The electronic instrument cluster on the dash utilizes several warning lamps to indicate low oil level (CHECK OIL), oil pressure problems (LOW OIL PRESSURE), low coolant level (LOW COOLANT LEVEL) and fuel/emissions systems failure (CHECK ENGINE)
The following are fluid level checks to be done on a 250-mile or weekly basis. Additional fluid level checks can be found in the specific maintenance procedures that follow. Regardless of intervals, be alert to fluid leaks under the vehicle, which would indicate a problem to be corrected immediately
Fluids are an essential part of the lubrication, cooling, brake and windshield washer systems. Because the fluids gradually become depleted and/or contaminated during normal operation of the vehicle, they must be periodically replenished.
The vehicle must be on level ground when fluid levels are checked
1 The oil filler cap is located in front of the engine. Unscrew the cap and you’ll find an integral dipstick. The dipstick extends through a metal tube down into the oil pan
Check the oil level before driving the vehicle, or about 15 minutes after shutting off the engine. (If you check the oil immediately after driving the vehicle, some oil will still be in the upper part of the engine, so the indicated level on the dipstick will not be accurate)
Pull the dipstick from the tube and wipe all the oil from the end with a clean rag or paper towel. Insert the clean dipstick all the way back into the tube and pull it out again. Note the oil at the end of the dipstick
4 The oil level should be at or near the cross-hatched area on the dipstick. If it’s below the ADD line, add enough oil to bring the level into the upper part of the cross-hatched area
Do not overfill the engine by adding too much oil. Overfilling can foul the spark plugs, cause oil leaks and even cause oil seals to fail
Add oil to the engine after removing the twist-off cap located on the engine. Using a funnel will reduce spills
Checking the oil level is an important preventive maintenance step. Slide your thumb and index finger up the dipstick (wearing gloves) before wiping off the oil. If you see (or feel) small dirt or metal particles clinging to the dipstick, change the oil. A consistently low oil level indicates oil leakage through damaged seals or gaskets or past worn rings or valve guides. If the oil looks milky in color or has water droplets in it, the cylinder head gasket may be blown or the cylinder head or block might be cracked. Check the engine immediately
Do not allow antifreeze to contact your skin or the painted surfaces of the vehicle. Flush contaminated areas immediately with plenty of water. Do not store new coolant or leave old coolant lying around where it’s accessible to children or pets - they’re attracted by its sweet smell. Ingestion of even a small amount of coolant can be fatal! Wipe up garage floor and drip pan coolant spills immediately. Keep antifreeze containers covered and repair leaks in the cooling system immediately
The manufacturer recommends using only DEX-COOL coolant for these systems. DEX-COOL is a long-lasting coolant designed for 100,000 miles or 5 years. Never mix green-colored ethylene glycol anti-freeze and orange-colored DEX-COOL silicate-free coolant because doing so will destroy the efficiency of the DEX-COOL
All models covered by this manual are equipped with a pressurized coolant recovery system
2 The coolant reservoir is located in the right (passenger’s side) front corner of the engine compartment. Check the coolant level by observing the level through the translucent plastic; it should be at the FULL COLD mark. To add coolant, wait until the engine has completely cooled, then put a rag around the filler cap and slowly unscrew it
Check the coolant level in the reservoir regularly. Warning: Do not remove the reservoir cap to check the coolant level when the engine is warm. The level in the reservoir varies with the temperature of the engine. When the engine is cold, the coolant level should be at or slightly above the FULL COLD mark on the reservoir (see illustration 4.8). If it isn’t, add coolant to the reservoir (but only when the engine is cold). Unscrew the cap from the reservoir and add a 50/50 mixture of ethylene glycol based green-colored antifreeze or orange-colored DEX-COOL silicate-free coolant and water (see Caution above). Once the engine has warmed up, the level should be at or near the FULL HOT mark
Drive the vehicle and recheck the coolant level. If only a small amount of coolant is needed to bring the system up to the correct level, it’s okay to add just plain (distilled) water. However, adding water repeatedly will dilute the 50/50-antifreeze/water solution. In order to maintain the correct ratio of antifreeze and water, always top up the coolant level with the correct mixture. An empty gallon-size plastic water bottle makes a good container for mixing coolant with water. Do not use rust inhibitors or additives (they’ve already been added to the new coolant). General Motors specifies using “clean, drinkable” water; GM doesn’t specify using distilled water (which is mineral free). However, if you live in an area where the tap water has a heavy mineral content, it’s a good idea to use distilled water
If the coolant level drops consistently, there might be a leak in the system. Inspect the radiator, hoses, filler cap, drain plugs and water pump. If there are no obvious leaks, have a service station pressure-test the coolant reservoir cap
If you have to remove the reservoir cap, wait until the engine has cooled completely, then wrap a thick cloth around the cap and turn it to the first stop. If coolant or steam escapes, let the engine cool down longer, then remove the cap
Check the condition of the coolant. It should be relatively clear. If it’s brown or rust-colored, drain, flush and refill the system. But even if coolant appears to be normal, the rust inhibitors wear out and other additives wear out, so it must still be replaced at the specified intervals
1 The windshield washer fluid reservoir is located at the left front corner of the engine compartment. Flip up the cap to add fluid
To help prevent icing in cold weather, warm the windshield with the defroster before using the windshield washer
All vehicles covered by this manual were equipped by the manufacturer with a permanently sealed battery, which has no filler caps. Water does not have to be added to one of these batteries at any time. However, if you or a previous owner have replaced the original maintenance-free battery with a conventional battery, check the battery electrolyte level regularly. Remove all the cell caps on top of the battery (see illustration).
Some maintenance-type batteries have individual caps; others have a pair of caps, each of which covers three cells. If the electrolyte level is low, add distilled water until the level is above the plates. On most conventional batteries, a “split-ring indicator” in each cell helps you judge when enough water has been added. Add water until the electrolyte level is just up to the bottom of the split ring indicator. Do not overfill the battery or it will spew out electrolyte when it is charging.
After adding distilled water to a maintenance-type battery, always wait several hours for the electrolyte in the plates to go into solution with the water before using or charging the battery. Trying to use or charge a battery that’s just been topped up is not good for the battery, and could ruin it
1 The fluid level inside the brake fluid reservoir can easily be checked by observing the level from the outside - fluid can be added to the reservoir after the cover is removed by prying up on the tabs
The fluid level should be between the MAX and MIN lines on the side of the reservoir. If the fluid level is low, wipe off the top of the reservoir and the lid with a clean rag to prevent dirt and grime from contaminating the system, then open the reservoir filler cap
When adding fluid, pour it carefully into the reservoir to avoid spilling it on surrounding painted surfaces. Be sure the specified fluid is used, since mixing different types of brake fluid can cause damage to the system. See Recommended lubricants and fluids in your owner’s manual.
Brake fluid can harm your eyes and damage painted surfaces, so use extreme caution when handling or pouring it. Do not use brake fluid that has been standing open or is more than one year old. Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air. Excess moisture can cause a dangerous loss of braking effectiveness
The fluid and master cylinder can now be inspected for contamination. The system should be drained and refilled if deposits, dirt particles or water droplets are seen in the fluid
After filling the reservoir to the correct level, make sure the lid completely snaps in place to prevent fluid leakage
The brake fluid level in the master cylinder will drop slightly as the pads at each wheel wear down during normal operation. If the master cylinder requires repeated replenishing to keep it at the correct level, this is an indication of leakage in the brake system, which should be corrected immediately. Check all brake lines and connections
If, when checking the master cylinder fluid level, you discover one or both reservoirs empty or nearly empty, the brake system should be bled