How to Check Transmission Fluids
You may be a pro at checking your engine oil levels, but what about your automatic transmission fluid? Both are vital to your car’s performance. However, transmission fluid lasts far longer than oil, so many people don’t think to check it.
Drivers in Irving, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, and Dallas probably only need to check their transmission fluid once a year, compared to the once-a-month guideline for checking oil levels. Luckily, if you have an automatic transmission, checking your fluid is simple. Read on to learn how to check transmission fluids from your friends at Metro VW.
What is Automatic Transmission Fluid?
Transmission fluid helps lubricate the gears in your car’s automatic transmission and keep it cool. This is important in helping your engine shift between gears smoothly and preventing unnecessary wear and tear. Over time, the heat from your transmission causes this ATF to break down and become less effective. In addition, other debris can contaminate your transmission fluid, reducing its effectiveness as a lubricant.
Most manufacturers recommend changing your automatic transmission fluid every 100,000 miles, but this varies depending on make and model, so check your owner’s manual to find the recommended service interval for your vehicle.
How to Check Transmission Fluid
Checking your automatic transmission fluid is almost as easy as checking your car’s oil. First, make sure your vehicle is parked on a level surface. Then, turn your car on. Transmission fluid expands as it heats up, so you want to make sure it’s warm when you check it to ensure an accurate reading. You’ll want to keep your car running while you check the fluid, so make sure it’s in neutral or park and the parking brake is activated.
Then, pop your hood and locate the transmission fluid dipstick. This is usually located near the front of the engine in front-wheel-drive models, and closer to the back of the engine if you have a rear-wheel drivetrain. If you’re having trouble locating it, check your owner’s manual.
Remove the dipstick, wipe the fluid off with a cloth, and re-insert it. Wait a few seconds, then remove it again and take a look. Hopefully, the transmission fluid reaches the “full” marker on the dipstick. Otherwise, you’ll need to add more—for more on that, see below.
In addition to checking the fluid level, make sure to check its quality. Good-quality transmission fluid is usually a light pinkish red. If it’s starting to turn a darker brown or you can see particles in it, it’s time to change your automatic transmission fluid. You can also rub some of the ATF between your fingers to see if it feels gritty or smells burnt—these would also be signs you need new transmission fluid.
What if my Transmission Fluid is Low?
If you check your transmission fluid when your car is warmed up and it’s below the fill line, this may be a sign of a leak, as transmission fluid doesn’t burn off like engine oil does. Start by checking your owner’s manual to see what kind of ATF your vehicle uses, and carefully top it off. Then, keep an eye on your levels to make sure it stays topped off, and consider making an appointment with your service technician to check for leaks.
Transmission Fluid Problems: Schedule an Appointment Today!
Knowing how to check transmission fluids is an important part of preventative maintenance in your vehicle. If you’re in Irving, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, or Dallas and find that your transmission fluid is dirty or low, schedule an appointment at Metro VW. Our qualified service technicians will be happy to check your vehicle for any problems and change or top off your automatic transmission fluids for you. Contact our service department today!