Most auto manufacturers recommend servicing your transmission every 50,000 miles or so (check your owner’s manual for more details). But it’s a good idea to check transmission fluid periodically. One of the best times is during a normal engine oil change. If your transmission has a filler tube and dipstick you can check it yourself. If not, you’ll need to have it check by a transmission specialist.
It’s simple. Just follow these steps:
- Make sure the engine is at normal operating temperature.
- Park your vehicle on level ground.
- Place the shifter in Park and set the parking brake.
- Locate the transmission filler tube (note: some transmissions, particularly newer cars, do not have a transmission filler tube. If your car doesn’t have one you’ll have to take it to a specialist to check).
- Remove the dip stick and wipe it dry with a clean cloth.
- Reinsert the dipstick (all the way) and then remove it to view the fluid level. Dipstick design varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but they all have a “low” and a “full” mark. In this case, they’re holes in the stick. In most cases, the distance between the low mark and the full mark is one pint.
- In addition to checking the fluid level, check the condition of the fluid as well. Transmission fluid comes in a variety of colors but in all cases, the fluid should be clear and not have a burnt odor. For more information on transmission fluid condition see the ATRA article that addresses the color and smell of automatic transmission fluid.
- If the condition of the fluid is poor or the level is low you’ll want to have your transmission checked by a specialist. You can locate a qualified transmission specialist with ATRA’s Shop Finder. If the level is low, chances are you have a leak. Make sure you add fluid before driving any further.
To add transmission fluid:
- Place a clean funnel in the dipstick tube.
- Add fluid based as needed.
- Recheck the level as you did in step 6 above