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Transmission Fluid

Does your automobile have difficulties shifting into gear? You might think your transmission is going out. Before you start looking for the funds to replace your transmission, you might want to take a closer look - it could just be low on fluid. 

You may have an automatic or a manual transmission. In either of these the lubricating fluids must be maintained at proper levels or the transmission could slip and burn. Over time, this may lead to having to pay for a rebuilt or new transmission – neither is inexpensive! 

Automatic transmission fluid is very different than the fluid for a manual transmission. It is always good to check your owner’s manual for the fluid type, amount and frequency. Some vehicle fluids should only be checked while the vehicle is in Neutral. Your owner’s manual should give this information, or you can look for these instructions on the transmission fluid dipstick. 

Automatic transmission fluid 

Checked your automatic transmission fluid by locating a dipstick that should be labeled "Transmission" toward the back of the engine compartment under your hood. It will look similar to dipstick that you check your oil level. If the dipstick is not labeled, be sure to check your owner’s manual for its location. 

Warm up your engine before checking your transmission fluid, and drive about 10 miles. Check the fluid while your engine is still running. Be sure your car is parked on level ground set your parking brake before checking your transmission fluid. 

If you pull the transmission fluid dipstick out you can look at the fluid on the dipstick and make a note of the *color and smell of the fluid. After wiping the dipstick clean with a clean rag, insert the dipstick back into the tube, wait 4 seconds and pull it out again. 

The markings on both sides of the dipstick are to indicate a hot reading one side and the other side, a cold reading. You will need to add transmission fluid if the fluid on the dipstick is in the “fill” area of the markings. Be sure to add fluid immediately - do not wait. But if the fluid is in the crosshatched area of the dipstick more fluid will not be needed. Secure the dipstick completed back into the tube and turn your engine off.

New fluid is added in the same place that your transmission fluid dipstick is located. Place a funnel in the dipstick tube. Usually you will only need to add a pint of fluid (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 you add fluid, replace the dipstick and return to the driver’s position. Put your foot on the brake, move your gear lever to each position available for about 4 seconds in each driving position, (Drive-3,2,1, Reverse, Neutral, Park, etc)and 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 a certified technician finds metal debris in your transmission fluid your transmission probably needs to be rebuilt or replaced as soon as possible. .

Manual transmission fluid 

Your vehicle's manual transmission is checked underneath the vehicle, and the car must be as level as possible with the engine not running. There is a plug that must be taken off with tools (there is no dipstick). We recommend that a certified technician check and/or replace your manual transmission fluid. 


Your vehicle's manual transmission is checked underneath the vehicle, and the car must be as level as possible with the engine not running. There is a plug that must be taken off with tools (there is no dipstick). We recommend that a certified technician check and/or replace your manual transmission fluid. 

Advanced Auto Repair'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 Advanced Auto Repair! 

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