As part of preventative vehicle maintenance, you should change your car's transmission fluid from time to time.
Transmission fluid lubricates and cools the moving parts of a transmission system but also creates and maintains the hydraulic pressure required for the transmission to operate. However, it deteriorates over time and will require replacement to prevent damage to the vehicle's transmission.
Here is how to tell when to change your transmission fluid.
When the transmission dashboard warning light comes on
If you drive a modern car, it probably has a dashboard transmission temperature warning light that comes on to alert you when your transmission is overheating—operating at a higher temperature than normal.
Overheating can cause permanent damage to your transmission, so it's imperative to stop driving when you see the light illuminate.
Although several factors can cause your transmission system to overheat, deteriorated or ineffective transmission fluid is a common culprit. If your transmission is overheating and you can't remember the last time you changed the transmission fluid, it may be time to change the fluid.
When your transmission fluid colour chart indicates you need fresh transmission fluid
Fresh transmission fluid is usually bright red in colour. As the fluid deteriorates over time, the red colour diminishes and turns into darker shades.
It may be difficult to confirm the colour of the fluid just by looking at the transmission dipstick, but if you wipe it on a clean, white rag, you can discern the correct fluid colour with your transmission fluid colour chart or guide.
When you notice a burning smell emanating from your transmission
As a driver, you should never ignore any strange smells coming from any part of your vehicle while driving. If you smell trouble, there is going to be trouble if you fail to act fast.
A burning smell originating from your car's transmission often indicates that your transmission is overheating, potentially due to inadequate or ineffective fluid. Checking the condition of your transmission fluid to determine if it is old or dirty is a good way to start troubleshooting the problem.
When you have difficulty changing gears
When your transmission system is working correctly, you (for manual transmissions) or your vehicle (for automatic transmissions) should be able to shift gears smoothly and quickly.
If you are experiencing problems shifting from one gear to another, you may need to get a transmission fluid change. Transmission systems require clean transmission fluid to operate smoothly. If the fluid in your transmission is old or dirty, gear-shifting issues will be inevitable.
Keeping your car's transmission system in good working condition is essential for avoiding costly transmission repairs but also maximising the performance, safety and life of the entire vehicle.
Contact a car mechanic shop near you for assistance with all your vehicle maintenance and repair needs.