How To Check Your Transmission Fluid

Most auto manufactures recommend servicing your transmission every 50,000 miles or so (check your owner’s manual for more details). But it’s a good idea to check your transmission fluid periodically. One of the best times is during a normal engine oil change. If your transmission has a filler tube and dipstick you can check it yourself. If not, you’ll need to have it check by a transmission specialist.

It’s simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the engine is at normal operating temperature.
  2. Park your vehicle on level ground.
  3. Place the shifter in Park and set the parking brake.
  4. Locate the transmission filler tube (note: some transmissions, particularly newer cars, do not have a transmission filler tube. If your car doesn’t have one you’ll have to take it to a specialist to check).
  5. Remove the dip stick and wipe it dry with a clean cloth.
  6. Reinsert the dipstick (all the way) and then remove it to view the fluid level. Dipstick design varies from manufacturer but they all have a “low” and a “full” mark. In this case they’re holes in the stick. In most cases the distance between the low mark and the full mark is one pint.
  7. In addition to checking the fluid level, check the condition of the fluid as well. Transmission fluid comes in a variety of colors but in all cases the fluid should be clear and not have a burnt odor. For more information on transmission fluid condition see the ATRA article that address the color and smell of automatic transmission fluid.
  8. If the condition of the fluid is poor or the level is low you’ll want to have your transmission checked by a specialist. You can locate a qualified transmission specialist with ATRA’s Shop Finder. If the level is low, chances are you have a leak. Make sure you add fluid before driving any further.

To add transmission fluid:

  1. Place a clean funnel in the dipstick tube.
  2. Add fluid based as needed.
  3. Recheck the level as you did in step 6 above

If you have any questions you can e-mail them to ATRA’s Technical Department through the Technical Services page or call 1-866-GO-4-ATRA (1-866-464-2872)

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