Radiator and Transmission Maintenance

How to Check Your Transmission Fluid


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You need to check transmission fluid when your vehicle begins to shift roughly. Your fluid may simply be dirty or the level may be unacceptably low due to a leak. Attention is required in both cases.

Transmission maintenance is extremely important, as transmission oil is one of the most vital fluids found in a vehicle. This smooth lubricant acts as a coolant and its sticky properties help to transmit power to the transmission. Transmission fluid allows engine parts to move smoothly and is essential for valve operation and optimal gear lubrication.

Tools Required:

  • Long neck funnel
  • Flashlight
  • Safety goggles
  • Clean cloth

Step 1. Take Readings

Park the vehicle on a level surface so as to obtain the most accurate reading. Allow the engine to run at this stage (in park or neutral) as you will require a warm engine when it comes to obtaining this reading. Check the dash needle and wait until it is sitting at the point that you are accustomed to see during normal driving, which is between 180 and 215 degrees. Do not turn the vehicle off during the entire process.

Step 2. Locate Dip Stick

Locate the dip stick. It's normally a bright color and, in many vehicles, positioned on the driver's side of the engine. Be aware that this is not the same dip stick that's used to read the oil level. In all instances, the transmission dip stick will be shorter than the dip stick that is used to check your oil level.

Step 3. Use Safety Goggles

Put on the safety goggles and, using the flashlight for visual assistance, remove the dip stick. Using a clean cloth, wipe the fluid from it. Replace the dip stick and remove once again. Check the reading against the "Warm" mark.

Step 4. Add Fluid

Add small quantities of transmission fluid if the level is not correct. Use the long neck funnel so as not to spill the fluid. Pour through the dip stick opening. Check the level by using your dip stick after each addition of transmission fluid. It is important not to overfill the transmission.

Although many new vehicle models no longer require their transmission fluid to be replaced, older models will require that their transmission fluid is replaced every 24,000 miles.

Step 5. Check Color and Condition of Fluid

Check the color of the fluid which should be a clear pinkish red. Transmission fluid that is brown in color needs immediate replacing. Check the condition of the fluid by rubbing a tiny quantity between your fingers as well.

Ideally you want a fluid that is smooth to the touch. A rough texture, indicating tiny pieces of materials within the fluid, is a very bad sign, as is any unnatural smell, such as a burnt odor. In any of these cases, the transmission fluid will require changing.

Although you will need to leave the changing of your transmission fluid to the professionals, the checks required to gauge when this procedure needs to take place are very simple to perform at home.

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