Which Fluids Are Right for Your Vehicle?

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Have you ever walked through an auto parts store and noticed the overwhelming number of automotive fluids they carry? How do you know which ones are right for your vehicle?

Fluids play a large role in how your car runs—they lubricate moving parts, provide pressure for hydraulic systems, and help keep things under the hood cool. Your manufacturer has specified a particular type of fluid for everything from the engine and cooling system to brake fluid. If you know which types of fluid your vehicle takes, selecting the right fluids becomes much more manageable!

Why Are There Different Varieties of Automotive Fluids?

So, why are there so many varieties of automotive fluid? Let’s start with motor oil. Manufacturers match the properties of a particular weight or type of oil with the engine’s needs. For example, engines with sophisticated valve trains often require a thinner weight of oil. Many newer vehicles come straight from the factory with synthetic oil, with the recommendation to use it for the rest of the vehicle’s life.

Regardless of whether your car uses conventional oil or synthetic, the safest bet is always to use what the factory recommends because it’s been proven to work in function and durability tests. The oil type is also a factor when it comes to determining your oil change interval schedule. Higher-quality motor oil has more additives, which are engineered to clean and protect the engine. Although they cost a bit more, it’s worth the extra protection they offer. If you buy budget oil, you should consider getting oil changes more frequently.

Some fluids are developed specifically to meet the needs of a particular family of engines. One example of this would be coolant. The materials used to build cooling systems can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so different types of coolant are formulated to protect those parts from corrosion. You can even find manufacturer-specific coolants for various vehicles, including Volkswagen.

More recently, this has also become the case for transmission and brake fluid. The good news is you can find the right types of fluid listed in your owner’s manual—or check with us. This takes all the guesswork out of buying the correct fluid for your car. If you have special needs, like a high-mileage or performance engine, our service advisor can also recommend upgrades or additives that will address your needs while also staying consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

When Should My Fluids Be Changed?

Every vehicle will have its own fluid change intervals; you can find the recommended service intervals for fluid changes in your owner’s manual, or we’re happy to look them up for you. However, here are some general guidelines on the different types of fluids you’ll need to have changed from time to time.

  • Motor oil – Motor oil lubricates your engine and prevents friction that can wear down moving parts and contribute to overheating. In most vehicles, it should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
  • Transmission fluid – Transmission fluid lubricates all the moving parts in the transmission. There are different types of transmission fluid for automatic versus manual transmissions; in general, it should be replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, depending on the type of car you drive.
  • Coolant – Coolant helps transfer heat and prevents engine damage from freezing or overheating. Depending on your make, the coolant should be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
  • Brake fluid – Brake fluid is used to transfer force into pressure so you can brake effectively. It should be changed every 2-3 years or 24,000 to 36,000 miles.
  • Power steering fluid – Power steering fluid allows you to have smooth steering and the ability to turn your wheels with ease. It should be replaced every 75,000 to 100,000 miles.
  • Differential fluid – The differential compensates for the distance the inner and outer wheels travel when you’re making a turn. It should typically be changed every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.
  • Transfer case fluid (4WD and AWD) – Transfer cases are only found on four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles; it keeps all the small gears and other moving parts in the transfer case lubricated. Typically, it should be changed every 30,000 miles.

Keep Your Fluids in Check

Each fluid in your car plays an important role in the way your vehicle functions; if the fluids get too low, dirty, or contaminated, they aren’t able to do their job as well. In some cases, neglecting a fluid change can lead to other issues—putting off oil changes for too long, for example, can cause excessive wear on the engine and thick sludge that can gunk up your engine. Keeping up with the recommended service intervals is the best way to keep your vehicle running smoothly and prolong its road life.

During an oil change, we’ll make sure to top off your other fluids, but it’s also a good idea to have a little of everything at home in case you need to top anything off yourself or to take on a trip. Ask your service advisor or check your owner’s manual. And if you’re not comfortable checking or topping off your fluids yourself, EuroCar Service is always here to help! We see all European makes, including Audi, Fiat, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Smart Car. Call us today at 206-527-8828 or request an appointment online.