How to Drive Stick

Manual transmission vehicles are more efficient, cheaper to produce, and put the driver in full control, and best of all are way more fun to drive. Yet, a large number of men now have know idea how. I’m going to teach you how to in theory, but you’re going to need to practice too. 

Disclaimer: I’m operating on the assumption that you’ll be driving a typical North American car. You may find slight differences in other countries. 

Getting In

When you first get into a manual transmission vehicle you’ll notice two major differences; the shifter and the pedals. A stick shift has a third pedal to the left of the other two which controls the clutch. The clutch is a mechanism positioned between the engine and transmission that allows the energy flow through the powertrain, and functionally puts the car in neutral. The shifter is typically a metal stick protruding from the floor or centre console with a ball on the end. The shift pattern, the pattern of movement needed to select gears, is usually printed or engraved on the top of the shifter. 

Typical 5-speed shift pattern.


To start the car, you’ll need to depress the clutch pedal before you turn the key. That’s a safety feature so the car won’t accidentally lurch forward. It’s a good idea to check that the car’s in neutral, especially if you’re not the only driver. If it moves to both sides easily, it’s in neutral. You’ll also want to check the tachometer, which shows engine speed, if you’ve never drive that specific car before. Whatever it reads now is the lowest you ever want it to until you’re parked again, probably 500 to 1000 rpm.

Tachometer

Getting Moving

Before you start driving you’ll probably need to release the parking brake. Most auto drivers know how to work a parking brake but don’t use, so tend to forget about them. Getting moving from a dead stop requires careful pedal control and excellent situational awareness. Start by depressing the clutch and putting the shifter into first, then comes the hard part. You’ll need to gradually release the clutch and gently press the gas  at the same time. If you can’t keep the engine speed at or above an idle, release the gas and depress the clutch then try again. When you feel the clutch “catch,” release the clutch entirely. Until the clutch catches it’ll feel a little like you’re trying to drive through molasses.

Shifting

You can’t keep your car in first forever at several points you’ll need to shift. Again, pedal control is key. You’ll need to move though the following steps as quickly as you can:

  1. Release the gas
  2. Depress the clutch 
  3. Move the shifter into the desired gear
  4. Release the clutch 
  5. Hit the gas

How hard you hit the gas depends on the situation. If you’re shifting into a higher gear you probably want to hit the gas fairly hard, but if you’re shifting down you’ll need a lighter touch. There’s also a technique called “engine braking” but that should wait until you have some more practice. 

Unfortunately, I can’t give you much help with when to shift, every car is different. A lower gear will give better acceleration and torque, but a higher gear will give better fuel economy and speed.

Stopping & Parking

The brakes do the same job regardless of what kind of transmission you have but, once you reach the point of stopping, stick shifts are a little different. You need to either depress the clutch or shift into neutral before you try to stop, or your engine will stall. If you depress the clutch by the time you get down to about 10 km/h, you should be fine. Personally, I usually shift into neutral anytime I’m slowing to stop or expect to need a lower gear when I hit the gas again. 

The only thing you need to remember when parking a stick is that there’s no park gear. You’ll need to leave it in gear, fully engage the parking brake, or both.

A Couple Final Points

There are some things you’ll need to know that aren’t really instructions. First, you will stall, there’s no way around it. Just restart the engine and keep trying. Second, if it doesn’t want to go into gear, just release the clutch and put it back in, that’s called “double clutching” and it should help. 

Finally, if you hear a grinding or squealing when you try to shift, for the love of all that’s good and holy, stop trying. You’re doing irreparable damage to the transmission, which can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Just leave the shifter in neutral, double clutch, and try again.

How to Change Your Own Oil


Changing your oil is a crucial part of your vehicle maintenance regimen. It’s easy and low risk, so getting a professional to do it just costs more. 

Tools

There are some tools you’ll need to change your oil that you likely don’t already have. They’re all pretty easy to find online or at your local auto parts store. 

Filter Wrench – Your oil filter is fitted pretty tightly so you’ll need a wrench to remove it. If your filter uses a disposable housing you can use a wrench that looks like a set of pliers with giant jaws or one that has a loop on a stick. If it doesn’t have disposable housing you’ll likely need to use a special socket. Your filter housing is most likely a beer can sized cylinder. If it’s painted it’s probably disposable. 

Oil Catch Pan – An oil catch pan is exactly what it sounds like, a pan to catch the oil as it drains. They’ll typically have a spout and many have lids so you can store and transport used oil without spilling. 

