Car Tip of the Week: When your brake lig

Car Tip of the Week: When your brake light is on, it often means that either the emergency brake is engaged or the brake fluid level is low. If your emergency brake isn’t on, check the fluid level next. If both these things are good, get it checked out at a shop.

Car Tip of the Week: Dash light basics:

Car Tip of the Week: Dash light basics: A red light means it’s not safe to drive – get it checked out right away. A yellow light means you can get it checked out at your soonest convenience.

Car Tip of the Week: Get a chip in your

Car Tip of the Week: Get a chip in your windshield filled as soon as you first notice it, so it doesn’t become a crack. Cracks are more expensive to fix, and can even result in a ticket.

Car Tip of the Week: Your emissions test

Car Tip of the Week: Your emissions test can be taken up to a year ahead of time. You don’t have to wait until you get the reminder from the state, and can get your test up to 365 days in advance. Stop by anytime (from 7AM-7PM) and we can test your vehicle!

Car Tip of the Week: Battery light on? C

Car Tip of the Week: Battery light on? Contrary to what logic would tell you, this light usually means that there’s an issue with the alternator. The light is a sign that the alternator isn’t working properly and will likely cause the battery to go dead. Stop by anytime and we’ll always test your alternator (and battery) for free.

Car Tip of the Week: How often should yo

Car Tip of the Week: How often should you replace your wiper blades? The official rule of thumb is every 6 months. The dry, hot summer months make the rubber blades cracked and brittle, and the cold, winter months can do the same. Best time of year to replace them? At the beginning of Fall and Spring.

Car Tip of the Week: Not sure how much o

Car Tip of the Week: Not sure how much oil to add to your engine? Add 1 whole quart when the level is at or below the “low” line. Then wipe of the dipstick and check it again. If it’s still below the “low” line, add another quart until it reads in between the “low” and “full” lines. As long as it’s within that range, you’re good to go!

How Do I Check the Fluids on My Car?

I always hear that I should check the fluids on my car.  What fluids are there to check, and where do I find them? 

While every car is just a little bit different, there are 6 main fluids you should regularly check on your vehicle:

  1. Engine Oil
    While this one seems obvious, it is often forgotten.  No matter how new your car is, it is always a good idea to check your oil level every few times you fill up.  The oil dipstick is usually located toward the front of the engine, and (most of the time) has a yellow handle.

    To check the level, pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, and reinsert it again to get an accurate reading.  Most dipsticks will have a “Low” and “High” line.  If it is in between those two lines it is within a safe operating zone.  Add 1 quart of oil if the level is below the “Low” line (there is often an oil cap on the top of the engine where you would add the oil).  Once you add a quart, always recheck the level on the dipstick to make sure it doesn’t need any more.

  2. Coolant
    Most cars have a coolant overflow bottle that is usually located close to the radiator, towards the front of the engine.  These are often designed with the same idea as the oil dipstick – there’s a “High” line and a “Low” line.  You want to make sure the level is in between those two lines.  If the level is slightly low, you can often add only water to top off the level.  If the level is significantly low, or the overflow bottle is completely empty, you may want to add a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water to make sure the coolant doesn’t get too diluted.

    Also keep in mind that if the overflow bottle is completely empty, you may need to open the radiator to see if the level is low in the radiator itself.  If you have never done this before, it is usually a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the fluid level since the radiator can build up quite a bit of pressure once the engine is warmed up (the last thing you want to do is take off the radiator cap and get hot antifreeze spray up at you!)

  3. Brake Fluid
    The brake fluid has a smaller container that is located towards the back of the engine, usually on the driver’s side.  This fluid is pretty simple to check.  Just like the coolant bottle, if the level is below the “Low” line, then you’ll want to add fluid to get it up to the proper level.  If you find that the fluid level is low, be sure to have your brake system checked at your next service.
  4. Washer Fluid
    This bottle can often be confused with the coolant overflow bottle, because they can often be the same size and/or shape.  Some of these bottles will actually have a dipstick attached to the cap that will show you how full the level is.  There is no need to worry about overfilling this fluid.  Simply top off the fluid with water, or add washer fluid concentrate to the mixture if the level is very low.
  5. Transmission Fluid
    If your car has a manual transmission, there isn’t an easy way to check the fluid under the hood.  It is usually needs to be checked from underneath the vehicle.  If, however, your vehicle has an automatic transmission, it is usually possible to check the fluid level.  Many vehicles will be equipped with a dipstick that is similar to the engine oil dipstick, except that it is usually located more towards the side or rear of the engine, and will often have a red handle instead of a yellow one.

