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Low Transmission Fluid

by | Apr 22, 2023 | Best Western Transmission

Just as motor oil is vital to the proper functioning of your vehicle’s engine, transmission fluid is critical to the operation of your vehicle’s transmission.  When the transmission fluid is low for various reasons, your transmission may become compromised.  A compromised transmission leads to a failed transmission which can be a very costly mistake for vehicle owners.  In this month’s blog post, we examine the common symptoms of low transmission fluid so that you can prevent your vehicle transmission from total failure.

What is transmission fluid?

Depending on your vehicle’s transmission, you may have automatic or manual transmission fluid.  Transmission fluid is usually a synthetic fluid, that is designed to lubricate the gears and parts of your transmission, provide hydraulic pressure and friction to the automatic transmission, and regulate the temperature of this hard-working vehicle component.

What causes transmission fluid to be low?

While your vehicle’s transmission fluid may burn off naturally over time, it is never enough to cause a significant drop in the level.  The primary cause for low transmission fluid is a leak within the transmission.  Sometimes, the leak may be in the transmission pan or be the result of a faulty gasket.  Other times, the leak may happen somewhere in the transmission line.  A slow leak is harder to detect because the leak may burn off in the engine before appearing on the ground beneath the vehicle.  Transmission fluid is very easy to spot if there is a significant leak due to its bright red color.  Older transmission fluid changes color and may be a darker red or even brownish hue.

If you notice that your transmission fluid is low, make sure to replenish it so that it continues to provide the necessary function to the transmission parts.  If the fluid level continues to be low, it should be inspected by a service professional.

What are the symptoms of low transmission fluid?

Besides checking the transmission fluid regularly, there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate that transmission fluid is low in your vehicle.  If you are not inclined to regularly check the level, then keep an eye out for these symptoms.

  • Dashboard Warning Light: If your dashboard warning light illuminates, it may indicate that the transmission fluid is low.
  • Overheating: If the fluid is low, your transmission is not getting the proper cooling it needs and the engine will overheat.  This may be accompanied by a burning smell.
  • Problems Shifting Gears: If you are having difficulty when shifting your vehicle gears, this could be a symptom of low transmission fluid.  Due to the friction caused by the gears, they require adequate lubrication.
  • Unusual noises: The transmission can emit many different sounds when the transmission fluid is low, including humming, clunking, a grinding, or whining.  Often, the noises are caused by grinding parts that do not have the right amount of lubrication.
  • Gear Slippage: If the gears slip when shifting, this could be an indication of low transmission fluid.

How often does transmission fluid need to be changed?

Today’s vehicle transmissions are more efficient, and, in some cases, the transmission fluid may never need to be changed.  However, if you are doing heavy driving, you may consider a transmission fluid change every 50,000 to 100,000 miles driven.  When checking the fluid level, also look for the color and viscosity of the fluid.  The darker and thicker the fluid, the greater the need is for fluid replacement.

If you would like your transmission fluid to be checked, contact the service professionals at Best Western Transmissions to schedule an appointment.  Our professionals specialize in transmission repair and can inspect your vehicle to make any recommendations for repairs, if necessary.