Exploring Automotive Electrical Faults

3 Things To Know About Your Car's Transmission Fluid

Your transmission fluid is the magic juice that keeps your car shifting smoothly and reliably. While the oil in your engine has a relatively straightforward task, your transmission fluid needs to wear many more hats. Not only does this critical fluid both lubricate and cool your transmission, but it also acts as a hydraulic fluid to keep it functioning correctly.

Unfortunately, servicing modern automatic transmissions can be more complicated and confusing than many older vehicles. If you're wondering where to begin to keep your transmission in great shape, you've come to the right place. This article will discuss three things that you need to know about your transmission to spot and avoid potentially severe issues.

1. You May Have a Sealed Transmission or Lifetime Fluid

Many manufacturers now seal their automatic transmissions and install "lifetime" fluid. In other words, the transmission may effectively not be user-serviceable. While this sounds nice in theory, the reality can be less pleasant. Lifetime fluids won't necessarily outlast the mechanical components of the transmission, and they may begin to break down and lose their lubricating or hydraulic properties.

A good rule of thumb is to follow your manufacturer's service schedule while your car is relatively new and under warranty. However, as your car ages, you should consult a trusted transmission shop. Following the advice of experts, even above and beyond your manufacturer's recommendations, may allow you to extend the life of your transmission significantly.

2. You May Not Have a Dipstick

Since manufacturers often don't intend for their transmissions to be user-serviceable, many cars do not include a dipstick for checking the transmission fluid. As a result, you may not know if your transmission fluid is low, and you can't examine its condition. Your car may have a warning light to alert you if there's a problem, but this typically only appears when the fluid level is already dangerously low.

Since you can't check your transmission fluid, paying close attention to your car's behavior is critical. If you notice gear slipping, unusual noises, or other signs of transmission trouble, always bring your vehicle to a qualified transmission shop. Technicians can use their computers and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to look for issues, even on modern, sealed transmissions.

3. Fluid Problems Aren't Always Fatal

The thought of transmission problems probably fills your head with visions of massive repair or rebuild bills. Fortunately, fluid problems don't always mean a death blow for your transmission. Quick action to locate and repair the leak can allow you to avert more severe damage, saving your transmission from premature failure.

If you notice leaking fluid, changes in transmission behavior, or a fluid-level warning light, do not continue driving your vehicle. Getting your car to a transmission shop as soon as you can is the best way to ensure you can locate the problem without causing any additional (and costly) damage.