How to Check the Transmission Fluid Levels on a Car

So you’re driving and you hear a loud whirring sound when you accelerate. Or, perhaps you find it difficult for your car to accelerate smoothly or reverse from a dead stop – you may want to check your transmission fluid. The transmission fluid allows the gears inside the transmission housing to move freely without any friction on the metal parts. Low levels of transmission fluid lead to a loud, whirring sound on acceleration and deceleration. Old transmission fluid makes moving the vehicle more difficult as it loses its lubrication properties.

Required Tools and Materials

  • A shop rag or cloth
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight

Step One

Ensure the car is in “park” and on a level surface. Release the hood by pulling the lever, usually located under the steering wheel. You should feel a click and/or hear the bonnet open.

Step Two

Open the hood by pushing on the hood catch safety lever, which is usually located directly underneath the hood and in the middle. It can also be found in some vehicles through the front grill of the vehicle.

Step Three

Secure the bonnet using the prop rod usually located on either side of the engine bay or at the front of the engine bay. An arrow is usually embossed into the underside of the bonnet indicating the correct placement of the prop rod.

Step Four

Identify the transmission dipstick using your owner’s manual. If you do not possess an owner’s manual for your vehicle, the transmission dipstick is usually located on the opposite side of the engine oil dipstick. It is not easily identified as the engine oil dipstick; however, a typical transmission dipstick is long, slender and has a yellow or red handle/loop.

Step Five

Pull the transmission fluid dipstick out and wipe it off using the cloth/shop rag. Replace the dipstick and remove the dipstick again, now noting the transmission fluid level.

Step Six

If the fluid is on or close to the FULL mark and is red or pink in colour, your transmission fluid is in good condition and at the appropriate level.

Step Seven

If the transmission fluid is at half or below, and is red or pink in color, you may need to add more transmission fluid.

Step Eight

If the transmission fluid is not red or pink, the fluid must be drained and replaced with new transmission fluid. At this point, the fluid should be brown in color.

Tips and Warnings

  • Ensure you are on a level surface and that the engine is warm when checking the transmission fluid as it will provide a more accurate reading. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to see if the engine should be running or off but warm for taking the readings.
  • When checking the transmission fluid while the engine is running, ensure you wear safety goggles before opening the bonnet to protect your eyes from debris and fluids.
  • Use gloves to prevent fluid spills from touching your skin.
  • A flashlight may be needed to find the dipstick if you are experiencing poor lighting.

About: Ed Tanner writes about automotive topics like How To Drive a Car and 4WD Cars.