Next to your engine, your vehicle’s transmission is the most important component to maintain. When it comes to the engine, basic maintenance consists of ensuring your vehicle receives oil changes every 3,000 miles or so. And while oil is the key cog that helps an engine run smoothly, transmission fluid is the lifeblood ingredient of a transmission.

Noting this, you want the fluid to be clear and pinkish in color for an efficiently operating transmission. If the fluid is dirty, burnt, or contaminated, you’ll likely need to take the vehicle in to have it drained and refilled, or flushed. Just like how oil becomes contaminated over time, so too does transmission fluid – it’s a fact of vehicle ownership. So how do you check the transmission fluid to determine its status? Follow these steps:


  1. On most vehicles with automatic transmissions, all you need to do is pop the hood of the vehicle and look for the appropriate dipstick. The dipstick should be emanating from the transmission itself. On most rear-drive vehicles, it’s located near the back, closer to the windshield, behind the oil dipstick. In front-drive vehicles, it’s typically positioned near the front of the car. (If you drive a manual, the only way to check it is on a hoist, as there’s a plug underneath the transmission that needs to be accessed. Unless you have a hoist in your garage, checking the fluid on an automatic transmission is likely best done at a service center.)
  2. Once you find the dipstick, pull it out. On a side note, you should always check your transmission when the vehicle is on and the engine is warm.
  3. Once the dipstick is out, swipe your finger against it. Next, rub it between another finger and assess the fluid. Like we mentioned in the opening, good transmission fluid is pinkish in color and somewhat transparent. If it smells burnt or has debris in it, take note.
  4. Wipe the dipstick off and reinsert it, then pull it out again. Look to see if the fluid reaches the “Full” line. If it doesn’t, but the fluid is in otherwise good condition, pour more fluid into the tube so that it does. Be careful not to overfill.
  5. If the fluid is dirty and smells burnt, then it’s time to get your transmission flushed, or drained and refilled. Though these services typically cost a few hundred dollars, they consist of removing the soiled fluid from your transmission and replacing it with clean fluid.


You can get a general idea about how often you should change the transmission fluid by consulting your vehicle’s operator manual. However, some tell-tale signs to watch out for that may indicate poor-quality transmission fluid include hesitation when the vehicle is changing gears, issues staying in gear, and signs of gear slippage.

Generally, transmission fluid should be serviced about every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, though there may be some exceptions to this rule. For instance, those who drive in stop-and-go city environments and regularly haul heavy loads put more wear and tear on the transmission and thereby require more frequent fluid changes.

Like we said in the opening, the transmission is the second-most important component in your vehicle, so you want to ensure that it gets the proper care and maintenance. Failure to address issues with the transmission fluid could result in premature transmission failure, and new transmissions can cost several thousand dollars. The good news is that it’s very easy to check the quality of your vehicle’s transmission fluid and fluid levels, and then take the necessary next steps from there. You just need to know where to look under the hood.


There’s no question that a vehicle’s engine is the key cog that drives it. A healthy engine runs clean, performs well and ensures a vehicle achieves the best possible fuel economy. An unhealthy engine, on the other hand, is the opposite.

Engines need a few key components to run well. They need spark plugs, which help fire it. They need fuel. And finally, engines need air, which helps it burn the fuel. That’s where your air filter plays such a crucial role- it’s the key component that stands between the air entering your engine and all the air on the outside of it.


Like we said in the opening, air filters serve as the interceptor between the air outside of the vehicle and the air that enters the engine. Good air filters block up to 98 percent of dust, pollen, contaminants, and debris from the outside to help keep the engine running clean and efficiently. These contaminants are then trapped in the air filter, which prevents it from getting to the engine. However, when the air filter has become too soiled, then its effectiveness can start to slip, thereby letting more contaminants into the engine itself or not enough air altogether. It’s why it’s important to change the air filter regularly. In fact, most manufacturers recommend changing it at least once every 12,000 miles or once a year – whatever comes first.

An effective air filter is key to a healthy engine. The good news is that replacement air filters are inexpensive to purchase and easy to install. While you can check the condition of the air filter by simply popping the hood of the vehicle’s engine and inspecting it visually, there are a few other signs that you should be watching out for to determine whether it needs to be changed.


