How To Check Transmission Fluid

How To Check Transmission Fluid – A Detailed Guide

Are you desperately trying to find a way to check the level of your transmission fluid and do you want to learn how to check transmission fluid? If that’s the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Checking your transmission fluid is a very important thing that you need to do in order to make sure that everything is in proper working order with your transmission. Without you knowing the condition of the fluid you can take the health of the transmission in jeopardy. Why I’m saying this?

Well, I’m saying this because the life of the transmission depends a lot on this transmission fluid. Without proper fluid in your transmission, the transmission will start to show symptoms.

The operation of the gearbox will not be the same as it was when the fluid was in good condition or at the right level. This is why checking the transmission fluid is an essential thing you need to do. And we are going to show you why.

First, we will learn more about the basics and what is a car transmission. Then we will learn how automatic transmission works and what fluid does it uses. Then we will focus on the symptoms of bad and low transmission fluid. These are really important for you to know. Then we will learn some ways how to check transmission fluid level with and without a dipstick. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is A Car Transmission?

Now before we dive into the topic of how to check transmission fluid in your car. Let’s first focus on the basics and that is what is a car transmission in general. This will be quite an interesting chapter for the people who are entering the car world and want to learn more about transmissions in general. If you feel like you are up to the task you can move to the next chapters, if not, keep up with us for a bit.

So, what is a car transmission? A car transmission is basically a device that is installed in every internal combustion vehicle. This device has a special purpose to convert the rotational energy created from the crankshaft of the engine into torque.

As you probably know, torque is the prime mover in every vehicle out there. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to move our cars around. Horsepower alone isn’t enough. But the torque is the most important thing.

How To Check Transmission Fluid

And the transmission does an incredibly good job in delivering this torque to the wheels. Without the transmission, the power delivery would be extremely inefficient and almost impossible. Since the engine is spinning at 800 RPM at idle speed.

That’s why engineers saw this problem and decided to create a device that we know as transmission.

In the beginning, there were only 3-speed transmissions and 4-speed transmissions. But as the years advanced, the number of gears increased, and now we even how 10-speed automatics. Which is rather an insane number. Thus the efficiency of your vehicles improved immensely. But how to check transmission fluid? We will get to that in a bit.

How Automatic Transmission Works?

Now before we learn how to check transmission fluid, let’s first cover how automatic transmission works. We will focus primarily on automatic transmission first because the sheer number of transmissions in the US is automatics. Meaning that here in the states this is the transmission of choice. So, we will focus primarily on it.

Even though there are a number of people who prefer manual. That’s why for them we are going to share a separate chapter on how to check transmission fluid for manual cars. Where we will focus on how you can check the level of fluid in this type of transmission.

The automatic transmission is a very simple device to operate. You only need to understand the PRND pattern that is on the center console next to the shifter. P is for park, R is for reverse, N is for neutral, and D is for drive. Simple as that.

You just press on the brake pedal, start the car, and put it in drive or reverse. Depending much if you want to go forward or backward. The neutral gear is for allowing the car to roll when the car needs to be towed and park basically locks the car in place. But how does this work in reality behind the curtain? Let’s explain.

Although automatics are simple to use. In reality, they are really complicated. They are designed in that way to deliver you gearshifts with the help of hydraulic pressure.

Meaning that there is a valve body inside of the transmission and a solenoid that activates the transmission to shift the gears. Automatic transmission is a really complex device that needs always to operate at 100%. But how to check transmission fluid? We will get to that in a bit.

How Does Manual Transmission Works?

Now before we cover how to check transmission fluid in a manual. Let’s focus more on the work of the manual transmission. How does a manual transmission work in reality?

The manual transmission unlike the automatic is not that complex device. It is rather simple inside when it comes to the gear sets. But what is complex is the operation of this type of transmission.

And many people are rather confused when it comes to operating this type of transmission here in the US. Especially non-car guys who come across a manual transmission for the first time. And we get it. There is a big learning curve when it comes to manual transmissions.

In fact, in order for you to be able to drive a manual transmission, you will need to drive at least 1,000 miles to start feeling comfortable with it. Unlike the automatic where you just put it in drive and accelerate. In manual transmissions, it is not the case.

Manual transmissions work with the help of the clutch. This is a friction plate that comes in contact with the flex plate and engages the transmission with the engine. When you press the clutch pedal, you basically are disengaging the clutch disc from the flexplate and you have the ability to change a gear. When you release the pedal, the clutch engages with the flex plate again.

