How to Check Transmission Fluid Posted by John Baker, 8th February 2017

It is a good idea to check your vehicle’s transmission fluid to monitor fluid level and condition before the transmission fluid change is due. Check the fluid immediately if the transmission jerks, hesitates, shifts hard or if the fluid is leaking.

The recommended interval to change transmission fluid varies considerably (20 000 – 100 000 km) depending on the car make, model and age of the vehicle. We, therefore, recommend consulting your car owner’s manual. Cars with automatic transmissions will require more frequent intervals for transmission fluid control and change.

1. Obtaining a correct reading on the dipstick requires the fluid to be warm and the engine to be running. To begin, park your vehicle on a flat surface, apply the parking brake and let the engine idle until warm. You may have to drive your vehicle for a short period of time to raise the transmission fluid temperature. Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) also recommend shifting through the gears to circulate the fluid prior to checking, so consult your owner’s manual.

2. Pop the bonnet and locate the transmission fluid dipstick, which typically serves double duty as the fill tube. It’s often located near the back of the engine compartment and shouldn’t be too tough to find. You can always check your owner’s manual for the location if it proves elusive.

3. Pull the dipstick and wipe clean with a lint-free rag. Reinsert the dipstick. Make sure it’s completely seated. Withdraw the dipstick again and check the fluid. The dipstick may have a cross-hatch pattern in which the fluid level should fall. Others may have a “hot” and “cold” line. The fluid should be close to the “hot” line.

4. If the fluid is low, add the recommended transmission fluid to bring to the correct level. You’ll probably need a long-neck funnel with a small-diameter opening at the point.

“Fill-for-life” automatic transmissions are becoming more popular. Most don’t even have a dipstick for checking transmission fluid. On those that do, they can be located in hard-to-access areas. In these cases, check a service manual for dipstick location and instructions for checking the transmission fluid. Although the transmission is designed to be “filled for life,” it may still require additional fluid from time to time. Also, “fill for life” typically means fill for the life of the warranty. It’s just as important to service these units and replace the transmission fluid once in a while to ensure the transmission lasts as designed and gives you years of solid performance.

Which transmission fluid should you use?

To shift properly and provide years of reliable service, your transmission requires a transmission fluid that provides the correct frictional properties. The transmission fluid also must resist formation of harmful sludge and varnish, which can clog the narrow fluid passages and lead to poor shift quality. This is particularly important if you tow or haul, which increases heat and invites fluid breakdown.

AMSOIL formulates a full line of synthetic transmission fluids that help you get the most out of your vehicle.

LEARN MORE ABOUT AMSOIL TRANSMISSION FLUIDS

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