How to Check Your Transmission Fluid


In this article, we’ll go over How to Check Your Transmission Fluid. Checking your transmission fluid is a simple task that can be done in just a few minutes, and could potentially save you thousands in transmission repairs.

Step 1: Getting Started

Park your vehicle on a smooth, level surface. Pull the hood release, open and secure the hood. Take a look around your engine bay and locate your transmission dipstick. On front wheel drive cars, it’s usually in the driver’s side front area of the engine bay. On rear-wheel drive cars, it’s usually located in the passenger’s side rear area of the engine bay.

Step 2: How to Check Your Transmission Fluid

Remove the oil dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag. With the dipstick in hand, start your vehicle, keep your foot on the brake, and move the shifter to each position, one at a time, then move back to park. Now, with the engine running, parking brake set, gearshift in park, go re-insert the transmission dipstick, seat it in the tube all the way, and remove it again. This time, look closely at the end of the dip stick. You should see transmission fluid residue somewhere on the end of the stick, and the level (hopefully) falls in between a marked area on the stick. Use the picture below to get an idea of what you’re looking at.

transmission dipstick

In the photo above, you can see that the fluid level passes both the ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ range markings. This transmission is over-filled, and will need to have some fluid drained. If your engine is cool or slightly warm to the touch, you should be in or just over the ‘cold’ range. If your engine is uncomfortably warm to the touch, you should be in or near the ‘hot’ range. If the fluid level is below the range you’re looking at, you’ll need to add some fluid. Shut off the engine and deactivate the parking brake.

Pull the dipstick one last time, and put a drop of fluid on a paper towel. What color is it?

If it looks clean and pink or red, like the first 2 dots in the picture above, it’s good fluid. You don’t need to worry about it for awhile yet. If it’s closer to the middle 2 dots, plan on getting a transmission fluid change ASAP. Closer to the last 2 dots? Start putting money aside for a transmission rebuild, new transmission, or a new car, depending on your preference. Unfortunately, a fluid change at this point won’t usually help.

Step 4: Adding Transmission Fluid

If your transmission is low on fluid, you’ll need to add some of the correct fluid. Your local parts store should be able to help you get the correct fluid for your vehicle. Don’t just guess or use whatever’s laying around the garage if your’e not sure what you need, as this will most likely damage your transmission. You’ll also need a funnel small enough to fit inside the transmission dip stick tube. Add transmission fluid a little at a time, and check the dip-stick often. Once the fluid level is within the range, you’re good.