If you are passionate about keeping your car in mint condition, then you have come to the right place. Diligent car owners like your self are likely always on the lookout for any signs of unusual activity or downgraded performance. These may include weird ‘screeching’ noises or episodes of engine stalling. While most of these problems can be corrected easily, some are harder to identify and fix. Problems regarding transmission fluid belong to this category as well; it is something that escalates slowly over time and affects transmission in the long run. The following sections are all about learning how to identify this and how to check transmission fluid regularly.
The Importance of Checking Transmission Fluid
Now before we jump into the actual process of checking transmission fluid, let’s consider some of the factors on why this is so important in the first place.
Purpose and Potential Problems
Since the engine of a vehicle works largely on principles of combustion, there is a lot of heat being produced in that compartment. Naturally, the components of the engine are also subjected to extremely high temperatures. The purpose of transmission fluid to act as a lubricant i.e., it essentially prevents all these components from getting damaged during the combustion process. In addition to lubrication, a good transmission fluid also works as a coolant and keep the temperature of the engine stable while it is running.
There are a considerable amount of problems that arise from the bad transmission fluid. These include accelerating troubles, and gear shifts getting stuck. Aside from these standard nuisances, it is also important to note that transmission is expensive to acquire. While replacing it altogether can put a big dent in your wallet. Therefore you must keep checking it off and on. This will help you get a better idea of how it is faring at all time. If you can catch the problem early on, it will make it easier on your pocket as well.
Taking Preventive Measures
As is true with any other problem that you might face, it is better to stay prepared and take some preventive measures even before a problem occurs. A simple preventive measure that we are going to be talking about is checking if transmission fluid hot or cold or checking the color, consistency to stay on top of things.
Symptoms of Low Transmission Fluid
Some specific warning signs give you a general idea of how your transmission fluid is faring. Perhaps there are some too much transmission fluid symptoms signifying that the fluid may be overflowing or even leaking etc.
- Overheating of transmission – Overheating of transmission is pretty easily identifiable in most cases. Initial symptoms may include unusual smells such as burnt odors, or weird screeching noises, etc. This occurs due to your transmission fluid falling below a certain set point. In this case, if you even get the slightest hint of anything unusual in your car’s performance, it is best to stop driving. This is because you might end up doing more damage if you keep driving the car as it is. Additional symptoms include the emission of smoke from the hood of your car, loss of engine power, or the car breaking down altogether.
- Transmission Failure – Complete transmission failure if you notice your car behaving erratically even after you have filled up your transmission fluid. In case you keep experiencing these ups and downs, your transmission is probably due to being repaired or even replaced altogether. You shouldn’t delay this process lest you end up causing more damage in the long term.
- Slipping of transmission – Transmission slipping is the process whereby your gears fall back out every time you change them. It can also result in random RPMs ups and downs and irregular shifts. You may also experience some unusual screeching or grinding noises. These symptoms occur if the transmission fluid is low, which is causing the engine to overheat as a heat. Also, since there isn’t enough transmission fluid, components of the engine remain under lubricated. This causes additional friction between these components, which can prove very dangerous for your transmission.
- Gears Getting Stuck – If there is not enough transmission fluid in your car, then it may cause your gears to get stuck because of less lubrication that results in the gears getting stuck. Also, there will be added pause of a few seconds or more when you shift gears into Reverse and Drive. This most likely occurs because there isn’t enough hydraulic pressure acting on the gears due to the low transmission fluid.
- Irregular Car Shifts – As an extension of low transmission fluid, you may notice some irregularity in your shifts. That is, they are either super accelerated, delayed, stuck, or not shifting altogether. A low volume of fluid affects both the effectiveness and the smoothness with which these shifts take place. If you are unable to shift altogether, then you can fix the problem only temporarily by filling the car up with transmission fluid. However, the problem goes much deeper than that; therefore, it is best to consult a mechanic and get some professional help.
Section 1 – How to Check Transmission Fluid
Now onto the actual guide it, follow the steps given below and you will have the job done in no time.
- First of all, park your vehicle on a leveled surface and keep the engine running.
- Before putting your car in park, make sure that you check the transmission on all of the available gear settings.
- Feel for a lever under the hood of your car and lift it to open up the hood. This lever is usually found near the center of the hood.