Though most automakers recommend changing the air filter every 12,000 miles regardless of its condition, certain driving conditions may require it to be changed more often. That’s one thing to be cognizant of when it comes to your vehicle’s engine health. For example, if you regularly drive through construction zones, on dirt roads, or in other environments where air contamination is high, then you’re likely going to need to change your air filter more often than just once every 12,000 miles. Here’s a look at some other signs of a bad air filter:

  • Poor fuel economy: If the engine isn’t getting adequate air, it will consume more fuel to compensate for it to still be able to produce the same amount of power. Hence, if you notice that you’re filling up your tank more often than you used to, pay closer attention to your mileage. Though this issue is more common in cars that were produced before 1980, it’s still something that any driver should watch out for. When fuel economy takes a hit, something with the engine isn’t operating effectively.
  • Rough running engine: Does it seem like your engine is starting up roughly? Is it misfiring? Does it just feel off? The air filter could be the culprit. That’s because soot can accumulate on the engine components, like the spark plugs, that help it tick when the fuel and air mixture is off. When this happens, it leads to a rough running engine.
  • Your check engine light comes on: Nobody ever wants to see the check engine light come on in their vehicle, but when it does, the culprit can be something as simple as the air filter. That’s because a heavily soiled air filter can lead to poor air supply entering the engine. And poor air supply can increase the amount of carbon deposits that are building up inside of it. If this accumulation becomes too great, it could set off the check engine light.
  • Odd engine sounds: If you start to notice your vehicle vibrating intensely or “coughing” after the engine turns on, know that this is not normal. If you pop the hood and give the vehicle a once-over, look at the condition of the air filter. If it’s soiled, you’ve very likely just found the source of the issue.


The good news is that air filters are inexpensive and it’s super easy to change them. So, if you’ve hit 12,000 miles (or a year – whatever comes first) or see that your filter is heavily soiled, know that this is an easy DIY task. First, check your owner’s guide and see what type of replacement air filter you need. Once you have it, pop open the hood of your vehicle. Next, follow these steps:

  1. Find the air filter box: Just find the engine and the air filter box should be right next to it. If it’s not to the side, it’s likely on top of it.
  2. Open the air filter box and take out the soiled air filter. You should know immediately if it’s past its prime just based on its level of contamination.
  3. Replace the old air filter with the new air filter, secure the air filter box and place the box back into place. Discard the old air filter.

That’s all there is to it. It’s pretty simple stuff. It only takes a minute or two to complete and can save a half hour or so of labor at the auto repair shop. Plus, you can purchase air filters online or at any auto store at an affordable price.


When it comes to buying a new air filter, look for the brands that have built a good reputation in the industry. Some of the best air filter makers include:

  • K&N: A long-tenured brand, K&N has been making air filters since the 1960s.
  • Fram: Fram arguably produces the largest range of air filters in the auto industry. While they may not be as high of quality as other air filters, they’re affordable and more than adequate.
  • Mann: Mann is perhaps the company with the greatest amount of air filters serving the various automakers across the world. The company’s roots date back to the 1930s. It’s worth noting that Mann air filters are more of a high-value option based on the quality – and price – of their products.
  • Lifetime air filters: These air filters are offered by various companies and can be reused after a good washing. They’re generally more expensive than disposable filters but pay for themselves in time.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already requires all fuel that’s sold throughout the country to contain certain amounts of additive deposits as a means of keeping costs down and the nation’s reliance on foreign oil minimal. The fuel that’s currently sold at gas stations throughout the U.S. is also designed so that any contained additives don’t lead to damage to vehicle fuel systems, which can be costly to repair.

But with all this being said, drivers today can purchase a range of fuel additives, or gas treatments, to supplement the gasoline they’re pumping into their vehicles. Some are designed to keep fuel from going bad, specifically in vehicles that only receive seasonal use. Others are designed to improve fuel economy and to help clean the fuel system. Some are designed to improve engine performance. There are various categories of fuel additives, so it’s important to know what a particular additive is supposed to do before putting it into your fuel tank. This post will take a closer look at the various additives, how to administer them, and what the best ones are to purchase for your vehicle.


