Automatic transmission fluid is a viscous liquid that your car's transmission uses as both a lubricant and a coolant. Fresh transmission fluid is usually pink in color, although some brands of transmission fluid have a green color. When it's fresh, transmission fluid will have a slightly sweet smell, and will be sticky to the touch. As you drive your car, the heat generated by your automatic transmission causes the fluid to break down; in addition, small metal particles from seals and bearings will begin to accumulate in the fluid. When the fluid degrades, it will take on a burnt smell, and have a dark and grainy appearance. Checking your transmission fluid regularly and complying with your manufacturer's service guidelines by regularly replacing it will extend the lifespan of your automatic transmission and keep it running at peak performance.

Use Your Car's Dipstick To Check Transmission Fluid Quality And Levels

Most car manufacturers will allow you to check the level of your transmission fluid using a dipstick found in your car's hood. Don't confuse this with the dipstick that is used to check your oil level; most car manufacturers place the transmission dipstick farther back in the engine compartment and color the handle differently from the crankcase dipstick's handle. You need to check the fluid level while the car's engine is running, so you'll need to start your car and leave it in park.

When you check the fluid using the dipstick, you're watching for two things. First, you're checking the status of the fluid itself. It should be clear, pink (or green, if your car uses that type) and shouldn't have a burnt smell. You can wipe some of it on a paper towel to check its color. Second, when you do this regularly you should see that the level of transmission fluid in your car does not change. One important caveat of this is that transmission fluid expands when the engine is hot. You need to check the transmission fluid level in your car at the same engine temperature every time; a good time would be in the morning when you first start your car, so that you're always checking the fluid from a cold engine start. Transmission fluid isn't used up like oil, it should always stay at the same level. If the level goes down over time, it indicates you have a leak in your transmission and will need to visit a transmission repair specialist to find and patch the leak.

Watch Out For Transmission Fluid Leaks

Some car manufacturers seal their transmissions, making it impossible to easily check the transmission fluid using a dipstick. You'll need an automobile technician to check the level. In this case, the only thing you can do (besides having a technician check it during regular maintenance) is to keep an eye out for puddles of transmission fluid forming under your car. These leaks are typically caused by seals in your automatic transmission failing. It's important to take your car to a transmission repair shop to fix them, as the leaks will only get worse over time.

When transmission fluid begins to degrade, it loses its ability to lubricate the moving parts in your automatic transmission and also loses its ability to correctly transfer power from the engine to the transmission due to the reduced viscosity, which can result in loose shifting. It's important to keep an eye on the status of your car's transmission fluid and to comply with regular maintenance guidelines set by your car's manufacturer to ensure that your automatic transmission is able to function correctly. Driving your car on old transmission fluid can do serious damage to your transmission; if you notice a problem with the fluid, take your vehicle to a transmission repair shop, such as B G & S Transmissions, to have it flushed and replaced as soon as possible.