Funnel – You don’t strictly need a funnel but it does reduce spillage and using a dedicated oil funnel reduces the risk of cross contamination.  

Supplies

To get the supplies to change your oil you’ll need to know a few things about your car. First, you’ll need to know the year, make, model, and engine size, then you should know everything you need to find everything else.

Oil is the simple one. Your owner’s manual should have a “capacities and specifications” section. In there you should find your engine’s oil capacity and the recommended oil type. The capacity will likely be listed twice, once with a filter and once without, you want the amount with a filter. Many manufacturers recommend a specific brand and synthetic oil. Brand is irrelevant unless it’ll void your warranty to use anything else. I’ve heard mixed reviews about synthetic oil, some say it improves performance and others it just costs more. If you want to experiment or ask your mechanic for his opinion then go for it, but i wouldn’t bother. 

Next, you pay a visit to your local auto parts store. Get the amount and type of oil you manual specifies then find the filter section. There should be a computer or book to look up what filter you need, or you can ask the staff. You’ll be given a model number which will also be printed on the box. You may be presented with several brands and some will be a better value than others. FRAM is a pretty safe bet and available in most stores. 

Now Get to Work

For your own safety, you’ll want to work on a cold engine so park your car with enough clearance under the engine to work and leave it for an hour or two. 

The first step is to drain the used oil. Under the engine you’ll find the oil pan. It looks like someone bolted a metal box onto the bottom of your engine. Position you catch pan under what appears to be a pointless bolt in the oil pan, your oil drain plug, then remove the drain plug and hurry up and wait, just make sure you don’t lose the plug. Now, use your filter wrench to remove your oil filter. 

If you have non-disposable filter housing, you’ll also need to remove the old gasket, which is probably a black rubber ring around the housing’s threads. You’ll then install the new filter and gasket into the housing just like the old ones were installed. Now just smear some oil on the gasket to moisten it, used oil is fine, and screw it back into place. 

My Oil Filler Cap

 
Now it’s time to fill in the new oil. Make sure the drain plug is in nice and tight and start pouring the oil in through the filler neck. When you’re within a litre of capacity, check the level and top it off. 

You’re done, it’s just that easy. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the oil sooner than usual, just to catch any problems but you should be good until next time. Used motor oil is quite toxic and can cause serious problems if it gets into the water table so you’ll want to dispose of it properly. If there’s an oil recycling plant in your area they may even pay you for it, otherwise your mechanic or local auto parts store should be able to help you. 

Now you can help others save money on car maintenance too, especially if there’s a lovely lady who already thinks the world of you. 

Understanding Your Car’s Systems: The Fuel System

Vintage car at a country service station.
When I wrote about the powertrain I left a pretty big question unanswered. How does the fuel get into an internal combustion engine?  The answer is one of the most sequential automotive systems; the fuel system. 

The fuel system starts with the filler neck. In its simplest form is a pipe that runs from outside the vehicle, downward, into the top of the fuel tank. Typically it’s closed off at the top by a door attached to the car’s body, a screw-on cap, and a valve that opens by inserting a filler nozzle. It’s also common for the door or cap to lock in order to prevent theft by siphoning, a technique I intend to right about in the future. On my car the fuel door is locked as part of the power door locks. 

The fuel tank is the simplest part of all. It’s just a tank, made of steel or some other material that the fuel won’t corrode, that fills from the top and drains from the bottom. 

Gravity feeds the fuel into the fuel pump, which pressurises the fuel enough for it to reach the engine. Now, this is where things vary. 

Older cars used a device called a carburetor. Fluid dynamics means that by having fast moving air flow directly over the surface of a pool of fuel causes them to mix creating a viable fuel/air mixture. That fuel/air mixture is then sucked into the cylinder. Usually there’s an intake manifold after the carburetor to split the flow to all the cylinders, but multiple carburetors are far from unheard of. If you’re interested in the physics behind the carburetor, look up Bernoulli’s principle.

Most newer cars use a computer controlled system called fuel injection. In this system the fuel is fed into the airflow through atomising nozzles, which create a fine enough mist to produce the needed fuel/air mixture. 

All of these components are interconnected with the fuel lines, a system of corrosion resistant pipes and hoses. A fuel filter is also commonly included somewhere before the carburetor or fuel injectors to remove contaminants from the fuel supply.

If you’re wondering how gas and diesel fuel systems are different, they’re not. Both fuels are thin liquid at even frigid temperatures so their fuel systems work on exactly the same principles. 

