AAMCO Bay Area

AAMCO Centers of San Francisco and the Bay Area

AAMCO Bay Area

AAMCO Centers of San Francisco and the Bay Area

What Should Healthy Transmission Fluid Look Like?

Unlike engine oil, transmission fluid has its own special color and smell. No matter what type of transmission your car has, maintenance is key. Learn more.

AAMCO Bay Area  | 11/04/2019  | Transmission

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What Should Healthy Transmission Fluid Look Like?

What Should Healthy Transmission Fluid Look Like?

For many drivers, transmission fluid health isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about car problems. Oil changes, brake pads, and new tires tend to take the forefront when it comes to regular car maintenance, but transmission services are just as important to the health of your car. Understanding how to maintain a happy transmission and what you can do yourself to keep your transmission running optimally can make a huge difference in the life of your car.

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What Type of Transmission Fluid Do You Need?

Your car will have certain specifications for which transmission fluid can be used without causing damage. It’s very important to only use the transmission fluid recommended by your manufacturer and you can find this information in your car’s manual.

The properties within transmission fluid serve many purposes, including lubrication, anti-wear, anti-rust, and anti-corrosion. Not to mention correct viscosity, protecting and cleaning metal surfaces, and aiding in temperature control within your transmission. Different transmissions have different requirements for these purposes.

Mechanic Inspection a car's underside

How to Check Your Car’s Transmission Fluid

Some cars have easy ways to check the transmission fluid level – others are not so straightforward. If you aren’t able to easily check your transmission fluid level yourself, you can take your car to an auto repair shop such as AAMCO Bay Area to have a mechanic check for you.

If You Have an Automatic Transmission

Typically, it is simple to check transmission fluid in an automatic transmission. Your car should have a dipstick coming out of your transmission. This will be separate from your oil dipstick. However, you will check your transmission fluid in the same way you would check your oil level. Pull out the dipstick, observe the consistency of the fluid, and wipe the fluid off the dipstick. Reinsert and pull the dipstick back out to check the level. There should be a “full” line on the dipstick – if your transmission fluid does not reach that line, you may want to top it off or take your car to a mechanic.

If You Have a Manual Transmission

Manual transmission cars are less likely to have a dipstick with which to check transmission fluid consistency and level. Instead, you will have to jack up your car and find the fluid fill plug. For most car owners, this will be too difficult if not impossible due to a lack of proper tools. If your car does not have a dipstick, it is easiest to go to a mechanic to have your transmission fluid checked.

Hand pouring transmission fluid

What Should Your Transmission Fluid Look Like?

If you’re able to check your own transmission fluid, there are a few things to look out for aside from fluid level. Over time, transmission fluid becomes dirty and contaminated, as one of its purposes is to clean metal parts within your transmission.

What Should It Look Like?

Healthy transmission fluid should be relatively clear or pink in color. If your transmission fluid is deep red or brown, your transmission fluid is old and most likely causing extra damage within your transmission. If it is dark brown, that is a sign you have burnt transmission fluid from overheating.

You should also check for any particles within your transmission fluid. Over time, your transmission fluid will accumulate more and more small metal pieces as parts within your transmission wear down. The more particles there are floating around in your transmission fluid, the more wear and damage is being caused by your transmission fluid. This is why regular transmission maintenance, such as transmission fluid flushes, is beneficial for the lifespan of your car.

What Should It Smell Like?

It may seem strange to sniff your transmission fluid, but you can tell a lot about its health by doing so. Healthy transmission fluid should be relatively odorless if not slightly sweet. If your transmission fluid is burnt, it will smell more like burnt toast. Of course, if your transmission fluid smells burnt, you should not only get a transmission flush but also have your cooling system checked since your transmission is likely overheating.

What if You Find a Leak or Dirty Fluid?

While you can likely top off your transmission fluid yourself, when doing so, you should be absolutely sure you’re adding the correct type. At the same time, draining and refilling your transmission fluid can be messy for DIY car owners looking to save on transmission repair costs. A transmission flush will be the most thorough way to ensure you get healthy transmission fluid back in your car – and that you got rid of as much debris from within your transmission as possible. Only a mechanic should do a full transmission flush, so if you need this auto service, you should find a good repair shop.

Likewise, if you notice spots under your car that look like leaking transmission fluid, you should head to a repair shop to get your transmission inspected. This counts also if your transmission fluid level is low. Transmissions are closed systems, so if the fluid level is low, that indicates a leak. Simply topping off the fluid is only a temporary fix.

AAMCO Bay Area Will Freshen Up Your Transmission

Suspect your transmission is in need of proper service? AAMCO Bay Area can handle the diagnosis and repair of any problem that comes up with your transmission. Whether you just need a routine transmission fluid flush or a more serious problem has come up, expert mechanics are just a phone call away.

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