Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am

On The Road

Oil is not the only fluid that needs to be changed periodically


Q: I know the engine oil in my vehicle needs to be changed regularly, but I also know there are other fluids in my car. Do these also need to be changed at specific intervals?

A: Absolutely. These other fluids you mention are in your cooling system, power-steering system, automatic transmission and brake system. They are all products that go through temperature changes, have additive packages in them and are petroleum-based like your engine oil. Each fluid requires attention.

Engine coolant turns acidic as it ages. When this happens, it will cause damage to the engine and cooling-system components. Coolant in good condition will be within the neutral range of the pH scale. A thorough service center will check coolant pH and recommend changes before damage occurs.

Brake-system fluid collects moisture from the environment and worn metal from the brake system itself. These contaminants cause damage and premature wear to the brake-system components, so the fluid contaminant level should be checked at service intervals and changed as needed. Modern-day vehicles can have brake-system components costing as much as $3,000 to replace, so changing the fluid can save big money in repairs.

Power-steering fluid breaks down over time and picks up worn particles from the system hoses. Worn-out fluid causes premature wear in the system’s pump and steering rack. The hose debris will block the system’s small passageways. Changing this fluid when needed can save thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Automatic transmission fluid works especially hard to connect the engine to the drivetrain. It both lubricates and serves as a coupling agent in the transmission, and goes through a wide range of temperature changes every time the vehicle is driven. When this fluid breaks down, the result is premature wear of components inside the transmission. Transmission replacement or rebuilding can cost $3,000 and more.

All these fluids require monitoring and changing, and replacement must be done in its entirety. What is known as a “drain and refill” only replaces, on average, approximately 20 percent of the old fluid. Fluid is present throughout the vehicle systems – not just in the fluid receptacle. Special equipment is needed to ensure a 100 percent fluid change, so don’t hesitate to ask if your service center has invested in such equipment and will perform the correct service for you.

Your vehicle’s fluids are its lifeblood. Prolong your vehicle’s life and help avoid big repair bills by maintaining these fluids.



Warren McCord is an ASE certified master technician and owner of Dean’s Automotive Inc., 2037 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 961-0302 or e-mail McCord at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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