If you’re driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, changing gears should be simple. However, if the engine stalls or hesitates before moving between the gears, it points to various maintenance and mechanical issues. Before panicking or bringing the vehicle in for service, check the transmission fluid. If you’ve never checked your own transmission fluid before, follow these quick and easy tips.
Finding the Dipstick
First, you’ll need to find the transmission dipstick; it will look much like the engine oil dipstick, but it may be a different color. The dipstick’s precise location will vary. On rear-wheel drive vehicles, it’s usually at the back of the engine. On FWD vehicles, it is typically toward the front.
Checking the Fluid Level
Once you’ve found the transmission dipstick, you can check the fluid level.
- Ensure that the vehicle is in neutral or park and set the parking brake. Turn the engine on and allow it to warm up before removing the transmission dipstick.
- Dip a finger into the fluid on the stick. The transmission fluid should be reddish or pink in color and it won’t have much of an odor. If the fluid is brown, smells burnt, or is full of particles, change it as soon as possible to avoid transmission failure.
- Use a clean and lint-free cloth to wipe the stick, re-insert it, and re-check the transmission fluid level. If you see pinkish liquid but it doesn’t reach the right level, add a bit of fluid. Don’t overfill it!
- Re-insert the dipstick, and you’re done.
If you add more fluid to your vehicle’s transmission, be sure to use the right kind. There are several types of transmission fluid, and for the best performance and longest transmission lifespan, you should use the same type that’s recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Be sure to double-check the fluid type before purchasing. Though checking your transmission fluid is an easy process, if you are at all uncertain, seek professional advice.
Transmissions are full of moving parts, and a DIY fluid change may damage them. If you check your transmission fluid and determine that it needs to be changed, it’s best to take your vehicle in for service. With these tips, you’ll easily be able to check the level and condition of your transmission fluid.