A Consumer Guide to Fluids in Your Vehicle
Once upon a time, the average vehicle on the streets ran on the same parts. It was simpler times: 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 thing can be said about all the fluids that go into our vehicles. Take a walk through the fluids aisle at any automotive store, and you’ll get a small idea of the sheer number of options out there. So let’s clear the air a little by teaching you about the major fluids that go into your vehicle.
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. Which is exactly what Minnesota drivers need.
For a long time, there was only one kind of coolant needed to protect components of a vehicle from corrosion. These days, that’s changed. Now, cooling systems are made from plastic and metal alloys, which requires a whole 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. Each requires their own kind of coolant.
Your car’s manual will specify the exact kind of coolant you need but be aware: You pour in the wrong kind of coolant, you could void your car’s warranty. Many automotive stores also have helpful guides when selecting coolant – and of course, your technician at Kennedy is glad to help.
It’s best to keep a bottle of antifreeze secured in your car or garage and check the level every now and then to ensure you don’t overheat.
Brake fluid is another fluid that’s seen rapid changes over the years. That has led a lot of folks to believe that “new formulations” are somehow 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 these fluids can replace one another.
- 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.
Again, it comes down to what your manual says you need – and what you intend to do with the vehicle. High-performance vehicle owners may consider speaking with their technician to determine what brake fluid they’ll want to use.
Transmissions are one of the most complicated pieces of machinery in a vehicle, and they need equally complicated fluid to keep them running. Originally, you could get away with one of two fluids: friction modified and not friction modified. Pretty simple.
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 them enhanced performance and length of life.
Broadly, there are still two types, one for automatic transmissions and one for manual transmissions. Look further, though, and you’ll find there are many kinds based on car make and model. Some include a multitude of grades in each one. Here’s a starter guide on more specifically which fluid is good for which transmission. Always check your manual for transmission fluid requirements!
No other fluid has evolved so much as the motor oil. New weights and formulations have been created to meet the needs of today’s vehicles. That wasn’t the case a few decades ago when it was much more common to base your oil on the time of the year. Lighter weight oil was used during the winter so it could slosh around and cover everything before the engine was warmed. Heavier oil was used in the summer so it wouldn’t thin out and evaporate in the heat.
These days, modern engines feature more horsepower and improved fuel economy, which results in more complicated parts. That’s where the new grades of engine oil come in. They must be formulated to lubricate, protect, and clean all the additional parts in your engine. The oil must be thin enough to get into little passages, yet resistant to vaporization. The weight of oil is expressed in terms like 5-W-30 to reflect that weight. Recommended oil is determined by the carmaker, based on engine design.
There are many types of oil, but one growing in popularity is synthetic oil. In fact, a lot of cars come out of the factory filled with it. Either way, good quality oil has more additives. And while it costs more, it provides enhanced protection. Budget oil isn’t a bad idea, but you’ll need to make sure to shorten the time between your oil changes.
High Mileage Fluid
High mileage fluid has an extra detergent that helps clean older engines and helps condition rubber parts. You can get your cars required fluid type with the label “high mileage” if you have at least 75,000 miles on your card. High mileage fluids can be found 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 car or truck’s manual or ask your Kennedy Transmission Brake & Auto Service technician.
We Can Help You Find the Right Fluid
When in doubt, always check with your Kennedy Transmission service professional to not only get the correct family of fluids but to suggest the formulation that is best for your car and driving habits. Throughout Minnesota, the weather can have a big impact on our driving habits, requiring us to adjust our maintenance and fluid checks.
If you’re ready for a transmission, oil, coolant, or engine fluid change or top off, just come by your nearest Kennedy location and we’ll get you in and out in no time!