I get questions such as; why do I need to exchange or “flush” fluids on my car. I will discuss why you should change fluids, and what can happen if you don’t. This list will cover the most common fluids today.
AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID- is a form of hydraulic fluid used to propel and lubricate. It has many detergents and additives to make sure the moving parts inside your vehicles Transmission stay clean and cool. This fluid turns a brownish color as it ages due to the heat developed in the transmission. Left unchanged this fluid will lose its lubrication and cleaning properties. This could lead to Sticking shift valves or solenoids and premature bearing and clutch wear. This fluid is usually vehicle specific today and should be changed every 30,00 to 50,000 miles depending on fluid type and driving habits.
BRAKE FLUID- is a hydraulic fluid made to withstand the extreme temperature of the braking system. Brake fluid is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. This moisture can cause internal steal components to rust or corrode. Also, 3% moisture content will lower the boiling point nearly 100 degrees! With todays sophisticated Antilock and Stability control systems clean and dry fluid is extremely important to prolong expensive components life.
ANTIFREEZE OR COOLANT- is used to keep your vehicles engine cool and protect metals in the cooling system from rusting and corrosion. As coolant ages its ph level changes from neutral to acidic. Left unchanged this can cause corrosion to the radiator, heater cores, gaskets and water pumps. I’ve seen coolant so corrosive it has dissolved the plastic impeller on some water pumps. Changing the coolant every two years can save substantial money on cooling system repairs.
POWER STEERING FLUID- Another type of hydraulic fluid with cooling and lubricating properties. Todays sophisticated steering and stability systems need clean fluid to operate properly. Fluid darkens due to heat and wear of the pump and rack or steering gear itself. Fine metal particles can cause excessive wear on the power steering pump and gear.
DIFFERENTIAL FLUID- Otherwise known as gear lube. Lubricates and cools the gears and bearings inside the drive axles front and rear on pickups and SUV’s. As the vehicle is propelled this fluid forms a barrier between the two gears to avoid metal to metal contact. As this fluid ages it loses some of its lubricating properties allowing the metal parts to wear. These particles begin to wear internal bearings and seals causing leaks and bearing failures.
ENGINE OIL- This is probably the most vital of all fluids. Engine Oils are formulated to provide maximum protection with detergents, to keep parts clean. We have changed our oil service intervals a few times in the last 30 years. 2,000 miles was the normal 30-40 years ago. Then 3,000 and now 4,000 to 8,000 miles. One thing that has stayed the same is it is cheaper to change oil than to repair the damage caused by not changing it. With todays oils I am confident most any oil and filter will perform well in most vehicles for 4,000 miles. Add premium semi synthetic oil and a premium filter and 6,000 miles is acceptable. With full synthetic and a premium filter along with an additive such as BG MOA 8,000 miles is acceptable. The oil monitoring system in many vehicles today can't tell what kind of oil or filter are installed. Most manufacturers are calling for full synthetic oils, the oil life system is programed for this. If you install conventional oil it will not meet any of the manufacturers specifications and can cause severe damage. The main thing here is to error on the side of caution. Todays cars are very sophisticated and repairs can cost thousands of dollars. Using a inferior oil or filter just isn't worth it. Here at Williamson's Repair & Tire, we use premium filters and the proper oil for your vehicle.
Keeping these fluids properly serviced will cut down on failures and save money on repairs. Refer to your vehicles owners manual for the proper maintenance schedules. Many of us today fall into harsh driving conditions such as: stop and go traffic, towing, dust and other airborne particles, higher temperatures and full throttle acceleration. The fluids will need to be serviced more often under these conditions.