Auto Repair Weekdays 8AM to 5PM

Chico Auto Repair, Car Keys & AC

Checking Your Own Transmission Fluid

Checking Your Own Transmission Fluid


Ever notice reddish or pinkish oils or fluids collecting under your engine? It’s possible that was a transmission fluid leak. Checking and changing your transmission fluid is one of the many critical aspects of vehicle maintenance, and it’s something that should be done every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Otherwise, you risk extremely expensive transmission replacement that might override the value of a cheaper car entirely.

Today we’re going to talk about what transmission fluid it is, signs that you need to change it, and where you can get that done if need be!

What Does Transmission Fluid Do?

Like most moving parts on an automobile, the transmission consists of a bunch of metal parts grinding against each other like some kind of hot robo-rave. Actually, the transmission is just a gear box full of moving gears that grate and rub against each other, and they would break quickly without lubricant. Transmission fluid is the lubricant for the gears in the transmission’s gearbox.

In vehicles with automatic transmission, transmission fluid also provides hydraulic pressure that enables internal components to operate. In both manual and automatic transmissions, it also helps reduce heat caused by friction between the gears, which aggravates wear and tear further.

timing belt replacement
timing belt replacement

Signs of Low Transmission Fluid

There are a number of signs that your transmission fluid is low including:

  • Red, pink or oddly tinted oils or fluids under your engine

  • Shifting gears is difficult or certain gears won’t engage at all

  • Shifting causes the vehicle to lurch or shake

  • Odds smells especially during shifting, likely of burning or smoke

  • Odd noises like whirring or humming, especially if you can feel it through gear stick

While it’s unfortunate to have these problems at all, fortunately they tend to be somewhat easy to identify so diagnosis isn’t usually too difficult. Not only that, with proper maintenance and auto repair service, it’s fairly easy to prevent this from happening at all. You can usually keep up on transmission fluid refills simply by asking if you should get one at the same time you get an oil change. If you go to the same auto shop, they often keep that information on file and you won’t even have to remember anything.

How to Check Your Own Transmission Fluid

Please have your vehicle owner’s manual at hand for this, as you may need it to reference where your transmission fluid dip stick is. Especially since some cars use transmission systems that are closed forever thus they do not have dipsticks, and you’re wasting your time looking for one. If that’s the case, you’d certainly want to know that beforehand, eh?

Here’s the gist of how to check your own transmission fluid:

  1. Pop the hood (preferably by banging it with your fist if you’re cool enough)

  2. Look for the transmission fluid dipstick.

    1. Do not confuse this with the engine oil dipstick which you’re likely more familiar with. The transmission fluid stick is usually located farther back in the engine compartment near the windshield. Often it’s marked with a unique color or symbol so you know what it’s for.

  3. Pull the transmission dipstick and wipe off the fluid. Look a the stick, there should be marks for “low”, “fill”, and/or “full”.

    1. Remember them, they come up later. This is foreshadowing.

  4. Put it back in all the way, without pushing too hard or shaking it around too much so you don’t get residual fluid on the stick and misread that there’s some in there when there’s not

  5. Turn on your car and leave it idling

  6. While the vehicle is idling, take the dipstick back out and look at the fluid to see where it lines up with the marks we remember from earlier. If the mark is at anything but the top “full” line, you need more transmission fluid.

  7. Put the dipstick back in securely, and probably go ahead and turn off your car and close your hood if you’re done here.

    1. Maybe go have a sandwich. You’ve earned it.

It’s a fairly simple process, just make sure you have a shop rag on hand so you don’t grease up that smartphone if you need to give us a service call. Here’s a backup guide from Car And Driver magazine’s website, but it’s less detailed and not as fun as ours:

How and Why You Should Check Your Transmission Fluid

Need a Transmission Fluid Refill?

transfer case fluid service

Thems the fundamental facts of transmission fluid and the role it plays in keeping you from needing expensive transmission replacement. Simply, it greases yer gears. And now with this guide you should be able to check the transmission fluid levels yourself to determine when it’s time for a transmission fluid refill or not.

If it turns out you do need transmission service, well, you’ve come to the best transmission shop in Chico. We pride ourselves in offering premiere auto repair work at an affordable price and on schedule, too! If you need any help with your transmission including diagnosis, auto maintenance, or auto service unrelated to your transmission, just let us know by giving us a call using the contact information below.

You can also schedule an appointment online, and check in next week for more interesting auto mechanic articles, news, and the like. Thanks for reading!

Call Tedious Repairs for Transmission Service

Benefits & Services

  • Fast, Affordable Transmission replacement
  • Expert Transmission Technicians
  • Free Diagnostics with Transmission Service
  • Free Advice on Transmission Parts and Upgrades

Our Contact Info

1 thought on “Checking Your Own Transmission Fluid”

  1. Phew! Thank goodness you reminded us to take immediate actions if we detect any foul stench coming out of our engine because it may indicate a decreasing level of transmission fluid. My supervisor is so sure that a similar problem might be happening with his car since the start of this month but he’s not sure if that’s something to worry about. Maybe he should just send it for a total overhaul some time soon to resolve the matter.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.