Fluid Exchanges, Part 1


Overview of your automotive fluid exchange

The fluids inside your vehicle’s engine are much like the ones in your body. They serve to lubricate, clean, and cool the engine. They keep it alive or, at least running smoothly.

After a while (and how long that “a while” is--is determined by vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations and the kind of driving being done), your car needs a fluid transfusion.

Exchanges of Vehicle Fluids

The vehicle fluids we will cover will be the automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and differential fluid. Each is unique in its chemistry as well as major function, and longevity or replacement intervals. None are interchangeable.

Engine oil and engine coolant (radiator fluid) are discussed in separate articles on this web site.

Why Do I Need to Replace Vehicle Fluids?

All under-hood vehicle fluids work very hard. Each fluid is a unique mixture of different base chemicals and additive packages. Over time the additives wear out, break down, or drop out of suspension. This happens because of engine heat, oxidation, and in part because dirt and wear particles (small bits of metal from the engine) all work from day one contaminating these fluids. Understand that one of the functions of these fluids is to carry the dirt and contaminants in suspension until eventually they are flushed out and disposed of properly.

What is the Difference between An Automotive Fluid Exchange and a Fluid Flush?

Up to 15 or twenty years ago, the only choice a motorist had was either to drain and refill his vehicle fluids in his driveway (there was little EPA enforcement or public understanding of safe and approved disposal of these poisonous chemicals back then), or go to his or her local repair facility and have the system (whether brake or power steering or radiator, etc.) “power flushed.” Both methods (the driveway drain-and-fill and the power flush) were inefficient because both left considerable amounts of the old fluid in the system. The fresh clean vehicle fluids were quickly contaminated by any old fluid that remained behind. Of course, either way was still far better than not changing the fluid at all.

As technology improved, engineers created equipment that connected at critical places in each system and used new fluid to force out almost every ounce of the old fluid and the dirt and contaminants it carried. That is how the name “automotive fluid exchange” originated. The efficiency of this new equipment in cleaning the system being serviced increased greatly.

Keep reading to find out specifics about automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and differential fluid!

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