It is a relatively simple process. But when it comes to driving the car, not so much. People are confused and panic all the time. And there is no reason to panic. The worst thing you can do is burn the clutch. But how to check transmission fluid? More on it in a bit.

How To Check Transmission Fluid

Now let’s cover another important topic before we dive into understanding how to check transmissions fluid. And that is what is transmission fluid in general. The definitions when it comes to this are really different depending much on what type of transmission you are running.

Let’s start with the manual transmissions. Manual transmissions are using something known as gear oil. This is a really thick oil that is often used in differentials. This is the case because this transmission is really simple and doesn’t need hydraulic pressure to work. You only need the oil to lubricate the gears and that’s it.

This makes owning a manual transmission a breeze when it comes to transmission fluid replacements. Many car manufacturers claim that their oils last forever. But it is often advised to check every 100,000 miles and replace it. This way, you will be sure that you don’t experience issues in the long run.

Automatic transmissions on the other hand are using something that is known as ATF or automatic transmission fluid. This fluid is red in color and is basically a hydraulic fluid with special additives that will work really well with your transmission.

Its main goal is not only to lubricate but also to deliver hydraulic pressure. Meaning that it should always be at the right level and also should be clean.

The cleanliness of the fluid guarantees that you will not have trouble shifting. If the fluid is not clean or it is low, you will be experiencing some symptoms that we are going to cover in the following chapters. After that, we will learn how to check transmission fluid.

Symptoms Of Low Or Dirty Transmission Fluid

Now before we cover how to check transmission fluid. Let’s learn more about the symptoms of low or dirty transmission fluid. We will focus primarily on automatics since in manual transmissions the cleanliness of the fluid doesn’t really make any difference to you as an owner. Also, manual transmissions rarely leak, unlike automatics which tend to leak a lot. So, let’s begin with the symptoms.

1. Check Engine Light

Now before we learn how to check transmission fluid, let’s learn the first symptom that is often associated with low or dirty transmission fluid.

And this is the check engine light. The car will notice whenever there is a lack of transmission fluid and will notify you via the check engine light notification. But this could mean anything.

How To Check Transmission Fluid

You will need to diagnose the problem if you want to be sure that you run dirty transmission fluid or there is low transmission fluid.

For this, you will need an OBD2 scanner. The codes for the transmission usually start at P0700. So, the codes that you will get will start from P0700 and up until P799.

2. Transmission Overheating And Burning Smell

The second symptom that we will cover before we learn how to check transmission fluid is the overheating issues and burning smell.

If your transmission is leaking there will be overheating issues since you will be lacking some transmission fluid in your system.

This will also create a burning smell that will be felt. Since the smell usually comes from the bottom of the transmission around the transmission oil pan. This is why knowing how to check transmission fluid is so essential for you as an owner. But more on that in a bit.

3. Transmission Shudder

The third symptom that we are going to cover before we learn how to check transmission fluid is the shudder or vibrations that the transmission often produces whenever there is a problem with the transmission fluid level.

The transmission simply will not like this situation when there is low or dirty transmission fluid and will produce vibrations. The extent of these vibrations can really depend on the condition and level of fluid, the lower it gets, the worse the symptoms will be.

This is why you need to notice this shudder and act quickly by learning how to check transmission fluid. But more on that in a bit after we cover the last symptom.

4. Jerking And Slipping Gears

And the last symptom that we are going to cover before we learn how to check transmission fluid is the situation with jerking and slipping gears. Since presumably there will be a lack of fluid or there is a dirty fluid in the transmission. It will not be able to deliver proper shifts for you the owner.

It will start to behave poorly and will not like to go into the next gear or it will slip gears. Either way, a clear indication that you have a big problem with it and it needs to be checked. First, you need how to check transmission fluid and that is something that we are going to explain next. And then how to top off the fluid if possible. So, follow along.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Dipstick

Now let’s learn how to check transmission fluid dipstick. Checking a transmission fluid with a dipstick is a really simple process.

The first thing you need to do is to locate the dipstick. This dipstick is usually mounted close to the firewall from the passenger’s side and is orange or yellow in color. You can pull it off and see the level.

But you only can check the level when the transmission is hot. Unlike the motor oil, the ATF has to be checked while the car is hot. If you don’t follow this method, you will get a bad reading.