Some drivers just want to have more control regarding what they’re putting into their vehicle. For these drivers, fuel additives are an ideal complement to the gas they’re putting into their cars and trucks from the pump. But like we eluded to in the opening, it’s important to first know what you want to accomplish when using an additive and then be aware of what type of additive you need to achieve this. With that said, there are various different categories of fuel additives. Here’s a look at the most popular:

  • Stabilizers: These are one of the most popular additives, and they’re designed to keep fuel in good working condition for several months of non-use. They’ll also help prevent engine corrosion and gas separation when said vehicles are unused for long periods of time. Fuel stabilizers are best administered in seasonal vehicles, like classic cars and sports cars, that get stored for the winter. These stabilizers provide an alternative to running out the tank of gas on these vehicles, similar to what you’d do on your lawnmower or snowblower when storing it for the winter.
  • Boosters: Generally speaking, the better the octane rating in gasoline, the purer the fuel and the better the performance an engine gets out of it. These types of additives are typically sought by muscle car and sports car drivers as a means of improving engine performance.
  • Injector cleaners: If a fuel injector is clogged up, it’s going to impact engine performance. Unfortunately, one of the common side effects of ethanol – a common byproduct in most fuel mixtures – is that it can have this impact on the fuel injectors. Injectors that are dirty and clogged often result in issues starting the vehicle, abnormal idling, a decrease in fuel economy, and an engine that won’t respond how it’s supposed to. Administering an additive that’s designed to prevent the injectors from clogging up and actually help clean them can be enticing for some drivers.
  • Anti-gel: At low temperatures, diesel fuel can “gel” together and cause the fuel filter to clog up. As a result, diesel drivers often have to either let the fuel warm up so that it “un-gels” or regularly change out the fuel filter to properly start and drive the vehicle. It’s easier, however, to just administer an anti-gel fuel additive to prevent the fuel from doing this altogether. These anti-gel additives are designed for diesel engines, and they work to lower the cold fill plugging point, or CFPP, which is the temperature where “gelling” occurs in these diesel engines.


Though injector cleaners and octane booster additives are used more via personal preference rather than necessity by most drivers, the same cannot be said for anti-gel diesel additives and fuel stabilizers. In fact, these latter two types of additives are often crucial to ensuring engine health and vehicle uptime, whether it’s during periods of non-use or in frigid temperatures, respectively.


Aside from purchasing a good fuel additive, knowing how much to administer is arguably the most important thing. That’s because if you use too much and overdo it, you could damage things like vehicle sensors and do more harm than good.

Before you add any fuel additives, make sure you thoroughly read and understand the directions on how to administer it. Some suggest adding it differently than others. For instance, with some, you may just add part of the bottle, while for others you add all of it. How you add it may vary as well. The good news is that as long as you’re following the directions, this is a super easy task to complete. Here are the three ways fuel additives are typically added to fuel tanks:

  • Blended: This method consists of filling an empty fuel tank up about halfway with gas, administering the additive, and then filling the tank up the rest of the way with gas.
  • Full tank: This method consists of filling up the entire fuel tank with gas and then adding the additive.
  • Empty tank: This method consists of administering the additive to an empty or near-empty gas tank, then filling it up with gasoline.

It’s also worth noting that you may elect to vary how you administer the additive based on the season you’re driving in and what you want to accomplish.


According to various independent tests, much of the fuel additives on the market didn’t live up to their claims. This was particularly true of additives that were advertised as improving fuel economy. Noting this, it’s crucial that you know what you’re putting into your vehicle is a good, quality product – and this all starts with knowing the best fuel additive brands and their particular offerings.

  • Best Injector Cleaners: BG44K is one of the best in the industry. It is several decades old and works quickly. It’s designed only for gasoline engines, however. Other good cleaners are Chevron Techron and Lucas Fuel Treatment.
  • Best stabilizers: STA-BIL 360, PRI-G, and Star Tron Enzyme are three of the best fuel stabilizers. They all are designed to treat hundreds of gallons of fuel and keep it good for up to several years.
  • Anti-gels: Some of the best products in this category include Howes Diesel Treat and REV-X Distance+.
  • Octane boosters: If you want maximum performance in a fuel additive, go with Torco Accelerator, anything by Klotz, or Lucas’ Octane Booster.
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