Understanding Your Car’s Systems: The Powertrain

 Vintage car with hood open, showing engine
The powertrain is responsible for converted a vehicle’s energy input, usually stored as fuel or a charge in a battery, into motion. Obviously, it’s the most important system in your car, since motion is the entire point.

Power Source

The power source is where the energy to turn the wheels comes from. There are three power sources in common use in consumer automobiles; internal combustion, electric, and hybrid. 

Internal Combustion (IC)

Internal combustion engines use the expansive force from burning fuel in a confined space to turn a shaft that feeds into the drivetrain. By far the most common IC engine in road vehicles is the four stroke reciprocating engine. 

As the name implies, a four stroke reciprocating engine work through a cycle of four linear movements. First, the piston moves down as the intake valve opens and the fuel/air mixture is drawn. Most modern cars create the fuel/air mixture by spraying a fine mist of fuel into the air flow immediately before the intake, a process called fuel injection. Next, the intake is closed and before the piston moves up. The fuel/air mixture is ignited and the expansive force moves the piston, and thus the crank shaft and the other piston. Finally, the exhaust valve opens and the piston moves up, forcing the exhaust gases out and starting the cycle again. The piston movements are typically called the intake, compression, power, and exhaust strokes, respectively. 

Typically, one end of the crankshaft is connected to a pulley that’s used to power various components, and the other feeds into the transmission

Electric

Electric cars store energy in a battery, which is used to power electric drive motors and all the other electrical systems. The batteries are charged from standard household power. 

Hybrid

Hybrids are a mix of electric and internal combustion. They run as electric but the power comes from a generator attached to an internal combustion engine. Some, called “plug-in hybrids,” can also charge from an outlet. 

Comparison

Hybrids win out on range. Usually IC vehicles beat out electric, but that’s not necessarily the case. 

Hybrid and IC are evenly matched for fuelling speed, both needing only a few minutes at most. Electric on the other hand, needs several hours, meaning it’s range is really per day rather than between recharges. 

IC leaves both hybrid and electric in the dust in terms of service life. Hybrid and electric vehicles typically become uneconomical to maintain within five to ten years, when the battery needs to be replaced. IC on the other hand, can be economically maintained indefinitely, assuming the owner is able to do most of the work himself. 

IC also has that powerful roar and manual and e-shift transmissions. All in all, hybrids are okay, IC is great, and electric is absolute garbage. 

Drivetrain

The drivetrain is the subsystem that converts the power into movement. Electric and hybrid vehicles use electric motors to turn the drive wheels, but IC drivetrains are more complicated. 

Transmission

The transmission, or more accurately transaxle in front wheel drive vehicles, is the first and most complex component in the drivetrain. It houses a complex series of gears that reduce that reduce the rotational speed from the high speed of the crankshaft to the approximate speed of the wheels. The gears can be rearranged on the fly by the driver or onboard computer into several predetermined arrangements to make the most efficient use of power and reverse direction. On front wheel drive vehicles, the transaxle is a part of the drive axle assembly ;and all others feed into the driveshaft that connects to the differential. 

Differential

The differential is the complicated part of the drive axle assembly. Its purpose is to split power between the drive wheels on both sides, and possibly additional drive axles. The cool thing is that it actually sends more power to the side that’s spinning more freely so you can turn more easily and without dragging either wheel. In front wheel drive vehicles, the differential is incorporated into the transaxle.

Drive Axle & Wheels

The drive axle assembly ends with the wheels, which I assume you understand. The wheels are mounted to the frame with a system of springs and shock absorbers, collectively called suspension. One or two u-joints, which can bend in any direction, are included in each drive axle to allow the wheels to move vertically while the rest of the drivetrain stays in place. 

Drive Wheels

The drive wheels are the wheels that actually propel the vehicle, rather than just hold it off the ground. The only strict rule is that they must be symmetrical around the centreline, but there a four common arrangement on two axle vehicles; front wheel drive, rear wheel, drive, four wheel drive, and all wheel drive. Front wheel drive and rear wheel drive have only two wheels. Four wheel drive and all wheel drive use all four, but not in the same way. 

Four wheel drive vehicles operate as rear wheel drive most of the time but have a second drive axle assembly the driver can engage at will. All wheel drive vehicles redistribute power between all four wheels in real-time to maintain traction, without excessively sacrificing fuel economy. 