- In case you cannot locate it, consult the user manual of your car to help yourself.
- Next up, locate the automatic transmission fluid pipe. For newer models, the pipe will most likely be labeled. However, if it isn’t, then head to the user’s manual once again to find it.
- If your car has a rear-wheel drive, you can likely locate the dipstick on the top of the valve cover at the back of the engine compartment.
- In case your car has a front-wheel drive, you can find the dipstick on the frontal portion of the engine compartment. It will likely be sticking out on top of the transmission where it is connected to the transaxle from the bottom.
- Take out the dipstick. If this proves a little difficult, the dipstick is probably stuck. Try to loosen it up a little before trying again.
- However, if the car is in the park, then the running engine will cause the transmission fluid to warm up, making it easier to pull the dipstick out.
- Once the dipstick is out, use an old rag and wipe off all the fluid. Once it is clean, insert it into the pipe once again. Make sure that it goes all the way in before pulling it out once again.
- The dipstick will be submerged into the fluid up to a certain level. You will be able to spot that mark easily because the fluid will be covering that particular length of the dipstick.
- There are two particular marks on the dipstick that you have to look out for, namely the ‘Add’ or ‘Cold’ marks. Typically you do not have to add more transmission fluid unless the dipstick shows that it is well below the set point.
- Another thing to note if the transmission fluid is low is that your car is likely going through a leak of some sort that is causing the loss of transmission fluid.
- In case there is a leak, it is best to take your car to a mechanic for a thorough check-up to identify the source of the leak and fix it as soon as possible.
- The next step is checking the color of the transmission fluid itself. If it is still in mint condition, the color will likely be a bright red. It can be a shade lighter or darker, but that is fine as well.
- Besides, it should be odorless and without bubbles or deposits of any sort.
- If there are any noticeable bubbles or foamy texture, then you are using the wrong kind of fluid for your car, or there is too much fluid in the pipe altogether.
- There are a couple of unusual things to look for. If the color of the transmission fluid is dull brown or discolored in general or has a burnt sort of odor, it has probably been overheated. This signifies that it is no longer fit to use.
- Another factor to look out for is consistency. To be extra sure, dab a bit of transmission fluid on a paper towel and wait to see it spreads. If it doesn’t, then it is too thick and unusable.
- Alternatively, if the color of the fluid is a milky brown shade, then it has probably been contaminated by coolant fluid from the engine. This can occur if there is a leak in your air conditioning pipe or radiator. In this case, contact a mechanic at once to fix the problem.
- If there is a need to add more transmission fluid, read on to find out how you can do that and how much transmission fluid to add.
Read Also: How to Drain Transmission Fluid
Section 2 – How to Add Transmission Fluid
- For this step, you have to first determine the right kind of transmission fluid for your car.
- Once you have the transmission fluid, add it little by little to prevent the pipe from getting overfilled or overflowing.
- While doing this, it is a good practice to keep checking the level of the transmission fluid using the dipstick until it is at the right level.
- If you have completely drained your car of the transmission fluid, you will need about three or four quarts of fluid to refill the pipe once again.
- Keep the engine running and try to run the car at all the gears if you can. This particular step is practiced so that the transmission fluid can run through and coat each gear fully before the next use.
- If the engine is running, leave it in park preferably on an elevated surface such that the wheels do not touch the ground.
- This will require the fluid to fully lubricate the gears and engine before you take it on the road. This is where you can change the gears as well.
- Leave the car running for a short time to let the transmission fluid warm up and settle down.
- Once you are done with this process, pull out the dipstick once again to gauge whether you need to add any more fluid.
- This is because some of the transmission fluid may have been used up during the lubricating and circulating process. If it is low, then add some more to level it once again.
- Whether you are replacing the transmission fluid altogether or just refilling it, this step above is where you can add additional fluid to top up the transmission fluid pipe.
- For a quick top-up, you will likely only need about one quart of transmission fluid.
- And now you’re all done! Your car’s transmission fluid is all leveled and good to go for your next drive!
Now that you are aware of everything there is to know about checking and changing your transmission fluid; you can easily identify and rectify this problem if it occurs. Since you will be able to catch this fairly early on, you should have no problem nipping it in the bud!