How to check your car's fluids

Live Well for Less

How to check your car's fluids


Having a vehicle is a major investment, and proper maintenance can ward off costly repairs. Regularly monitoring what's going on under the hood can help head off any major mechanical issues before they become dire.

VCC’s auto service technician program department head Jason Devisser walks us through the steps of checking the fluids in your vehicle.



  1. Park your car on a level surface and set the parking brake. Open the hood of your vehicle. 
  2. First, check your transmission fluid. Normally, you want to check this when your car is running and in park. Pulled out the dipstick (usually toward the back under the hood) and examine the fluid on the stick. Instead of volume, you're looking at the quality of the fluid. The fluid should be red and not smell burned. If the fluid is brown or smells burnt, it's time to replace it.
  3. Next check your window washer fluid, usually found toward the front under the hood. Pop the coloured cap and look down the hole. If the fluid appears low, top it up.
  4. Now check the coolant. Make sure you do this when the car isn't hot or you'll risk coolant spraying up in your face. Pop the cap on the coolant reservoir and peer inside. There should be a line in the reservoir marking how much coolant should be present. If the amount is below that line, top it up, but be sure to use the same coolant currently in the car.
  5. Find the power steering fluid reservoir. Pull out the dipstick and examine to ensure fluid is present in the reservoir. If it's low, take it to a mechanic to examine if there's a leak.
  6. Next check the motor oil. Find the dipstick, remove it and wipe on a napkin then repeat. The dipstick will be marked with lines indicating where the oil amount should be filled to, and if the amount falls below that line, top up the oil.
  7. Finally check your brake fluid. Find the reservoir (usually on the driver's side under the hood). Don't pop the cap. Simply jiggle the reservoir to ensure it's full.

Don’t forget, VCC’s auto body shop is available if you have any questions.


You can find more information about VCC’s auto service programs at www.vcc.ca/auto