Answers to Questions about Auto Fluids

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Q. Does anyone know where on my car I can find the Windshield Washer pump?

A. Follow the hoses that spray fluid on the windshield and that should take you right to it. A lot of washer pumps are mounted right on the reservoir, usually near the bottom.

Q. I have a power steering fluid leak that is bad. I have had a very small drip in the gearbox but now there is either a new one or this has gotten much worse. There is a mess everywhere. After I power wash the engine, what is the best way to find the leak?

A. I doubt you will be able to wash the underside of the engine without a car lift. Have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth while you lay under the van and look for the drip. Take a rag and flashlight with you. Look for drips at all connections.

Q. What symptoms would I notice if the oil filter is too clogged to let oil pass through easily or not pass through at all?

A. Very likely, you would never know the difference. Your engine will have a bypass valve that will open if the filter becomes obstructed, the theory being that dirty oil is better than no oil.

Q. I have windshield washer fluid in the reservoir. I don't have a fuse blown in the fuse panel and my wipers work. When I try to spritz some on the windows, only the wipers come on for a couple of sweeps. I looked in each of the four holes that squirt the liquid out on top of the hood and they appear to be clear. I am sure there is a pump to send the fluid from the bottle to the reservoir. How would I go about debugging this? Is this pump usually next to the reservoir?

A. The pump is usually mounted right to the reservoir, sometimes on the side and sometimes on the bottom. The easiest way to track it down is to trace the hoses back from the window nozzles. Have someone push the button for the washer while you listen under the hood. You should be able to clearly hear the pump running when the button is pushed. If not, either the pump is bad or there is no power to the pump; it's easy to check both possibilities once you locate the pump.

Q. Is crud build-up at the radiator neck a common problem with dex-cool? How serious is it? I've heard that it can damage your heater core and engine.

A. Crud build-up at the filler neck is normal for dex-cool. I believe it has to do with how it reacts to air since it also tends to be found around hose clamps. As far as I have seen it doesn't move throughout the system, so as long as the fluid itself looks good I wouldn't worry.

Q. I accidentally put about 6 oz of oil in the radiator. The system holds 17 quarts of water / coolant. Will that amount of oil hurt the system? Should I re-flush it?

A. Yes, flush it out. You don't want to take a chance on having it ruin the water pump seal. Some manufacturers sell a special compound at the dealer specifically for this task. DIY-ers use Shout, Tide detergent, or Dawn dishwashing liquid to do the same thing. Be careful to rinse properly and get all residue of the detergent from the system.

Q. Will water in my gas tank do anything to my car?

A. Depending on the amount of water in the gas, it can cause a lot of problems. It can cause rust in the fuel rail, clog injector inlet screens (rust again), cause misfires, which could lead to converter failure, and more.

Q. I accidentally added oil (10W30 4 cycle oil) to the transmission fluid because my son was driving me nuts and the oil bottle was in the same place the transmission fluid used to be. As soon as I realized what I did (noticed the color was different), I added just enough to get up to the level I needed and then put the car in park/emergency brake on and shut off the car. I was planning on flushing the transmission because it seems like I have to add fluid every month, so I was going to have it done anyway. I probably put in no more than an ounce or so but I can't be sure. Do I have anything to worry about? The place I will go for the transmission flush is about 2-3 miles away. Should I be concerned that something bad will happen as a result?

A. A little usually won't hurt. You probably have a good 12-16 quarts in there. A few ounces will just get diluted and lost amongst everything. As long as it is not power steering fluid or brake fluid, I would say you're OK.

Q. I have a 99 Chrysler Concorde. It recently went low on transmission fluid. I found out that the dipstick was not closed correctly. I warmed and filled, checked, repeated until it reached the area between the hot and warm dots. When the engine is COLD, not started, is the level supposed to be higher?

A. Overfilling an automatic transmission could be bad, but I would recommend that you check the level according to the manufacturer's directions. Depending on the transmission, it may require you to check with the car on, or off, or in neutral, etc. In general, when the car is dead cold, and on a perfectly level ground, if the level is between the upper and lower dot, you should be safe. Your best bet if you can't find the manual is to call up the dealer and double check.

Q. I recently added Prestone to my 2001 Malibu, which has Dexcool in it. I am scheduled to have the radiator flushed and chemically cleaned tomorrow and Dexcool replaced with Prestone. Does this sound like good advice? I have had the mixed green and red antifreeze in the car for about a month. Have I caused any damage to the car?

A. Prestone is good, but Dexcool is better and made for your car. I don't think any damage was done, but get it flushed A.S.A.P. Dexcool is the long life stuff, but I would not wait until the recommended 100,000 miles. If you do change over to green, just make sure to have a flush done every two years, or every year, depending on the mileage you put on it.

Think of the Dexcool as "sterile" coolant. Once you contaminate it with regular coolant, you have the equivalent of regular, non-sterile coolant. If you could flush it very thoroughly, you could get back to the "silicate free" or sterile coolant and its benefits. With Dexcool, you can probably change it about half as often as green coolant and still be ok. I think the mileage/time interval is marketing hype. All manufacturers are trying to advertise maintenance free vehicles to some degree. They don't exist, at least not yet.

I just bought a new Kia Amanti. The dealer recommends oil changes every 3,000 miles but the service book shows Kia only wanting it done every 7,500 miles. I know 3,000 is the old standby but the difference is big. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

A. Shops created the 3,000 miles suggestion more than it ever was based on manufacturers' requirements, which can vary greatly from model to model. The important thing is at least to change your oil as often as required by the manufacturer. Changing at 3,000 miles instead of 7,500 does not necessarily mean you will have longer engine life, but does usually keep internal engine deposits down to a minimum.

Q. How do I add transmission fluid to a 1992 Honda Accord?

A. You can get a long funnel and put it in the hole where the transmission dipstick goes. Make sure you use only Honda transmission fluid. No one else makes a compatible fluid. Check the level with the engine off.

Q. I have a serious problem. I have a Peugeot 306 XR. My friend has accidentally put water in its engine oil. After running for a mile, the engine has stopped and is over heating. I want to drain the engine oil and fill it with new oil. Will it help?

A. It depends on how much he put in. It could have caused damage from lack of lubrication to some or all of the bearings in the engine. Drain it and refill with fresh oil; it's the only way to find out. Don't be surprised if it still overheats, in addition to making bad noises from failing bearings. There's also a possibility that when you go to start it you'll find the engine seized.

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