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Extend your car’s life 5 car fluid checks to keep bills down

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If you are having a bad day and think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments. Okay that’s black humour, but there’s a grain of truth. Singaporeans know all too well that the first thing you learn about a car is how long you’ll be paying for it.

So what about some money-saving #carfirsttimes? It pays to know what your car needs - so you can keep it on the road and avoid unnecessary workshop bills. Here’s expert help from Budget Direct Insurance.

5 easy car fluid checks

You don’t need to be a skilled mechanic to check the fluids. Knowing the basics also helps you to avoid being conned into flushing or replacing fluids that don't need attention.

1. Engine oil

Pop the car’s hood and locate the oil dipstick, pull it out and wipe it dry. Repeat the process and you’ll be able to gauge your oil level. That’s all you need to do if the oil’s in the safe level. If it's not, add more. Be careful not to overfill. Consult your car’s manual for details. Older cars may require oil more often. If you are getting through a lot of oil, it's worth checking with a mechanic.

When to check? Most modern cars are safe if you check once a month.

When to replace? This varies with the car’s model, manufacturer and year. With advances to technology, the old adage of 3,000 kms or every six months doesn't necessarily apply. Your owner's manual is the best guide.

2. Transmission fluid

This keeps your car’s gears moving properly. Check the transmission fluid the same way as you check the engine oil. In this case, it is important the car should be running. Transmission fluid is part of a closed system (fancy thermodynamics term), all you need to know is that it should never be low! Instead of volume, you're checking the quality of the fluid. It should be red and not smell like a BBQ. If you have brown, burnt smelling fluid, it's time to replace. Back to the mechanic before it becomes much more expensive to fix.

When to check? Monthly.

When to replace? As with oil, this varies, but typically every 50,000-100,000 kms.

3. Coolant

If you ever run low on coolant (aka antifreeze), your car's likely to overheat. Only check the level when the car is off and has cooled down! Remove the radiator cap and you’ll see a line showing where the coolant level should be. If it’s low, top to the line. You must add the type of coolant currently in the car.

When to check? Minimum of every six months, check your manual.

When to replace? After 2-3 years at the most.

4. Brake fluid

If your brakes feel a little rough, the brake fluid is the first to check. This fluid is also part of a closed system (thermodynamics again); in short you can’t afford to be low on it. It’s worth checking to see that it’s clean. The brake fluid reservoir is usually on the driver’s side. Look at the outside of the container to check the level. The colour of the fluid should be golden. If it's brown, change it.

When to check? Same time as the oil.

When to replace? At least every 2 years.

5. Power steering fluid

This keeps your steering easy and smooth.  If the power steering fluid is getting low, the steering wheel may creak and it’ll be harder to turn. You should be able to check by popping the hood and looking at the reservoir. Usually the level doesn’t drop much. If it's low, find a mechanic or look for a leak.

When to check? Every 4-5 weeks.

When to replace? Possible after 50,000 kms or never. You should rarely need to flush or replace. Double check your owner's manual if you have concerns.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good .
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