Your Trusted Auto Repair Shop for 40+ Years
Shop Talk Logo

Transmission Fluid Leaks and How to Find Out If You Have One

Vehicles that experience transmission problems may require a large amount of money and time to repair. If you’re unsure about the important role that the transmission fluid plays in your car’s overall function. Educating yourself about your vehicle’s operation can prove to be useful down the line. Maintaining your transmission properly could save you a significant amount of hassle if you plan ahead.

Identifying Your Transmission Fluid

Although it can be easy to overlook, the transmission fluid plays a vital role as a multipurpose lubricant and hydraulic solution, conditioning seals and gaskets so they last longer. Though in the past it has been identified as a bright red in color, they can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, it is also a bit thinner in consistency than engine oil yet a little thicker than brake fluid. Only self-shifting or automatic vehicles need transmission fluid. Most vehicle models require that the transmission fluid is changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles; although, if you pull a trailer or tow a significant amount of weight it may be as soon as 15,000 miles.

Checking for Leaks

You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to know if your car is experiencing a transmission fluid leak. Simply park your car in a clean and level area and follow these steps:

  • Spread a clean drop cloth in the area you intend to park your vehicle.
  • Park over the cloth, making sure that the entire engine and transmission components are directly above it.
  • Turn off your engine completely and leave your vehicle in that spot overnight.
  • Check the cloth for stains in the morning.

If you see any stains on the cloth, it is a good sign that your vehicle has a minor leak, which may get worse if not addressed. Transmission leaks usually stem from the gaskets and seals. If the fluid level in your pan is low, however, it is common for nothing to leak while your car is running. It is not until all the components stop operating that the transmission fluid settles back into the holding pan. As the fluid level in your pan gradually rises and components near the holding reservoir on the bottom of your transmission get coated in fluid, leaks begin to appear.

Repairing Your Leak

If you see any stains on your cloth, it is recommended you schedule an appointment with your mechanic for a professional diagnosis and repair. The sooner a problem is identified, the less potential it has to cause lasting and costly damage to your car.