How to Know if the Transmission Oil Needs to Be Changed


Neglecting to check the transmission fluid in your car will potentially set you up for not only a costly expense, but also affect the life of your vehicle. Checking the transmission oil regularly will help extend your vehicle’s life expectancy. Difficulty shifting, old and dirty fluid and other foreign obstructions caught inside the transmission are only some of the signs you need to change the transmission oil. Do not find out the hard way by ignoring your transmission oil, because you might end up in a broken-down vehicle.

Check transmission oil regularly.
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Step 1

Put your vehicle in park with the emergency brake in place. NAPA Auto Parts advises, “Your car should be running when you check the transmission fluid level.” Lift the hood and be careful not to touch or place your hands too close to the running engine or the surrounding parts.

Make sure car is running before checking transmission fluid.
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Step 2

Check the transmission fluid by pulling out the dipstick located near the back of the engine. If you cannot find the transmission fluid dipstick, refer to your vehicle’s owner's manual. Use an old rag and wipe off the fluid at the end of the dipstick. Replace the dipstick and pull it out a second time. There should be a line at the end of the dipstick indicating the correct level of transmission oil. If the fluid is below the minimum fluid requirement, you need to either add to or change the transmission fluid.

Check transmission fluid.
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Step 3

Notice the color of the transmission fluid. Healthy transmission fluid should look be a clear, light-pink color. Change transmission oil that looks dark.

Transmission fluid should be light pink.
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Step 4

Look carefully for foreign debris or fluid that is different from the normal consistency of your transmission fluid. Foreign objects trapped inside the filter can prevent the flow of the transmission fluid. If you find debris trapped inside the filter, change both the transmission oil and filter. Completely flush the transmission oil if you find fluid that is different from the transmission oil.

Debris and foreign fluid can mix with transmission fluid.
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Step 5

Pay attention to how your vehicle drives. If you notice erratic or hard shifting, the transmission is not working properly. Slipping of the transmission is a sign you should change the transmission fluid and take it to a qualified transmission specialist.

Notice how your car drives.
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Tips & Warnings

  • Seek advice from an experienced and qualified transmission specialist.
  • Use the specified type of transmission fluid for your vehicle. Attempting to add different transmission oil could damage your vehicle.


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