DIY Maintenance: Fluid Levels

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Your car uses many different fluid in its operation, and problems can and do occur when these levels aren’t correct. Fortunately, making sure that they are is relatively easy, and can be done at home with no or very few tools.


  1. Engine. Oil is essential in the running of your engine. Checking the oil level is therefore one of the essential parts of maintaining a vehicle. It’s best to check the level after the car has been driven, but when the engine has had chance to cool. Don’t forget to park on level ground, and wipe the dipstick before measuring.
  2. Transmission. This is generally the trickiest thing to check, simply because it depends whether you have a manual or automatic car, and things vary between models and manufacturers. The system is sealed however, so there should be no problems unless you’ve noticed a leak.
  3. Coolant. It’s simple really; the coolant helps keep your engine cool. You can check both the levels in the radiator, and in the coolant reservoir. Be aware that the system is pressurised, so only open when the engine is cool, and never open when running.
  4. Brakes. Brake fluid is another closed system, so if you find yourself having to top it up, you need to find the source of the leak as soon as possible. The reservoir will be under the bonnet, with clear fill level markers. Ensure you never allow any water to get into the system.
  5. Battery. If you have a maintenance-free battery, this won’t apply to you. If you don’t then you may find that you occasionally need to top up the electrolyte through the cell holes at the top of the battery. Only ever do this with distilled water.
  6. Windscreen Wash. The easiest thing to check and top up, the windscreen wash should be kept well filled, just in case. Remember that in winter you may need to put a more concentrated solution.

On many vehicles, a light will tell you if any of these levels are low. You should not rely on them however. Should a sensor fail, go to and find a replacement.

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