Front wheel drive is typically used on cars and vans because they’re fuel efficient and get good traction under most conditions. Rear wheel drive is reserved for trucks because they only get good traction with a load or under near perfect conditions. Four wheel drive gets traction somewhere between what front and rear wheel drive can when on the road but can maintain traction off road, so it’s used on trucks and off road SUVs. All wheel drive is used on everything but trucks because it gets good traction on virtually all road surfaces but still get decent fuel economy. 

Traction Control Systems

Some cars now have automated traction control systems. They maintain maximum traction by overriding the differential and throttle and braking inputs. They can suck power in good conditions but they also make ice like dry pavement. 


Now that you understand your powertrain, watch out for more articles like this. 

The Roadside Emergency Skills Every Man Needs

Illustration of a man working on a car while a woman waits.
As the term implies, roadside emergencies can easily become a matter of life and death. Fortunately, if you know how to handle them you can keep yourself safe or even rescue a damsel in distress. 

Flat Tire

Quite possibly the most likely roadside emergency, flat tires are also one of the easiest to handle. Somewhere in the car you should have a spare tire and tire change kit. The spare tire is most likely suspended under the frame or in a false floor in the trunk. Hopefully, the tire change kit will be in one of those two places as well. In my car, the spare tire is under the frame and the tire change kit is in a false floor. At minimum, the tire change kit includes a wrench and jack, but it’ll also include any other needed tools. 

Most cars have four of five nuts, each approximately one inch across, holding each wheel on. You’ll have to start by loosonening the nuts slightly. If you can’t see the nuts, then there’s a cover that you need to pry off. Next, you need to jack the car up. Most cars have four jack points on the frame, two behind the front wheels and two in front of the rear wheels, where the included jack should fit perfectly. Most tire change kits come with a scissor jack, they’re slow but compact. It’s high enough when the wheel is clear of the ground. Take the nuts and wheel off then run through the whole process in reverse to put the spare on. There’s a good chance that there’s a maximum speed marked on your spare, so it’s not recommended that you go any faster than that. Once you’re back on the road, go to a tire shop as soon as you possibly can, one flat usually means four well worn tires. 

Overheating Engine

If you find your engine is overheating, stop as soon as you possibly can. Turn off the engine and open the hood. While you’re waiting for the engine to cool down, which can take a long time, check your coolant level. If it’s low, filling it should get you back on the road but make sure you drive straight to somewhere it can be repaired or left safely overnight. If you can’t just refill your coolant to get back on the road, you’ll need to call a tow truck. 

Dead Battery

One of the most likely causes for a car being unable to start is a dead battery. Chances are you’ll need help with this one, in the form of a second vehicle. You should always carry booster cables in your car. 

First, position the noses of both cars close together, assuming they’re both front engine, but leave enough room to stand between them. You’ll need to find the batteries on both cars, usually exposed or covered in the front corner of the engine compartment. Attach the positive cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery, then the good one. Next, attach the negative cable to the negative terminal on the good battery, then a fixed, bare metal engine component on the other car. Turn off all the electrical equipment you can and try to start the car. If it still doesn’t start, you may have a more serious problem, the same applies if you have to boost your car frequently. Once the car’s running, take off the booster cables in the opposite order. Try to keep the car running for as long as you practically can, it’ll take some time for the battery to charge enough to start the engine next time. 

Stuck Car

A stuck car is one of the more complicated problems to address.  You can pull it out if you have a powerful vehicle and can find a good place to attach the tow rope to both. You may be able to dig the car out but traction may still be an issue. The best way to aid traction is to dump some sort of coarse granular material, like sand or gravel, in front of the drive wheels. If the vehicle is equipped with a traction control system, you need to turn it off to get out. 

More Serious Problems

If something more serious comes up, you’re screwed. The only option is to call a tow truck, so make sure you have at least one tow truck company’s number in your phone. If you don’t have a usable phone you’ll have to flag someone down, if that’s not an option you’ll need to fall back on your survival skills

Things Every Man Should Know About His Car and Where To Find Them

Vintage automobile in a garage.
Part of owning a car is taking care of it, and there are certain things you need to know to do that. You don’t need to memorise all of them, as long as you know what they are and have them easily at hand to refer to, like in your phone. I’ll be using my own car as an example in some cases.

Year, Make, Model, and Trim

These are the basic descriptors of your vehicle. They describe the approximate manufacturing year, the manufacturer, the type of vehicle, and the options, respectively. This should all be printed on your registration and bill of sale. As well, everything but the year is printed somewhere on the body of your car, most commonly the rear end.

