Place your car at the level spot. Stop the engine. Wait for a while to let the engine oil to pour down to the oil pan. Pull the engine oil dipstick. If you don’t know where is the engine oil dipstick, check your owner’s manual, usually it has a bright handle saying “engine oil”.
Wipe it off with a clean rag or tissue. Then insert it back all the way down into its place.
Now, pull the dipstick again and check the oil level. Normally it should be at “FULL” mark. For example, here you can see that it’s a bit lower. It’s not a big problem yet, but it’s better to top it up. Check the oil condition: If it’s way too black, it’s definitely time to change it. If it’s slightly-brown, it’s O.K. If it’s dark-brown, but still transparent, it’s admissible but it’s better to change it soon.
If it’s white (coffee with milk color) it means the engine coolant mixes with the engine oil because of some internal engine problem, for example, blown head gasket – have your car inspected.
How to top up the engine oil:
It would be better to add the same type and brand of the engine oil as you already have in the engine. Add a little amount of the oil as it’s shown in the image. Wait for a minute to let the oil to pour down. Check the oil level again with the dipstick. If it’s still low, add some more. But don’t overfill it. Don’t forget to install the dipstick back and close the oil filler cap when you finished.
How to check automatic transmission fluid.
Place your car at a level surface and engage the parking brake. Start the engine. Set transmission shifter in “P” (Park) position, and let the engine idle (on some cars this procedure may be different, check the owners’ manual for details). Pull the transmission dipstick. Check your owners manual to find where transmission dipstick is located in your car.
Wipe it off with a clean lint free rag. Then insert it back carefully all the way down into its place.
Pull again and check the fluid level. If the engine is cold, it should be within “COLD” marks. If the car was driven and is fully warmed up, the level should be at the upper end of the “HOT” mark. If it’s just a little bit lower I wouldn’t worry about it. Otherwise I’d top it up. Check the fluid condition also: If it’s too black and dirty with burnt smell – your transmission is not going to last. Normally it should be clean and transparent, as in the image. The new fluid comes red. Over the time it becomes brownish. If it is brown, check your owner’s manual, may be it’s time to change it. Some manufacturers require to change the transmission fluid at 30,000 or 50,000 miles others specify that you never have to change it – check what’s your car owner’s manual says.
How to top up the transmission fluid:
It’s very important to use only specified transmission fluid – check your owners manual or simply visit your local dealer, they alway have proper transmission fluid in stock. Incorrect transmission fluid can even destroy the transmission. Add a small amount of the fluid through the dipstick pipe as shown in the image. Wait for a few minutes – let the fluid to flow down. Recheck the level again. Do not overfill, it also may cause problems with your transmission.
Low coolant level will cause engine overheating, which may cause serious damage to the engine.
How to check the engine coolant level:
The coolant level should be between “LOW” and “FULL” marks in the coolant overflow tank as in the picture. If it’s lower, top it up. If there is no coolant in overflow tank or you have to top it up quite often, have your car inspected in the garage, possibly there is a coolant leak.
Never open the radiator or coolant overflow tank when the engine is hot!
When engine temperature is reduced (few minutes after the engine has been turned off) , simply add a coolant into the overflow tank to “FULL” mark.
Check the tire pressure regularly – at least once a month. If you don’t have tire pressure gauge it’s really worth to buy it. You can find recommended tire pressure in the owner’s manual or on the tire pressure placard. The maximum pressure listed on tires is NOT the proper pressure! Refer to the owner’s manual
Rotate tires at every second oil change – it will insure all tires wear equally. Feel vibration at cruising speed? – have your tires balanced. There is a safe limit of the tread wear. If the tire is worn below this limit it’s unsafe to drive. Refer to the result of mechanical inspection. Uneven tire wear indicates alignment problem.
Improper alignment causes increased tire and suspension components wear and poor handling. In worst case improper alignment may throw your car into a skid, especially on a wet road. If a car pulls aside, wanders or feels unstable on the road, have the alignment checked. Properly done alignment will make your car’s ride a lot more enjoyable.
CV joint boots
Most of modern vehicles are Front-Wheel-Drive, and they all have CV-joints (Constant Velocity joint) used to transfer the engine torque to the front wheels. The CV-joint is greased inside and sealed by a rubber boot that unfortunately, tend to break sometimes. If the CV-joint boot breaks, the grease comes out, the dirt and water comes in and the whole axle unit may become inoperative in a short period of time. CV-joint located on the internal side of each of the front wheels. You can check CV-joint boots visually looking inside the front wheel arch from the front of the car with the wheel turned outside. The boot should be dry. If it’s broken you will see a grease splashed all over the area. If the boot is broken, it needs to be replaced. If not replaced in time, whole axle shaft will need to be replaced which will cost you few hundred bucks more than just replacing the boot.
Broken CV joint boot
CV joint boot is OK
Taking care of small concerns in time may save you a lot more
As soon as you feel there is something wrong with your car like any kind of irregular noise, vibration, shimmer, or you note some leak or any warning light comes on while driving or anything that seems to be irregular – have your car inspected at a dealer or a garage as soon as you can – it might be unsafe to drive. It’s definitely better to check any small problem before it will cause something serious.
Regular mechanical inspection
For your safety, I recommend to have your car inspected regularly, at least once a year, by a mechanic. I mean not just visual inspection by one of the fast lube places, but a mechanic that can lift your car and check major components such as brakes, suspension, etc., while having your tires rotated, for example. This is because many components (e.g ball joints), can not be inspected visually.
ARTICLE WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY STEPHEN CRACKNELL