Transmission fluid is fluid that is used to lubricate various components of a vehicle’s transmission for optimum and durable performance. Various fluids are used for various transmissions. Your vehicle’s transmission can either be manual or automatic. Automatic transmissions use ATF or automatic transmission fluid. The correct use of automatic transmission fluid is dependent upon the technology of your vehicle’s transmission. Many manual transmissions utilize an array of oils that have an API specification GL-4. In order to make sure that you are using the correct transmission fluid, either consult with your dealership, your mechanic or your owner’s manual, if you still have it.
Why is Transmission Fluid Needed?
Transmission fluid is vital. Here’s why: The fluid in your transmission must remain at the proper levels, or you risk your transmission going through significant wear and tear. Both the sliders and synchro rings are dependent upon a lubricated as well as a slick surface that needs to match speeds as you shift your car into various gears. So, should your transmission be low in oil, then there is not much that can keep components lubricated and slick. Additionally, you as the driver, will experience tremendous difficulty as you work to shift gears in your car while driving. Many drivers check the transmission fluid levels, once there are problems shifting a car.
With the primary function of transmission fluids being to lubricate the various components of your vehicle’s transmission, your fluid serves other purposes. Some of those other functions include:
- Increasing temperature range and rotational speed.
- Reduce high operating temperatures.
- Provide conditioning for your gaskets.
- Improve and increase cooling function.
- Protect and clean metal surfaces from wear and tear.
What’s Transmission Fluid Made Of?
Conventional transmission fluid is crafted from crude oil by reshaping the hydrocarbons. The fluid is constructed to fit a variety of vehicles. For specifications of different vehicles. Synthetic transmission fluid is crafted and produced by using different chemical reactions. This kind of transmission oil is less likely to oxidize, thin out or break town once it meets high temperatures.
Is Changing Transmission Fluid Really Necessary?
As a vehicle owner, you are fully aware that there are various fluids that travel throughout your vehicle. One of the most important fluids you want to monitor is transmission fluid. Many folks debate whether or not it should be changed. The answer we are going with? YES. So, how often should you change it? This depends on your driving habits, and your vehicle’s manufacturer’s vehicle recommendations. Lots of manufacturer’s maintenance schedules for an array of automatic transmissions don’t recommend changing the fluid to new and fresh fluid until 100,000 miles is reached. In fact, for some Ford vehicles the recommendation is not to change the fluid till you reach 150,000 miles.
But many mechanics say not to wait so long to change transmission fluid. Most auto experts say that you should replace your fluid every 50,000 miles. Manual transmissions do require a more conventional gear oil compared to automatic transmission fluid This creates a different schedule for replacement of fluid. So, you want to talk to a mechanic to find out what the best course of action is for you.
Your Driving Habits and Your Transmission Fluid
Just like other fluids in your vehicle, your transmission fluid does in fact deteriorate over the course of time. If you are a driver who does lots of “stop and go” and “city driving”, you transport heavy loads, then these are conditions that will raise your transmission’s operating temperature. The heat from those kind of driving habits and activities will place more strain on your fluid as well as your transmission. While engine oil is a lubricant, transmission fluid acts as both a hydraulic fluid and an oil.
As we mentioned earlier, your transmission fluid helps facilitate smooth gear shifting. If you are a driver who hauls heavy loads, does lots of stop and go driving, then you may need to check your transmission fluid a bit more often, than a driver who doesn’t do “stop and go” driving. Most of the time, transmission fluid is a red color. But it can come in other colors too. Regardless of the color of your transmission fluid, all transmission fluid can become darker in color, as it deteriorates. You may also experience a “burning odor”. This indicates that it’s time to change your transmission fluid. You want to change that fluid, before you experience other issues with your vehicle.
What Happens If You Don't Change The Transmission Fluid?
If you elect to change your transmission fluid frequently then you are increasing the longevity of your transmission. On the other hand, if you opt not to change it, then you will have dirty and grimy fluid that will fail to work as the lubricant it should. Furthermore, heat will not be dispersed well. Given such, you will now experience lots of wear and tear on your vehicle’s clutches as well as other components of your transmission. When the clutch packs lose grip, the old transmission fluid may be the only thing producing enough friction for your clutches to engage as well as keep your transmission from slipping.
You want to prevent damage to your transmission by ensuring your transmission fluid is either flushed or changed.
Should I Flush Or Change My Transmission Fluid?
Based on your vehicle, either flushing or changing the transmission fluid may be to your benefit. Check with your mechanic or your owner’s manual to see if you benefit from either a flush or a change. If changing your transmission fluid is ideal, then you can open the transmission drain that can be found on the underside of the vehicle. Changing the fluid allows for about 50% of the fluid to be drained in the pan. The other 50% of the fluid will remain the vehicle’s torque converter as well as other components of the transmission.
If flushing your transmission is more beneficial for your vehicle, then you will be able to completely change all of the fluid that is in your transmission. To successfully flush your transmission, get a transmission hose, and attach it to the input of the line, that travels through the transmission. Affix the other end to the output. You can then pump fresh and new transmission fluid into your vehicle.
A transmission flush should only be performed if your transmission fluid is in pretty good shape and there are no signs of damage. Should you do a transmission flush with damaged material in the transmission fluid, then you risk having an issue with the valve body that’s located at the bottom of the transmission. Should your valve body accumulate gunk and debris, you may lose your ability to shift gears.
How Can I Tell If My Transmission Fluid Needs To Be Changed?
Check out some of the signs that it may be time to change your transmission fluid needs to be changed, or needs some maintenance.
The Transmission is Leaking Fluid
One of the biggest signs that it may be time for a transmission fluid change, is the fact that there is leaking fluid. While it may be hard for you to differentiate between another kind of leak or a transmission leak, you want to make sure that you pay attention to any leak. Do you see dark spots on your garage floor or your driveway? Then take a piece of cardboard, tear it up and place it under your vehicle. Check out the color of the leaking fluid. If it looks bright or dark red or even a reddish-brown color, then there is an issue with your transmission. So, get that car to a trusted mechanic ASAP. The sooner you take it to a mechanic, the better your chance of avoiding costly repairs.
Just like tire rotations and oil changed, your vehicle’s transmission requires both proper and routine maintenance in order for optimum performance. So, if you have slippage with your transmission, then it’s time for you to see an auto mechanic. You may notice slippage especially if you work to drive up a hill.
You Smell An Odor Coming From Your Transmission
Although manufacturers recommendations vary from car to car, a good rule of thumb to follow for transmission fluid replacement, should be just about every 40 to 60 thousand miles. Are you smelling a “sweet” or a “burning” odor? Then this smell could be your transmission fluid. It is indeed easy to confuse that “sweet” smell with radiator fluid. This is all the more reason that you need to get to a mechanic to check out the “sweet” smell you are smelling.
Rough Idling and Rough Shifting
Is your transmission grinding? Is your vehicle shimmying as it idles? Then you need to take that car to a mechanic ASAP. Any movement or vibration in your car- whether moving or idling is cause for concern and a reason for you to take that car into a car shop for service.
Poor Acceleration and Warning Lights
Is your vehicle unresponsive to green lights? Do you have problems accelerating as you work to drive? You could have a transmission issue and you need to visit your car professional ASAP. In addition to the acceleration issues, you will also see warning lights illuminate on your dash. That “check engine” light may come on, indicating that you have a problem with your transmission. So, get to a mechanic’s bay right away!
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