Everything You Need To Know About Transmission Fluid

The lifeblood of your car’s transmission system is transmission fluid. It’s responsible for shifting gears and absorbing the heat from your car’s engine to protect the gears from damage. But if the level of transmission fluid in your car starts to run low, you could be at risk of major transmission problems. For example, overheating and the complete failure of the transmission system itself. Here are answers to common questions from vehiclered.com about checking transmission fluid and how it works inside your vehicle.

How to Check Transmission Fluid Level?

One of the best ways to check transmission fluid levels is to use an automatic transmission dipstick. It’s better than trying to read your transmission fluid through a cap because it’s designed specifically for checking transmission fluid levels. 

A car that is parked on level ground and has been running for several minutes should be checked, as well as one that has been driven for a few miles. Transmission fluid should be in between hot and cold settings. 

But if you’re unfamiliar with where these settings are located on your particular vehicle, consult your owner’s manual or take it to a professional who can help locate them. Inspect underhood hoses first, including any caps they may have. If anything looks abnormal or worn out, replace it with factory parts.

Where is the transmission fluid located?

Before checking transmission fluid, locate your car’s transmission fluid reservoir or dipstick. The location of transmission fluid reservoirs can vary from car to car, but they are often found underneath a metal shield that covers one of your engine’s shock absorbers. 

Some cars may have a large and visible dipstick, while others might require you to locate additional hoses. No matter where it is located, try to avoid touching or contaminating it with anything that could be dirty—your hands, cloth or any grease on your skin. 

You can check transmission fluid levels without removing a cap if your vehicle has an add-drip plug; all you have to do is push it in.

If you have to pull a dipstick out, be sure to wipe it clean with a paper towel before removing it so that you don’t contaminate your transmission fluid. Before returning your dipstick, be sure to pull it all of the ways out and look at its markings.

With the engine running?

Checking transmission fluid while your engine is running might seem like an odd idea, but it’s important if you want an accurate reading. The longer you run your car after checking transmission fluid levels, the more time your vehicle has to settle back into its normal operating temperature. This means that when checking transmission fluid levels on vehicles that experience significant temperature changes, wait until they return to their normal operating temperatures before taking a second look.

Why check transmission fluid when the engine is running?

It’s recommended to check transmission fluid when the engine is running to ensure that it does not run out of transmission fluid. Some vehicles have a transmission dipstick and some do not. And checking with the engine off will not show you how much transmission fluid is in your vehicle. 

Checking Your Transmission Fluid level allows you to also know what grade of Transmission Fluid you should be using as well! So be sure to check your vehicle owner’s manual for details about what grade and specification of ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) are recommended for your specific vehicle model. Lastly, many drivers are concerned about their speedometer reading properly when they drive with low or no transmission fluid.

How to check transmission fluid without a dipstick?

Most vehicles built after 2000 have transmission dipsticks, but it’s a good idea to double-check before you change your fluid. Never check transmission fluid in an automatic transmission vehicle while it’s running – they use pressurized systems that can be dangerous when hot and cause leaks when cold.

Instead, allow your car to sit overnight and check in the morning; if it’s warm outside and you’re not sure how long to wait, pop open your hood and feel around for an oil or coolant leak under your car – if there is none, you’re good to go. You can also ask a mechanic to flush out your old transmission fluid at a shop instead of doing it yourself.

Do you inspect the transmission fluid while the vehicle is moving?

Yes, you should check transmission fluid while it’s running. The transmission can get hot enough to boil over in a matter of minutes and then experience issues like slipping or full lock-up (if a fully automatic transmission) even when it doesn’t seem to be overheating. 

Checking your transmission fluid will also tell you if there are leaks in certain parts of your transmission like seals. As long as you drive your car regularly, checking it every few months is sufficient unless you hear grinding noises or other abnormal engine sounds while driving that indicate your car may need repairs sooner than later.

 How often you need to check your transmission fluid varies based on how much you drive and where you live. You’ll need to fill up your transmission fluid every 2-3 years in most cases, depending on use. There’s no set rule for exactly when to check it, so it’s best to do it when you start seeing symptoms of low fluid or when your car is due for an oil change. 

It’s also good practice to top off any transmission fluid that leaks out before taking a trip as doing so can reduce your chances of leaking during long trips. Is it better to check transmission fluid is hot or cold? How often you need to check your transmission fluid varies based on how much you drive and where you live.

What are the signs of low transmission fluid?

Checking transmission fluid with a cold engine can tell you if your car is leaking, which means your transmission may need to be flushed or replaced. Checking with a hot engine gives you an idea of whether it’s working properly and picking up where it left off when it was cold. Many mechanics recommend checking with a hot engine because it could mean there are transmission problems that aren’t currently obvious. 

You should have your transmission fluid changed every 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometres) by a certified technician, who will check for leaks and wear in addition to making sure there isn’t any debris that needs to be removed. Transmission fluid loses its effectiveness over time, so having it changed regularly is important for optimal performance.

Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see if it recommends checking transmission fluid with a hot or cold engine. If it doesn’t specify, check with a mechanic who works on your car to find out what they recommend. 

It may depend on what type of transmission you have in your vehicle. If you can’t get that information from a mechanic, check with a local auto parts store for advice about whether you should check with a hot or cold engine, and why that is recommended for your particular vehicle.

Is it better to check transmission fluid is hot or cold?

You’ll want to check your vehicle’s transmission fluid at normal operating temperature. That said, it can be tricky to find a way to get your car warmed up without driving around. If you’re in a pinch, have a mechanic drain and replace one quart of transmission fluid for you when it’s hot so you’ll have fresh fluid on hand to use for testing later on. To find out what happens if you don’t check your transmission fluid regularly, see my tips below!

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