    To check the level, first make sure the engine is running, and the car is in Park.  Pull out the dipstick, and clean it off (just like you do with the engine oil), reinsert it, and then pull it out again to get an accurate reading on the level.  There will be a “Low” and a “High” line.  Follow the same rule of thumb as engine oil when adding oil – only add more when it’s below the “Low” line.  The big difference here is that you will often need to add the fluid through the same tube that the dipstick is located.  So, if you ever need to add fluid, you’ll want to make sure you have a funnel handy

  6. Power Steering Fluid
    This fluid usually has a smaller reservoir (usually a black color) with a small cap on the top.  It is often located on the passenger side of the engine, but can vary a lot depending on the car.  This fluid is pretty simple to check – just unscrew the cap, pull it out of the reservoir, and you’ll see a little mini “dipstick” that will show you if the fluid level is low or not.  Just like with the other fluids, it will have a “Low” and a “High” line.  Some cars will even have a clear bottle that has the markings on the side, so you don’t even need to unscrew the cap.

Final Words
When adding fluid to your vehicle, always be careful to not overfill the fluid.  Fuller is not always better.  Always shoot to have your fluid level remain within the “Low” and “High” zones, and you’ll be on the right track.

Every car is a little different.  Some cars don’t even have some of these fluids, or don’t provide a means to easily check them .  If you ever need help learning where these items on your specific car, we’re always happy to show you where they’re located

Do 2 New Tires Go on the Front Or Rear?

I just got a quote from a tire shop for two new tires and they said that I should have my new tires put on the rear. My car is a front wheel drive – I always thought you’re supposed to put the new tires on the front. What’s the deal?

You are in the same boat with many people – traditional practice had always been to install new tires on the front if a car is a front wheel drive. While that had been the recommendation for many years, recent research in the tire industry suggests that this is not necessarily the safe practice that we all once thought it was.

I could try to explain it to you here, but these sites do a great job of thoroughly explaining the reasoning behind this recommendation.

Tire Rack has a great article on this question:

Michelin’s website has a good video that shows why this practice is recommended:

Have a question for Dan? Send it to

Dan Amundsen is a Master ASE Certified Technician, with over 40 years of automotive repair experience. He has been the owner of Juanita Firs 76 since 1978. He runs a true family business with his two children, three nieces, and many just-like-family employees that have been with the company for over 15 years.

How Often Do I Really Need to Change the Oil in My Car?

My owner’s manual says I only need to have the oil changed in my car every 7,500 miles. Your shop still recommends doing it every 3,000 miles. Why is that?

A Cheap Insurance Policy

Let’s first start by saying that, at Juanita Firs 76, we see an oil change as much more than just draining the oil, replacing the filter, filling it back up, and sending you out the door. We believe in taking care of our customers, and part of that is letting them know the full story on their car. That’s why, with every oil change, we always provide a full vehicle inspection free of charge.

With that in mind, we see an oil change as a great insurance policy – it’s like taking your car into the doctor for a checkup every 3 months. It’s a great way for you to keep tabs on where your car is at, and minimize expensive surprises down the road.

The automotive industry has done a great job at innovating new, longer-lasting oils, and there is no doubt that oils can hold up much longer than they used to. So, while your oil may hold up for 7,500 miles, just remember that a lot of other things can happen in 7,500 miles.

An Unfortunate Example…

We had a customer not too long ago that had a fairly new luxury car that was designed to have the oil changed every 7,500 miles. The car was towed into our shop because it had quit running. We had never worked on the car before, and when we evaluated it, we found that the engine oil was extremely low, and that the engine had seized (meaning that this customer would have to have the engine rebuilt – a very costly repair).

This car had only 80,000 miles on it. When we told the customer the situation, they were surprised that it could have run out of oil, because they had it changed religiously every 7,500 miles, just as the manufacturer recommended. Clearly, this car had an issue with either leaking or burning oil that the customer was unaware of. The cause of this issue may have been identified earlier if the customer had had their oil changed more frequently.

Have a question for Dan? Send it to

Dan Amundsen is a Master ASE Certified Technician, with over 40 years of automotive repair experience. He has been the owner of Juanita Firs 76 since 1978. He runs a true family business with his two children, three nieces, and many just-like-family employees that have been with the company for over 15 years.