How to check and top up fluids and engine oil in your car

Date Posted 8th February 2019
Read Time 4 min read

Your car is built to go the extra mile for you but the fact is that every car’s engine is a machine which needs some care. In today’s time-limited world, an often neglected area is the regular checking and replacing of fluids in your car – but the process itself is relatively easy and it’s, strangely, quite satisfying knowing that you have topped up all the fluids and your car’s engine is ready to roll and take whatever is thrown at it.

With as many as 90 per cent of cars in the UK being leased on contract hire, or bought on finance plans such as hire purchase or PCP plans, knowing the fundamentals of taking care of a car is as important now as it ever was as it ensures you have no issues along the way, especially when it comes time to either hand back, upgrade or part-exchange the car, depending on your agreement.

Topping up engine oil

Let’s start with the oil you need for your car. The oil check is especially important for cars that travel many miles every year.

Check your owner’s manual for the right specification of oil. Alternatively, there are handy sites such as Halfords where you can put in your registration number and it will advise the right oil for you. So you have the correct oil, here is how to use it.

It’s really important not to have too little or too much oil. You can check the oil by placing the car, with a cold engine, on a flat surface, locating the dipstick (which normally has a yellow or orange circular grip),pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a clean towel or kitchen towel. Put the dipstick back in and hold for a count of 3 then pull it out again. You will note the marks on the base of the dipstick indicating minimum and maximum level marks. If the oil is between the two reference point marks, you are good to go but if it is less than the minimum you will need to put in some of the correct oil.

To add oil, locate the oil cap, which is normally on the top of the engine. If you need to put in oil then carefully pour a small amount in – normally a few 100 millilitres at a time. Wait until the oil has settled in the reservoir and repeat the dipstick test till the oil registers in the middle of the two measurement marks and the job is complete!

Topping up other fluids

Oil isn’t all that requires a regular top-up. Your screenwash, coolant and brake fluid all require regular TLC from you.


While it won’t damage your car to run it without windscreen wash, running out of screen-wash when you need it is a pain. Most modern cars have a screen wash warning when the fluid is running low. Open the screen wash cap and add proper screen wash which you can buy pre-mixed or concentrated. If concentrated, follow the instructions to dilute to the correct mix and fill the screen wash tank right up to a few inches from the brim.


Some cars (especially those made by the Volkswagen Group) require specific engine coolant. Again, you can use Halfords or the like to find the one that’s right for your car. A word of caution here, antifreeze is poisonous and can also damage your paintwork so handle this with care. The coolant reservoir normally looks like a fairly transparent plastic ball with orange or purple coolant in it. If the coolant level is below the mark on the reservoir, simply open the coolant reservoir and fill carefully to the point the fluid is between the two marks.

Brake fluid

Brake fluid is normally replaced once every two years during an annual service on the car at your garage. If the brake fluid level is low, we recommend you get a professional to check out the system but if you must fill it, get the right fluid for your car by consulting the owner’s manual and be very careful when replacing the brake fluid not to get any contaminate or grit into the brake fluid reservoir when filling it as this could affect the braking system.

Just a few minutes to check on the fluids in your car and replace them when necessary can make all the difference to the ongoing ability of your car to perform and help you avoid costly repairs.

For those who drive a car on a lease or finance agreement, at Hippo Leasing or anywhere else, a well-maintained car is a car that retains its value best, making a part-exchange or car upgrade be in your favour.

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