Transmission fluid is a crucial component of your vehicle’s internal structures and the performance of your car. The transmission fluid directly affects the transmission, the component that uses gears and gear trains to provide the correct amount of speed and torque to the engine from the wheels. If you experience low transmission fluid symptoms, these components will not be lubricated enough for optimal performance.
The primary function of transmission fluid is to lubricate the different parts of the transmission. However, it also has other important jobs, such as:
- Cleaning and protecting surfaces from excess friction and breakdown
- Conditioning the head gaskets and seals
- Enhancing the coping mechanism to reduce extremely-high operating temperatures
- Increasing rotational speed and temperature range
We will go over how to check the transmission noodle levels to ensure they are topped-off at the correct amount, and the most common low transmission fluid symptoms that drivers notice in their cars. By fixing the low transmission fluid symptoms before they worsen, you can help prevent premature transmissions failure, internal system problems, and severe concerns that could cause your car to not perform at an optimal level.
Checking The Transmission Fluid Level
To remedy the low transmission fluid symptoms, you need to know how to check the level of transmission fluid to see if your car is working at the proper performance level.
Many modern cars don’t have a transmission fluid dipstick included in the system. Instead, automakers and car manufacturers will check the fluid level for you since it can sometimes be difficult for users to find themselves. Make sure you use your car’s owner manual to see if the transmission dipstick is accessible or if you need to bring your car to a mechanic.
Steps to Checking Transmission Fluid Level
If you want to do this process on your own, there are a few tips and steps that you should use when checking the transmission fluid. By following the steps in order, you can help fix the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Find the User Manual – First, you need to locate the user manual for your specific car based on your make, model, and year. In the manual, find the recommended procedure for checking your transmission fluid and determining “is it bad to change transmission fluid on high mileage.”
- Park the Car – Next, make sure the vehicle is located on a flat surface and is parked. Place the vehicle in the “park” position and ensure that the car will not roll away during use.
- Check Operating Temperature – After this step, make sure you know the engine heat and the overheating potential. Be aware of the cooling fans that will continue running in your internal system after your engine has shut off. As well as the hot engine components, make sure the parts are operating at the right levels to prevent the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Turn the Engine Off – Make sure that the engine is off when you check the fluid. Keeping the engine off ensures user safety and can affect the car’s accuracy reading. By keeping the engine off, you can help prevent the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Check the Gears – In addition, some car manufacturers and mechanics recommend moving the gear selector into the different gears for a couple of seconds before checking the transmission fluid levels. After you check the gears and cycle through, ensure you return to the Park or Neutral position.
- Find the Dipstick – Regarding the dipstick handle, identify the dipstick by using your owner’s manual to locate it within your transmission system. After you have located the dipstick handle, you need to remove the dipstick and clean it using a rag to prevent the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Find the Leak – Once the dipstick is removed and cleaned, reinsert the dipstick, remove the dipstick to check the fluid levels, and then identify if you have a leak that needs to be addressed.
10 Low Transmission Fluid Symptoms
Sometimes, when wondering how to remedy the low transmission fluid symptoms, transmission fluid might be burning instead of just being at a low level in your car. If the fluid is not the right color, like black instead of red, or you notice a burning smell, this is likely the culprit. Burnt fluid can occur when the transmission overheats, and there is too much friction. In this case, you need to swap out your transmission fluid to prevent complications that occur when you change transmission fluid on high mileage.
- Fix: Fluid Flush – The average cost of a transmission fluid flush will typically cost around $150, with transmission flushes on smaller cars going as low as $100 and bigger trucks costing around $200. If you are unsure how much your specific car will cost, you can expect the flush to cost about double as much as a fluid change.
Both automatic and manual transmission use clutches. Although clutch issues are more common in manual cars, automatic cars can still succumb to clutch malfunctions. In an automatic car, the transmission and the torque converter have clutch plates that can become worn out and damaged due to insufficient transmission fluid. Clutch problems can cause the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Fix: Replace the Clutch – The cost to repair or replace a clutch depends on the damage and severity of the issue, with prices ranging from as little as $500 to as much as $2,500. The overall price depends on the type of car you drive, with luxury and sports cars costing around $2,500, and used cars that are middle-of-the-road costing between $500 and $1,000.
Torque converter issues
The torque converter’s main function is to transfer the engine’s power into torque, which is the type of power that the transmission can use. Over time, the torque converter will break down and become damaged. When the converter is functioning correctly, the fluid will flow through the torque converter. However, if it is damaged, the transmission fluid will not be able to flow. Torque converter problems can be the culprit of the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Fix: Replace Torque Converter – If you plan to replace the torque converter yourself, you can expect to pay between $150 and $500 for the part. However, if you need a mechanic to do the entire process for you, then expect to spend between $600 and $1,000 to replace the torque converter for your automatic transmission.
