Monitoring the transmission fluid in your car is one way to track the condition of the transmission. You should get in the habit of checking the fluid periodically just to make sure everything is working okay. You'll want to check the fluid level along with the color and consistency of the fluid. Here's what you need to know.
Levels Shouldn't Decrease
Transmission fluid levels should remain constant. It's not normal if you need to add fluid all the time. If the fluid level drops, it means you have a leak that needs to be found by a mechanic and repaired. Refer to the owner's manual for your car so you can find the dipstick for checking your transmission fluid. You can check the level every few months or so to verify that you aren't losing fluid. Also, if your car seems to develop problems shifting gears, that's a good time to check the fluid to make sure it isn't leaking out.
Another way to monitor for leaks is to watch for puddles underneath your car when it has been parked overnight. If the puddle contains pink or reddish fluid, it's probably coming from your transmission. You may need to put a white sheet of paper under the leak so you can estimate the amount being lost as well as judge its color.
Fluid Should Be Clear Of Debris
Normal transmission fluid is red and clear of debris. When you check the level of fluid, wipe the dipstick onto a white cloth or paper towel so you can check the fluid color and consistency. It should be clean and transparent. If your transmission fluid is dark or filled with clumps of debris, that's a sign something is going wrong inside your transmission. The fluid can also appear burnt and even have a burnt odor. This could indicate there is too much friction inside the system. The fluid needs to be drained and replaced once repairs are made.
The transmission fluid could also develop a creamy consistency while maintaining its red color. This is a sign of contamination with radiator fluid, and you'll need to have a mechanic make repairs to the radiator or transmission before extensive damage occurs. Fluid that is very light pink may have lost some color because it's diluted with water. That can sometimes happen if you drive through high water or if you car is caught in a flood. In that case, your transmission needs to be dried to prevent rust and the fluid should be drained and replaced.
While low fluid levels are a cause for concern, dark transmission fluid is not necessarily a sign something is wrong. The fluid will gradually turn darker as you put more miles on your car. Eventually, your transmission needs to be serviced and have the fluid replaced. Still, it's a good idea to take your car to a mechanic when you spot abnormalities in your transmission fluid. By making repairs early, you might save yourself from a hefty repair bill later on.
For more information, contact American Transmission Center or a similar location.