The automatic transmission needs to be lubricated with transmission fluid. It has several moving components which rub together just like the engine does. That is why the engine is lubricated with oil. Automatic transmission components can only work smoothly if they’re consistently lubricated while the vehicle is running. Any type of fluid leak would cause major problems for the transmission’s components and for the vehicle itself.
To ensure you have the proper amount of transmission fluid available, you need to regularly check your automatic transmission fluid to see what level it is at. Most auto manufacturers will recommend that you check the fluid level every 40,000 miles. Of course, you can look in the owner’s manual for your vehicle to confirm the number of miles. If the manual suggests different mileage, then go with that number.
There may be times when you’ll want to check the fluid level earlier. For instance, if you shift gears in an automatic vehicle and it starts to hesitate, then you should check the fluid immediately. In fact, do this before you even go to the mechanic because they’ll try to sell you an unnecessary service.
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The 5 Steps
Below are the top 5 tips for checking your automatic transmission fluid to see whether it is cold or hot.
1) Prepare the Vehicle – The first thing you need to do is find a flat and firm surface for your vehicle to park on. Set the parking brake and turn on the engine. Let it run for about 15 minutes so that it can warm up. Some car manufacturers will recommend you turn the engine off before checking the transmission fluid, but most don’t recommend this.
2) Find the Dipstick – Open the hood in the front and find the transmission dipstick. The handle of the dipstick should have a red or orange ring on it. In a front-wheel drive vehicle, the dipstick for the transmission usually sticks out from the transaxle. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, check toward the back of the engine and you should find the dipstick.
3) Checking the Fluid Level – Pull out the dipstick once you’ve found it and the engine has warmed up. There are two marks spread out on the dipstick; Add and Full. The former means “Cold” and the latter means “Hot.” You’ll want the fluid level of an automatic transmission to be somewhere in the middle of these marks. It’s okay if the fluid level is more toward the full, but you don’t want it to be more toward the Add.
4) Repeat – Take a soft clean rag and wipe the fluid off the dipstick. Note: The fluid may be hot, so it is best to let it cool down first and then wipe it. Once the dipstick is clean, put it back in the tube. Pull it out and check the fluid level and the markings again. If you get the same reading, then it must be an accurate reading. If you don’t get the same reading, try to repeat the process for a third and/or fourth time until you get a reading that stays consistent.
5) Add Fluid if Necessary – If the fluid level was near the “Add” mark on the dipstick, then you need to add more transmission fluid to the transmission. Make sure you choose the right transmission fluid, though, because not all fluids will be compatible with your vehicle’s transmission. The best way to figure out which fluid to use is to check your owner’s manual. When you’re ready to add the fluid, put a funnel in the opening of the tube and pour the fluid into the funnel. Add the fluid slowly and keep checking the fluid level until you get it in the middle.