When your vehicle is operating, it undergoes a significant amount of stress. This stress comes in the form of extreme heat, motion, vibration, and even dirt and debris. That’s why most of your vehicle’s critical systems use special fluids to keep the mechanical parts lubricated, insulated from heat, and cleaned of dirt and grime.
Your vehicle’s transmission is a system that works very hard to accomplish the task of continuously shifting the vehicle into higher and lower speeds. Transmission fluid plays an essential role in protecting the transmission from the elements of heat, motion, and dirt.
In this month’s blog, we look at your vehicle’s automatic transmission fluid, what it does to support your transmission, and what to look for when it is time to be replaced.
What is automatic transmission fluid?
Automatic transmission fluid is a type of oil designed from crude oil that flows through your automatic transmission. This fluid provides important lubrication to gears and parts, cooling and temperature regulation, and has the ability to pick up dirt from within the system.
Transmission fluid is typically a light reddish color, more opaque and thinner in viscosity than motor oil. The color and fluidity of transmission fluid makes it easy for vehicle owners to spot leaks from the underside of the vehicle. There are also synthetic versions of automatic transmission fluid that are designed to last longer and stand up to the elements with more longevity.
When is it time to replace your transmission fluid?
There are varying ideas of how often transmission fluid should be changed. Some auto manufacturers suggest every 30,000 miles driven, while other auto professionals recommend anywhere between 60,000-100,000 miles. Regardless of the time frame, the quality of transmission fluid is important to the performance and efficiency of your vehicle’s transmission. This means it is wise to periodically check your fluid levels and quality, especially if you tend to drive in higher stress situations for your vehicle.
When checking the quality of transmission fluid, keep these tips in mind:
- Always wipe the dipstick clean and get a fresh coat of fluid on the stick to check the level and color.
- If the fluid is healthy, it should be lighter red and clearer.
- If the fluid is old and needs replacement, it will be dark or may even be black.
- If you find that the fluid has specks of metal or debris mixed in, there could be a problem within your system that needs immediate attention.
- If you find that the fluid is foamy or cloudy, this could be the result of an overfill but should be checked promptly as well.
Common Signs of Dirty Transmission Fluid
If you are driving your vehicle with dirty and diminished automatic transmission fluid, you may begin to see some problems with the performance and handling of your vehicle. These problems could be the direct result of the dirt, clogging, or other fluid related issues.
Some of the common signs that arise may include:
- Distinct whining or grinding noises coming from the transmission
- Difficulty using reverse
- Slipping gears due to lack of hydraulic power
- Engine consistently runs hot
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it’s time to have your transmission fluid checked out. If the fluid is compromised, it’s a good idea to have a transmission fluid flush. During this process, the old fluid is flushed from your system and the filter replaced to ensure that your transmission is given a clean bill of health.
If you have any concerns with your transmission or transmission fluid that you need addressed, give the service professionals at Best Western Transmissions a call and schedule an appointment. We will inspect your vehicle and provide you with any recommendations for servicing and/or repair.