How To Check for a Transmission Fluid Leak

Transmission fluid performs two important roles—it lubricates the mechanical components inside the transmission, thus making the engine run smoothly, and it acts as a coolant, especially in cars with automatic transmission. Having adequate transmission fluid in your car will help minimize wear and tear on the transmission components. This article will help you check for transmission fluid leakage in your vehicle.

Oil patches on the driveway or parking area usually indicate a leak. Since the transmission system is located at the front center of the vehicle, you might want to check for oil patches forming on the ground underneath the front center of the car. Using your fingers, check the color of the oil. You can also place a few drops of the liquid on a white sheet of paper. If it is either red or brown, it is most likely transmission fluid. Oil patches are the most obvious signs of transmission fluid leakage.

Overheating is another sign of possible leakage of transmission fluid. Inadequate supply of transmission fluid can result in inadequate cooling of the transmission parts, thus removing the lubrication that the parts require to reduce friction. So, if your vehicle overheats, consider transmission fluid leakage as one of the potential culprits.

Open the hood of your car. Using the transmission dipstick, check the level of transmission fluid. Make sure you are using the transmission dipstick, as there are other dipsticks (e.g., engine oil dipstick). Refill the transmission fluid reservoir if fluid level is running low. Then, drive around for a few minutes and check the fluid level again afterwards. If the fluid level dropped, your vehicle does have a leak. Cars do not consume transmission fluid. So, if you find your car running low on transmission fluid, you should start suspecting a leak.

If you are ready to get your hands dirty, you can try getting under your car to inspect the transmission seal. The transmission seal holds the transmission parts together, and if the seal breaks or cracks, the transmission fluid leaks. Cars that have a mileage of more than 75,000 miles have greater likelihood of forming cracks in the transmission seal.

While you’re down there, check the transmission drain plug. It looks like big bolt screwed onto the transmission fluid pan. The drain plug can be a source of fluid leakage, especially if it is not screwed on tightly. You might also want to check points at which other parts connect to the transmission. The points of connection can sometimes be sources of leakage, especially around worn seals or cracked parts. The pan gasket, transmission cooler lines connecting to the radiator, and output shaft seals are the most common areas where fluid can leak out. So, you might want to inspect those, too.

Severe loss of transmission fluid due to leakage can lead to faster and earlier deterioration of your car’s transmission system. You can prevent such deterioration and keep your vehicle running smoothly by knowing how to check for leaks so that they can be fixed immediately. As the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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