How to check car fluid levels

Cars use various fluids to ensure they run smoothly and safely. These fluids include engine coolant, brake fluid, windscreen washer fluid and power steering fluid. The all have to be periodically checked to ensure that they are up to the correct level or need be topped up.

Engine coolant

Engine coolant, as the name suggests, is used to stop the engine overheating. It is very important never to unfasten the coolant cap while the engine is still hot. When unscrewing the cap, hold a rag over it and open gently to allow the pressure to be released. Any coolant splashes should be washed off the skin and car bodywork immediately.

The fluid's level can checked against the minimum and maximum marks on the reservoir. With a cold engine, the fluid level should be between these two marks. If the coolant has to be topped up it should be done with equal measures of water and anti-freeze.

Brake fluid

Brake fluid levels are checked by taking a look at the brake master cylinder. In most cars this is located at the back of the engine, on the driver's side of the car. It is normally a small rectangular container made out of metal, complete with a reservoir made out of plastic.

In newer cars this reservoir will be translucent, allowing the fluid to be seen. This makes it easy to see if the fluid is up to the 'full' line. In older models, the cap may have to be removed to check where the brake fluid comes up to. If the brake fluid is low it will have to be topped up. Only the correct fluid for the particular car should be used.

Windscreen washer fluid

Windscreen washer fluid levels are checked by locating the windscreen wash reservoir. It can be opened up and checked to see if there is room for any more fluid. As this reservoir is not pressurised there is no danger of overfilling it, so it can be safely filled right to the top,

Power steering fluid

The power steering fluid is to be found in a cylindrical reservoir located at one end of the car's power steering belt. If the cylinder is made out of translucent plastic the level of the fluid can easily be seen. If not, it is case of checking with the dipstick, which set in the reservoir cap.

If the power steering fluid has to be topped up ensure that the fluid used is suitable for the vehicle. It should be added steadily, with the level checked against the markings on the dipstick.