Man checking the engine fluid in a car

How to check your car fluids: Brake Fluid, Engine Oil, Screenwash

Keep your fluids up. That’s what’s drummed into us humans so that we work properly and cars are no different. Brake fluid, Engine oil, and Screenwash is the car fluid holy trinity, and here’s the Dumfries MOT lowdown on how to check all three quickly and safely to keep your motor running and running.

Engine oil

After fuel, engine oil is the most important fluid of all because engine components spin thousands of times a minute and it’s the oil that lubricates it all.  Most cars have a dipstick that you can easily identify and once the engine has been off for at least ten minutes remove the dipstick and wipe clean with a cloth or rag, then reinsert and remove again for a clean, accurate read. Dipsticks are marked with maximum and minimum indicators that show how much oil is in your engine, and the oil that’s left on it should be near maximum level. If it’s at or below the minimum, you should add more right away but be careful not to overfill it. 

A consistently low reading might indicate your engine is leaking or burning oil which can cause damage if ignored so let us know if this is the case and we will check it out for you.

Brake fluid

Most cars have a brake fluid reservoir in the engine bay.  Clean the top of the reservoir carefully because even a small amount of dirt falling into the fluid can cause your brakes to lose effectiveness and ultimately fail.

Open the top of your brake fluid reservoir to ensure that the brake fluid level is within half an inch or so of the cap but don’t leave it open for too long because moist air is bad for it and can cause rust corrosion. If the level isn’t high enough, add the proper brake fluid for your vehicle. 

If the brake fluid reservoir is empty when you check it or if it’s dark in colour, you should give us a call immediately. Any other problems with the brakes must also be addressed right away just if there’s a leak or the brake pads are worn. Leaks can cause the pedal to feel spongy.

Consult your owner’s manual before checking your brake fluid if your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS).


Smudged, cloudy windscreens are dangerous  – and don’t get us started on sun glare on top of all this. That’s why making sure your screenwash reservoir is topped up is the way to go for safe, carefree motoring. It’s easy to locate once you pop the bonnet by looking out for a little windscreen/wiper image. 

You can pick up decent screenwash fluid that contains de-icer pretty cheaply in most supermarkets or car parts retailers, or you could make one at home using white wine vinegar, for example. While this is said to be more environmentally friendly because it’s less chemically and all the rest of it when it’s hot weather you might not appreciate the pong.