Transmission Fluid

March 10th, 2017

Do I Need a New Transmission?

If your car is having difficulties shifting into gear, it is only natural to think your transmission is going out. But don't dismay - it could just be low on fluid.

Whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, the lubricating fluids must be maintained at proper levels or the transmission could slip and burn. This can eventually lead to having to pay for a rebuilt or new transmission - neither is inexpensive!

Fluid Types It is important to know that the fluid for an automatic transmission is very different than for a manual transmission. You should check your owner's manual for the fluid type, amount and frequency. Some automotive manufacturers require fluids only be checked while the vehicle is in Neutral. Be sure to check your owner's manual or look for these instructions on the transmission fluid dipstick.

Automatic transmission fluid

is checked by locating a dipstick that is toward the back of the engine compartment under your hood, similar to as you check your oil. It should be labeled "Transmission". If not, be sure to check your owner's manual for its location.

Before checking your transmission fluid, warm up your engine by driving about 10 miles and then check the fluid while your engine is still running. Be sure you are parked on level ground before checking your transmission fluid and set your parking brake


Pull the transmission fluid dipstick out. Look at the fluid on the dipstick and make a note of the *color and smell of the fluid. Then wipe the dipstick clean with a clean rag. Insert the dipstick back into the tube, wait 4 seconds and pull it out again.

If there are markings on both sides of the dipstick, one may be for a hot reading and one may be for a cold reading. If the fluid on the dipstick is in the "fill" area of the markings you will need to add transmission fluid. Do not wait! Add fluid immediately. If the fluid is in the crosshatched area of the dipstick you will not need to add fluid. Return the dipstick completed into the tube and turn off your engine.

If you need to add new fluid, it is added in the same place that your transmission fluid dipstick is located. Set aside the dipstick and place a funnel in the dipstick tube. More than likely you will only need to add a pint of fluid as transmissions only need to be 1 pint low to start showing problems. Do not add more than 1 pint at a time as over-filling the reservoir could cause other engine problems.

After adding fluid, replace the dipstick and return to the driver's position. With your foot on the brake, move your gear lever to each position available, (Drive-3,2,1, Reverse, Neutral, Park, etc), for about 4 seconds each, then return to Park.

New automatic transmission fluid looks pink and has a fresh "oily" scent. After the fluid has lubricated the transmission it changes to a dark red color. Red is a good color but Brown colored fluid means a technician should flush the transmission of its fluid. If the fluid is Black it means your transmission could need to be replaced. If the fluid is a Milky Pink color it could mean that other fluids are mixing with the transmission fluids and that the transmission may need to be rebuilt. The radiator should also be checked and may need replaced as well.

If your car will not shift into gears or a certified technician finds metal debris in the transmission fluid, your transmission probably needs to be rebuilt or replaced as soon as possible.

Manual transmission fluid

is checked underneath the vehicle, and the car must be as level as possible with the engine not running. There is no dipstick; there is a plug that must be taken off with tools. It is recommended that a certified technician check and/or replace your manual transmission fluid.

Regal Auto Care can help!

Regal Auto Care's ASE Certified Technicians are experts in transmission inspection, diagnosis and repair. If you suspect that something is not right with your transmission (your fluid is dark, you hear a clunking noise when your vehicle shifts gears, etc.) give us a call. You can be confident that your vehicle will get professional transmission service at Regal Auto Care!

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