My car is a 2004 Mini Cooper. A 2004 Mini was manufactured by BMW in late 2003 or 2004, using the “Mini” name. “Cooper” is the model, but that’s the only Mini model. If I didn’t have the base model it would have something like”S” or “Clubman” at the end of the name. 

Engine Displacement 

The engine displacement is the amount of space within the cylinders. It’s directly related to horsepower and inversely related to fuel efficiency. This is one of the more difficult things to know about your car, there’s a good chance you have no document with it. You can probably deduce it from the owners manual or a repair manual but the best way is to ask when you buy it or ask the dealer for help figuring it out. If you’re buying a new car it’s one of the things that you’ll liked have to choose. It can be stated using any volume units, but litres, cubic centimetres, and cubic inches are the most common. On my car, the displacement is 1.6L. 

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Your vehicle identification number or VIN is a unique number that follows your car for its entire lifespan. It should be printed on your registration and bill of sale, as well as the base of the driver’s side windshield, facing out. 

Tire Size

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, it’s the size of your tires. It’s a seemingly random string of characters printed on the side of the tires. The last two digits are your rim size in inches, in my case 15 inch.

My tire size; 175/65 R 15

Engine Oil Viscosity & Capacity

This one’s pretty self-explanatory too. Both of these can be found in your owner’s manual, and sometimes under the hood, probably printed on the oil filler cap. Oil viscosity is another case of a seemingly random string of numbers. My car uses 5W-30 oil, all oil viscosities use that same format. 

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating & Towing Capacity

Gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR is the maximum combined weight of your vehicle and its load, including a trailer, that’s safe on public roads, so you only need to know it if plan on hauling large loads or towing trailers. Towing capacity is the maximum weight of trailer your vehicle can handle. Related to towing capacity is maximum hitch weight, which is the most weight that can safely rest on the vehicle’s hitch. All of these should be in your owner’s manual, if not you’ll probably have to go to the dealer to get their help, they should have some record of it somewhere. My car is ill-suited to carrying large loads and probably can’t even have a hitch installed, so I don’t know any of these capacities. 

Edit: I forgot one place you may find GVWR; a sticker on the door frame. Mine says the GVWR is 1515kg. 

Transmission

This one seems easy, but it’s not as easy as you think. Unless you have a hybrid, you may have a manual, automatic, or continuously variable transmission. The most distinctive characteristic of a manual transmission, at least that you can see in the cab, is the third pedal which operates the clutch. The only reliable ways to determine if you have an automatic or continuously variable transmission are to consult the dealer spec sheet (if you have it) or your owner’s manual (if only one was offered), or ask the dealer or a mechanic who has worked on your car. 

Licence Plate Number & Jurisdiction

These ones you probably already know, but in case you don’t, the licence plate is semi-permanently attached to the front and/or back of the car. The plate number is a mostly random string of numbers and/or letters, unless you have personalised plates. The jurisdiction is most likely printed on the plates as well, but may also be a decal on the back of your vehicle and is either a place name or common abbreviation, usually where you live. 

Fuel

I’ll finish with the easiest one of all, what kind of fuel your car uses. You should have found this one out when you bought the car, and if you didn’t you probably destroyed your car by now anyway. Gasoline and diesel are the only fuels in common use but ethanol and biodiesel are gaining ground. 

Your Car’s Weekly Maintenance 

The view under my hood.


There are a few things you should do frequently to keep your car in peek working order. The simplest schedule is to do them once a week and before leaving on any longer trips, but they should always be done with a cold engine. Here’s how to do them.  All the pictures are of my own 2004 Mini Cooper and I’ll be assuming you have your owner’s manual on hand. 

Oil

Frequently checking you oil ensures the engine properly lubricated to avoid excessive wear.

What you’ll need:

  • Rag or paper towel
  • Engine oil (see your owners manual for the recommended viscosity)
  • Funnel (optional)

Somewhere under the hood, typically beside the engine block, you should see the dipstick handle. It should be yellow, labelled “engine oil,” or both. Pull it out, wipe it off, and put it back. Then pull it out again and examine the bottom end in good light. You’re looking for two things; the colour of the oil and the amount of the dipstick it covers.

Engine Oil Dipstick

Clean engine oil is usually a golden colour and fairly transparent, as the oil gets dirty it gets darker and more opaque. If your oil is dirty it needs to be changed. If it gets to be the black most people think of, change it immediately. 

My oil is a bit dirty, but the level is good.


