Transmission Fluid: When To Change It, And Physical Signs To Observe

You can learn a lot about your car's transmission by looking at its fluid. New transmission fluid is odorless and transparent, and may have a reddish color depending on its manufacturer. In almost every case, new fluid looks and smells clean - checking its odor and color is a great way to determine whether your transmission is working normally, or if it needs service. Here, you will learn the four basic conditions of transmission fluid.

Clean With no Odor

If your transmission fluid is clear, clean and has no odor, it's in like-new condition, and your transmission is probably working fine. Use service intervals or mileage to decide whether to bring the vehicle in for a fluid change. If you're unsure about maintenance schedules, a local auto transmission repair service can help.

Slightly Brown, With a Burnt Odor

Transmissions with fluid in this condition are usually due for service. If, during your last service, you didn't have the fluid flushed completely, you may be seeing the remnants of the old fluid. As long as your car's transmission is shifting as it should, consider getting a total flush sometime soon.

Brown, With a Charred Odor

If your transmission fluid is murky brown and smells very burnt, you're probably already having issues. However, if the gearbox is still working normally, you may be able to head off further problems with a filter replacement and fluid exchange. By the time your fluid is burned, wear and tear are present, and you'll eventually need to have the transmission rebuilt.

Black, With a Foul Odor

This fluid is extremely burnt, and your transmission is probably in bad shape as well. You're likely to be experiencing severe shifting issues; at this point, a fluid change would have limited effect, and the transmission would need repairs. Other problems, such as cooling system issues, could exist, and you should have these systems evaluated during the repair process.

The condition of the fluid is not the only thing a technician considers when noting the condition of your car's transmission. They also look at computer diagnostic codes, operating conditions, and physical appearance to determine your need for further service. If, after looking at your transmission fluid, you're still unsure as to whether there's a problem, bring your vehicle in as soon as possible. An auto transmission repair technician will check your fluid, and recommend the best way to keep your transmission running smoothly.