Owning a car comes with a certain set of responsibilities; it is essential to perform preventive maintenance in order to get the best performance results and longevity out of your vehicle. Beyond performance and ability, your car also needs to be maintained in order to be as safe as possible. When maintenance procedures go overlooked, it can cause serious problems with your engine, your brakes, or any number of other components that could directly affect the safety of the driver and the passengers. Not maintaining your vehicle can cause an accident in the most extreme cases, can leave you stranded on the side of the road, and can cost you incredible amounts of money in repair bills. Sometimes we can’t always make it to the automotive shop, and it becomes important to know how to perform a few basic functions to maintain your own vehicle. One task that many drivers perform on their own is fluid changes and top-offs. Transmission fluid is one of the most essential fluid components of your vehicle. Like your windshield washing fluid or coolant, you should be able to check your own transmission fluid and add more if needed.
Having an automatic transmission comes with the benefit of not needing as much service as manual vehicles do. The transmission fluid is responsible for keeping your engine in the most optimal condition, enabling it to run without any issues. Depending on your specific vehicle, you may never have to change the transmission fluid or fill it. For others, you may not be able to access the necessary components in order to check, fill, or change the fluid on your own. For this reason, it is important that you check with a trusted auto mechanic before attempting to perform any automotive tasks on your own. You should also consult with your vehicle’s designated manual in order to find any specific recommendations that will work for your car.
Before you check the transmission fluid, your engine should be running and you should shift through all the gears before leaving it in “park.” Depending on your owner’s manual suggestion, you may want to leave the engine in “neutral;” in either case, you should not drive your car and unnecessarily heat the engine, and you should properly secure your vehicle so that it does not roll or cause any injuries. Next, you should open the hood of the vehicle and prop it open so that you can take a good look inside the engine. In the interest of saving time, consult your owner’s manual again to find the exact location of your transmission fluid pipe—depending on the vehicle, this pipe can be in various locations in different car models.
When you find the automatic transmission fluid dipstick sticking out of the pipe, pull it out all the way onto a towel that you can wipe it down with. Then, place the dipstick back into the pipe one more time and pull it out again. There are labels etched into the dipstick that will give you information based on the fluid that is currently in the pipe. Usually there are two markings on the dipstick, and the fluid should be right between the two markings. If fluid is low, then the fluid line on the dipstick will be below the bottom marking and you will need to add more fluid. While looking at the dipstick, you should also assess the quality of the fluid. If the fluid looks darker, hazy, or bubbly, you should bring your vehicle in for an inspection as soon as possible.
Take caution when adding transmission fluid to the pipe. You should make sure that you are using the proper fluid for your automatic transmission; if you use the wrong type of transmission fluid, you could cause serious issues to occur and you will end up spending a lot of money in repair costs. You can consult your owner’s manual for details about what type of fluid you should use, and you should always consult a knowledgeable professional beforehand to get any tips or advice on how to proceed with the task. If you have any doubts, it is always safer to bring the car to an expert.