The oil level is indicated by how much of the dipstick it covers. Most dipsticks have a clear “minimum” or “add” line, if the oil is below this you need to add more. Also common is a distinctive pattern on the end of the dipstick, if the oil is only in this portion you need to add more. The last common dipstick markings are small holes or indentations, if these are empty you need to, you guessed it, add more oil. 

Oil Filler Cap

To add oil you’ll need to find your filler neck. It’ll most likely have an oil can symbol on it and often what kind of oil your car needs, and is usually a round cap on top of the engine block. When you open it and look inside you’ll probably see what looks like moving parts. Pour the oil into the filler neck. If you use a funnel you can drastically reduce spillage. Check the oil again and repeat as necessary.

When you’ve topped up your oil push the dipstick in as far as you can and make sure the filler cap is closed up tight. If you need to add oil frequently you may have a problem. Put a clean piece of cardboard under your engine for several hours. If you pull it out and see a puddle, you have a leak, get it fixed. If you don’t you may still have a leak. If you smell burning or see thick blueish exhaust, it’s probably leaking into the cylinder, get it fixed immediately. 

Tires

You’re looking at two things on your tires; tread wear and air pressure. 

What you’ll need:

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Air compressor (recommended)

The first step in checking your tire pressure is a simple visual inspection. If the bottom of the tire looks squished, the pressure is probably low. Next you need to determine the desired pressure. The maximum pressure should be printed somewhere on the tire and your owner’s manual may have a pressure chart. Never overinflate your tires, and only go more than a few psi below the maximum on the vehicle or tire manufacturers’ recommendation. Thirty to thirty-five psi is usually good for most passenger cars.

Next you check the pressure using a pressure gauge. Start by zeroing the gauge either either by pushing the reset button or sliding the graduated stick into body. If you can’t find one of those things, you don’t have it; if you can’t find either, you probably have a piece of junk that’ll be almost impossible to use. Their should be an opening that fits tightly on the valve stem, stick it on. Once it stops hissing and the gauge reacts, you have it on right. If the gauge reads above your desired pressure you need to let air out, if it reads below you need to put air in. To let air out you press the small stud on your pressure gauge into the centre of the valve stem. To add air use an air compressor with a tire attachment, which looks a lot like the end of a pressure gauge. If you don’t have an air compressor you can use the air hose at your local gas station instead. Place the compressor’s tire attachment on the valve stem just like you did with the pressure gauge and wait, you should hear a reverberation sound coming from the tire. Repeat as necessary. 

Pressure gauge reading ~30psi

For tread wear you’re looking for two things again; remaining tread depth and even wear. All this requires is a visual inspection. If the treads are wearing unevenly, you need a wheel alignment, find a mechanic. If the tread looks shallow,  or worse has disappeared entirely, you need to replace your tires. There’s also a chance you’ll notice cracks in the tires, which also mean they need to be replaced. 

Coolant

What you’ll need:

  • Coolant mixture (antifreeze and/or distilled water)
  • Funnel (optional)

The coolant in a car is typically a mixture antifreeze and distilled water. The proper ratio depends on the temperature, your owner’s manual should have a chart for that too. If you don’t have enough of it or it doesn’t flow properly excessive heat will damage engine components and the cabin heater won’t function properly, as weird as that sounds.

Coolant Expansion Tank

You’ll need to find the coolant expansion tank/reservoir. It’s usually a translucent tank near the firewall. If you look at the side of it you should see one or two lines, with labels similar to “min/max” or “fill cold.” The coolant level should be at or above the “cold fill” or “minimum” line. If it isn’t, add more until it is. Just like with the oil, if you’re adding coolant frequently, you probably have a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed. 

Brake, Clutch, and Power Steering Fluid

These are necessary for the hydraulic systems in your car. If the fluid levels get too low they won’t function properly, making your car more difficult or even dangerous to drive. 

Brake Fluid Reservoir

Power Steering Reservoir

 

There should be two or three reservoirs near the firewall. They may be translucent, like the coolant reservoir, or have a dipstick in the lid, like the oil. In either case the fluid level needs to be above the line, or some other obvious mark. If it’s not, just add more until it is. 

Washer Fluid

Washer Fluid Cap

I’ve saved the easiest for last. All you need to do is find a cap with the same symbol as your windshield washer control in the cab and fill it to the top. If your car has headlight washers, they may have a separate reservoir that needs to be filled. The only thing to be careful about is to make sure you use washer fluid that can handle all the temperatures your car is likely to experience.