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A Fluid Situation - Identifying Engine Fluids Under Your Hood

If that annoying light on your dashboard is on again, you might be thinking, "Oh great! How do I deal with this now?" Don't worry! Frank's is here to help.

One of the most common things that will trigger a warning light is a low fluid level and there are several types of fluids that a car or truck needs regularly to operate. They include Wiper Fluid, Engine Oil, Engine Coolant, Brake Fluid and Power Steering Fluid. So what are these mystery liquids? How do you know what you need when and how do you solve it? Let's take a look, in a very simple way, at how these all work...

Under the hood of a 2015 Kia Forte. Can you tell where all fluid reservoirs are? Keep reading to find out.

More or less the only fluid that you may want to change yourself is your wiper fluid level. When you get in your car on a pollen-filled day or are driving down a briny winter road you know you have to use the wiper wash feature on your car to clean the windshield. That little mist of watery substance goes a long way to increase visibility. So - if you run low - you can buy more wiper fluid at most grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores. Just be careful which tank you put it in under the hood! Almost always, the wiper fluid reservoir has a little windshield and spray symbol on it and may even say 'wiper'. Be sure to look for that. Many vehicle fluids can come in a variety of colors.

Other than this we can identify other fluids by engine features. Coolant is used to keep a motor running at a good temperature and prevents overheating. It is generally added through an expansion tank that has a clear hose running to the radiator. The Radiator is always in the front of the motor bay, where cool air from driving forward rushes through and keeps the fluid cold. Be careful though! You should never open the expansion tank of a hot motor, nor the radiator cap! The hot liquid and steam can explode out. For this reason the expansion tank normally has an icon with an exclamation mark and steam errupting on it. Don't confuse this with the windshield and mist drawing of the wiper fluid. The coolant tank is often much bigger than the wiper fluid one, but generally the same light white color. The cap should also be much harder to open and use a screw top - windshield washer fluid should be a simple pop top.

Oil is an important part of any motor as well. It keeps the parts inside lubricated so friction doesn't wear them down. That's why frequent oil changes are essential! Oil can be added straight into the engine header and is mostly located in the middle of the engine compartment.

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Brake fluid stays in a place with a cool name: the Master Cylinder. This is another tank (often light white in color too) that is very close to where the peddles are on the interior of the car. By pressing the brake peddle, the fluid makes pressure that pushes the brakes and stops the wheels.

Last is power steering fluid. If you've ever tried to steer a car with the engine off you know it isn't easy. You really have to be strong to do it. That's why there's another small tank that has a liquid that makes pressure and allows you to steer very easily. This is generally a small reservoir with a little steering wheel illustration on it. 

In the end, whatever the fluid situation, come to Frank's Servicenter in beautiful Southampton, Bucks County for all your automotive service needs!

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