrong coolant, you could void your car’s warranty. Many automotive stores also have helpful guides when selecting coolant–and of course, your friendly technician at Kennedy is happy to help.

It’s best to keep a bottle of antifreeze secured in your car or garage and check your car’s coolant level periodically to ensure it doesn’t overheat.

Never Take a Break on Brake Fluid

Your brakes are a hydraulic system that needs brake fluid in order to apply pressure to your brakes which in turn, allow you to slow down. If your brake fluid is leaking or has gone back due to exposure to the elements, it can become a safety hazard to continue to drive.

Brake fluid is another fluid that’s seen rapid changes over the years. These changes have led people to believe new formulations are superior to the “tried-and-true brake fluids.” Let’s break down the facts:

  • There are multiple types of brake fluid; examples include DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5.
  • Most vehicles now require DOT 4 or DOT 5 brake fluid.
  • The formulation is dependent upon your individual car needs; not all of these fluids are interchangeable.
  • These numbers do not refer to quality, but rather the ingredients in the brake fluid. One is not superior to another.
  • Different brake fluids are designed for different purposes, like a high-performance vehicle versus an every-day driver.

Like coolant, the brake fluid you should use comes down to what your owner’s manual says you need as well as what you plan to do with your vehicle. High-performance vehicle owners may consider speaking with their technician to determine what brake fluid they should use.

Choosing the Right Transmission Fluid

Transmissions are one of the most complicated pieces of machinery in a vehicle. Not only do they require routine maintenance, but they also require equally complicated fluid to keep them running. Traditionally, there are two types of transmission fluid: friction modified, and non-friction modified.

The newer designs have required the transmission fluid to have much more specific formulas. These fluids have become more advanced to protect and lubricate the transmissions in a way that allows enhanced performance and longevity.

Broadly, there are still two types of transmission fluid: one for automatic transmissions and one for manual transmissions. However, you’ll find there are many kinds based on car make and model. Some include a multitude of grades in each one. In addition to checking your owner’s manual to find out your transmission fluid requirements, we’ve also created a starter guide to find the fluid that’s right for which transmission.

Keep your Motor Running with Engine Oil

Motor oil creates friction in the engine and suspends contaminants in the oil to keep them from adhering to your engine components. However, simple motor oil no long meets the needs of many modern vehicles. Modern engines feature more horsepower and improved fuel economy than their predecessors. These improvements require more complicated parts, however. The diverse needs of today’s vehicles requires a wider variety of motor oil weights and formulations.

The oil must be thin enough to get into little passages, yet resistant to vaporization. Motor oil manufacturers label  oil in terms like 5-W-30 to reflect its weight. Consult your car’s owner manual to find the recommended oil based on your engine design.

A popular type of motor oil is synthetic oil. In fact, a lot of cars come out of the factory filled with it. While it costs more, it provides enhanced protection. Budget-friendly motor oil isn’t a bad idea, but you’ll need to make sure to shorten the time between your oil changes.

Switch to High Mileage Fluid as Your Car Ages

High mileage fluid has an extra detergent that helps clean older engines and helps condition rubber parts. Once your odometer reaches 75,000 miles, it might be time to replace your vehicle fluid with a “high mileage” label. You can also find high mileage fluids for motor oil and transmission fluid.

But remember to be careful, as the wrong fluid will cause damage to your car. It’s best to check your vehicle owner’s manual or ask a Kennedy Transmission Brake & Auto Service technician.

Kennedy Transmission Can Help You Find the Right Fluid

Changing your car’s fluids on your own can be confusing and messy without the necessary experience and knowledge. Improperly changing your vehicle’s fluids can even void your vehicle warranty. Trust the knowledgeable service professionals at Kennedy Transmission. We can not only get the correct family of fluids, but also suggest the formulation that is best for your car and driving habits throughout the year.

If you’re ready for a transmission, oil, coolant, or engine fluid change,  visit a Kennedy location near you today!

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