Every part of a car’s engine needs to be sufficiently lubricated so it can run smoothly. This is especially true when it comes to a car’s transmission. Knowing how to check the transmission fluid of your vehicle is a vital part of maintaining your car. Today, I’ll guide you through this process step-by-step, so you’ll be able to check and add the right transmission fluid in no time. It’s not as difficult as you might think! Let’s get started.

What is a Car’s Transmission? 

A transmission, also known as the gearbox, is a part of a car’s internal components. It’s often found mounted directly on top of the engine. 

It’s responsible for converting the engine’s combustion power to momentum. Furthermore, a car’s transmission ensures that the engine runs as efficiently as possible while consuming the least amount of fuel. 

In a nutshell, the transmission works by transmitting power from the engine directly to the car’s wheels. Once it has enough energy, it’ll pass through the shaft and axle that drives your car.  

In other words, without it, your car will sit like a huge decorative piece in your garage, unable to go anywhere. 

What is Transmission Fluid?

Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant that keeps the gears of your car’s transmission moving smoothly. It’s sort of like engine oil; although it’s lesser-known, it’s just as important. 

This fluid keeps all the components inside your gearbox from scraping and grinding into each other as they move. It also allows you to shift your car with ease. 

Users are likely to experience a two to three-second pause when they shift the car into Drive or Reverse when low on transmission fluid. This is primarily because there isn’t enough hydraulic pressure to initiate a change in gear. 

If left to leak or run out, it’ll put both the car and its user at significant risk, so it’s essential to frequently check the gearbox’s transmission fluid.  

What is Transmission Fluid For? 

A transmission fluid’s primary purpose is to lubricate the components of a car’s transmission. However, it serves other functions as well. This includes:

  • Acting as a coolant to keep the transmission from overheating 
  • Preventing internal oxidation and rust
  • Gasket conditioner 
  • Increasing the rotational speed and temperature range of a car
  • Cleaning and protecting a car’s internal surfaces from wear

How to Check the Transmission Fluid of Your VehicleHow to Check the Transmission Fluid and Add Transmission Fluid

Now that you know the basic facts about transmissions and transmission fluids, you’re now ready to check and add it to your car! Here are the steps you’ll need to follow: 

Step 1: Warm-Up

Before checking the transmission fluid, you’ll need to warm your car up. Park it on a flat, firm surface before powering the engine. Let it run for about five minutes. 

Some automatic transmission fluid levels need to be checked while the engine is off. So unless your car’s manual says otherwise, keep it running.  

Step 2: Locate the Transmission Fluid Dipstick 

Open the hood of your car and search for the transmission fluid dipstick.

You’ll typically find it in between the transmission and the engine’s rear, where it sticks out like a thumb. The dipstick’s handle is yellow. This is what you’ll use to check the car’s transmission fluid level.

Step 3: Pull Out the Dipstick 

Once you’ve located the dipstick, you’ll need to pull it out, wipe it clean with a cloth, reinsert it for about five seconds, before removing it again. Doing so will allow you to have a more accurate reading. 

Keep in mind that the fluid will be hot, so be careful when wiping the dipstick clean.

Step 4: Check the Fluid

You’ll find two markings on the dipstick: warm and cold. If your engine is cold, you’ll need to check if the fluid level is below the cold range. If it is, you’ll need to add more transmission fluid to the transmission. 

The same goes for when your engine is hot. If it’s below the hot range, you’ll need to add more fluid. 

Otherwise, leave it as it is.

Another way to check whether or not you need to add transmission fluid is by its color and smell. The transmission fluid should be light brown, almost golden, and have a semi-transparent appearance. 

An automatic transmission fluid, on the other hand, should be cherry red in color. If the fluid comes out dark brown or red, it’s best to have the fluid topped-up. 

The same goes for when it smells burnt or has bits of flake-like particles on the cloth when you wipe the stick clean. In such cases, you may need to have your transmission fluid filter changed.

Step 5: Add Fluid (If Necessary)

If you want to change the transmission fluid yourself instead of going to a mechanic, it’s essential to know the type of transmission fluid your car needs.

Using the right fluid allows your car to achieve the best performance even when under high temperatures. 

Typically, the type of transmission oil or fluid you need to use is found on your vehicle’s user manual. 

To give you an idea, there are five primary types of transmission fluids. 

  • Dexron/Mercon 
  • HFM Fluids
  • Hypoid Gear Oil
  • Synthetic Transmission Fluids
  • Type-F 

Pour the selected transmission fluid directly into the dipstick hole with the aid of a funnel. Add the fluid in small increments to avoid overfilling or spilling. Constantly recheck the level with the dipstick until it reaches the “warm” or “cold” line. 

Once that’s done, insert the dipstick back and close the lid of your car. And voila! You’ve now successfully checked and added transmission fluid to your car’s engine. 

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t take a mechanic to check and change the transmission fluid of your car. 

Now that you know how to check transmission fluid, remember to regularly top-up it every 40,000 miles to keep your car in tip-top shape.