In a car with an automatic transmission, fluids lubricate and cool the moving parts. Also, the substance maintains the proper pressure for the transmission to function properly. The liquid is normally bright red and clear with a smell that is almost sweet. You can usually determine if you need to change your ATF by checking the levels.
Signs of a Problem
Your car automatically shifts gear depending on the circumstances. It shifts down for more power and up for more speed. You can oftentimes feel a problem by paying attention to how the car is shifting. If your shifts are late, slow, or rough, you might have an issue on your hands. The car will lurch or lag between gears while you’re driving.
How to Check Your Levels
To check your levels, you must have the car on. This is best done in your own driveway or on level ground. While the car is idling in park, pop the hood. The dipstick is going to be in a different place on practically every car, but usually the cap for the dipstick is labeled “ATF.” Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a light-colored microfiber cloth. Dip the stick back into the fluid and remove it once more. The level of the liquid should be within the recommended range on the dipstick.
If the liquid is dark in color and looks or smells burnt, it’s time to make a change. That is why a light-colored cloth is recommended for checking.
By the time you have reached this stage, you might already have done damage to your car’s drivetrain. It is important that you immediately change your transmission fluids.
Making the Change
In the past, automobile manufacturers asserted that you could drive for 100,000 miles without needing to change the liquid. Mechanics have long maintained that to be false. Recently, manufacturers have backed down to a more reasonable 30,000 miles. Now, if nothing goes wrong, you should be able to drive for much longer than 30,000 miles without problems. But, by the time you notice a problem, you need to top off your ATF immediately.
The process for a trans flush is messy and complicated. You must first remove the transmission pan and replace the filter. These are going to be in different places for every vehicle. However, that will only solve about half of your problem. Much of the fouled-up ATF will remain in the transfer case, clutch drum, trans cooler line, torque converter, valve body, and other places.
If you are well-versed in the workings of your auto, this might not be a daunting task. You will need to find a level spot such as a driveway or parking lot. Then, you need to drive your car onto blocks or jack it up with jack stands. Be sure to place chock blocks behind your rear tires so the automobile can’t roll. You will then need to drain the transmission fluids, bolt everything back to where it goes, and fill your car up with new liquid.
If this all seems like too much work, your best bet will be to call a local mechanic for a trans flush. Whatever you decide, this is not a problem you can ignore.
When considering transmission fluids, Lester Prairie residents visit SynTech Lubrication, LLC. Learn more at