It is also possible for the transmission bands to become broken down, worn over time, and damaged. These issues can cause the transmission to slip since they are in charge of connecting your gears. If the transmission bands are damaged, this can cause low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Fix: Replace Transmission Bands – Replacing the transmission bands ranges between $1800 and $3400 depending on the type of transmission.
The gear set in your vehicle requires various clutches and bands that change the gears and affect the speed changes. The bands in the automatic transmission are usually the key issue when it comes to slipping. The worn-out and damaged band can allow parts of the transmission to continue to rotate for a few seconds after you change gears.
The continuation of the rotation after you change gears causes the gears to feel sloppy, meaning your engine will rev during a gear change.
- Fix: Replace the Transmission – If your gears are no longer working, unfortunately, you will have to replace the entire transmission. The average price of transmission replacement ranges from $1800 to $3400, with a used transmission being the cheapest option at between $800 and $1500. The price of a rebuilt transmission is between $1100 and $2800, and a remanufactured transmission ranges between $1300 and $3400.
Along with a worn band and low transmission fluid, there are still other reasons for your transmission problems. The gear changes in the automatic transmission are sparked by the solenoids that convert the automatic transmission fluid. Solenoid issues can be the main reason behind the low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Fix: Replace the Solenoids – Depending on what kind of car you drive, like the make, model, and year, you can spend upwards of $400 to replace the entire solenoid pack in your car. Of course, replacing a single solenoid will cost less money, but the problems are generally affecting more than one solenoid in your transmission system.
The slipping transmission is caused by the low transmission fluid, contamination of the transmission fluid, or the lack of routine maintenance in the transmission system. The slipping transmission can also be due to the internal wear and tear on transmission parts inside of the transmission itself. If your engine is also revving highly along with the slipping transmission, this is a sign of low transmission fluid symptoms.
- Fix: Check for Transmission Fluid Leaks – If you find that you have issues shifting or delays while changing gears, you could be experiencing low fluid levels due to a fluid leak. This issue’s typical transmission problem cost is between $150 and $200 for transmission leak repair.
Leaking Transmission Fluid
A red fluid leaking and showing underneath your vehicle is a clear sign of a bad transmission. It is an indicator that you probably have a transmission fluid leak coming from one of your cooler lines, a transmission gasket, or a valve seal. This leaking transmission fluid is not only detrimental and negative for the transmission itself, but it can also lead to a fire hazard.
- Fix: Transmission Fluid Change – The average price of a fluid change will cost around $100, with the cost of a dealer costing upwards of $250 and an independent mechanic going as low as $80. The procedure’s average cost is $100 when dealing with the most common automatic transmission problems and solutions.
Grinding When Shifting
Low transmission fluid symptoms can be caused by gears grinding when you try to shift in your car. When your transmission grinds and the shifting gears are not working, this can be a condition that is directly related to the clutch not releasing, the shift synchronizer rings inside the transmission being broken or damaged, or the shifter having an adjustment problem.
In addition, if your transmission fluid and oil are too low, contaminated, full of debris, or is the wrong fluid altogether, this can also cause a severe problem in manual cars.
- Fix: Replace the Powertrain Control Module – Replacing your powertrain control module will typically cost between $888 and $963 for this transmission problem’s cost. The labor costs will range between $79 and $100, while the cost of hte parts is between $807 and $863.
Car Fails Completely
In older cars, adding fresh transmission fluid can actually cause the car to lose power and fail. Other low transmission fluid symptoms are the car has no power, very little power, and the engine can still run correctly. This problem could form from internal transmission problems, brakes that are not working correctly due to a faulty caliper or brake hose, or your car’s internal computer has limited power because of an internal electrical problem that has been detected in the engine.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, recognizing the most common low transmission fluid symptoms is crucial for drivers to keep their transmission operating at the correct level. Without the transmission fluid, the transmission would get too hot, resulting in excess wear and tear and breakdown over time.
Drivers need to recognize the most common symptoms of low transmission fluid, like burnt fluid, clutch problems, grinding when shifting, car failing, leaking fluid, slipping transmission, solenoid issues, and worn-out gears.
As soon as drivers notice the low transmission fluid symptoms, they should check their transmission fluid level – either by themselves or at a professional mechanic shop. This way, drives can prevent any future transmission issues resulting in a high transmission replacement cost!