Just start the car and take a circle around the block. Then observe the level. Make sure that it is between the lines at the recommended level. If it’s low, you need to top it off. If not you are good.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Without Dipstick

Now let’s see how to check transmission fluid without a dipstick. This one is really tricky to do because these dipsticks are essential to check these fluids.

For this, you will only have to rely on the car computer to tell you if you are running low on fluid. Also, observe the oil pan for possible leaks and address them if there are any.

You can also do another method and that is unscrewing the bolt from the side of the transmission and seeing if the fluid is up to the line. If not. Top it off. This is normally done when the transmission is cold.

How To Check Automatic Transmission Fluid

How to check automatic transmission fluid? It is basically the same method as the dipstick method. If your automatic transmission has a dipstick, check the fluid level when the transmission is hot and see at what level is the fluid.

If you don’t have a dipstick, you only are able to rely on the car computer and the values that it gives you. Normally, these cars that do not have dipsticks will give you some warning if you are running low.

It is a sad thing that there are cars like this but it is what it is, we have to deal with it and work our way around it. Whenever you have a car with no dipstick, make sure that you do your oil change intervals regularly and also always check for possible leaks from the bottom of the vehicle. If there are leaks, then you definitely are missing some of the fluid.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Manual

But how to check transmission fluid manual? Checking the fluid on a manual transmission is also impossible. Manual transmissions never leak and it is highly unlikely that you will lose some of the fluid.

If you think that you are losing fluid, you will be unable to shift gears and the transmission will not work as it should. When you have a manual transmission, your best bet would be to replace the fluid every 100,000 miles just in case. If not, you don’t have to worry about it.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Chevy Silverado

But how to check transmission fluid Chevy Silverado? Checking this fluid on a Chevy Silverado is really easy.

First, you need to find the dipstick that is usually located close to the firewall at the passenger’s side. You will see a protruding device that looks like something that you need to pull.

But first, start up the car and let the engine warm up. Checking this fluid is recommended only when the engine is warmed up properly if you want to get the best readings about the level. If else, you will get the wrong readings. Now let’s conclude this article.

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the problem of how to check transmission fluid.

First, we learned what is a car transmission and the different types of transmissions. Then we learned how they work and what is the method of action of both manuals and automatics.

After we covered the symptoms of low or dirty fluid. These as we stated can include shuddering, jerking, slow response from the transmission, and slipping gears. Overall, a bad situation.

Then we learned how to check transmission fluid on many different applications both manuals and automatics and we also stated that some of the transmissions cannot be checked when it comes to the fluid. Mainly because they are sealed and do not have a dipstick.

You need to note that having the right input on this important fluid is key in keeping the health of the transmission in check.

F.AQ To How To Check Transmission Fluid

Now let’s answer some common questions…

How To Check Transmission Fluid Dipstick

Checking the fluid with a dipstick is really simple. First, you need to start the engine and leave it to run for a while so the transmission to get up to temperature. The second step is to locate the dipstick, this dipstick is located on the passenger’s side right before the firewall. Pull the dipstick and see the level. If you do this on a cold engine, you will not get the right reading.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Without Dipstick

Checking the transmission fluid without dipstick sadly is not possible from the top. But that doesn’t mean that there is no way. The only way that you can check the fluid without a dipstick is by lifting the car on a lift and removing the bolt on the side of the transmission that is used to fill the transmission with fluid. If there is fluid once you remove it, it means that you are good. If not, top it off.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Level

You can do this simply by pulling the transmission fluid dipstick that is located near the firewall from the passenger’s side. Just make sure that the car is warmed up. Transmission fluid is only checked when the car is warm if you want to get the right readings.

How To Check Automatic Transmission Fluid

You can check automatic transmission fluid by pulling out the dipstick. Almost every car has a transmission dipstick. This dipstick is located next to the firewall from the passenger’s side. Start the car and let it warm up. Then pull out the dipstick and check the level. Make sure that it is in the recommended range.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Manual

Unfortunately, you cannot check the manual transmission fluid. Mainly because manual transmissions do not have a dipstick.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Chevy Silverado

Checking the fluid on the Chevy Silverado is really easy. Just find the dipstick that is located close to the firewall on the passenger’s side. Just make sure that the transmission has warmed up before you do this practice. If you don’t do this step, you will get the wrong reading from it.

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