Transmission Fluid Color Chart: What’s Your Transmission Telling You?

The transmission system in a vehicle is responsible for ensuring that the right amount of power is delivered to the wheels to achieve the desired speed. So, when you put your foot on the gas or press down on the brake, your transmission responds by shifting gears up or down. The process is largely the same in both an automatic and manual vehicle, with the small exception of a clutch being depressed during manual transmission.

If your transmission fluid has not been changed in a while, it might be time to check under the hood.

Transmission Fluid: A Lesson in Color

Your transmission system goes through a lot during its lifetime. It is also made up of almost 1000 finely tuned parts, so it’s essential that you keep it well-maintained. One very useful indicator of the condition of your transmission is the color of the transmission fluid that keeps it lubricated and operating smoothly.

New transmission fluid is a bright, translucent and vibrant red color. When the transmission is in operation its components get incredibly hot. Transmission fluid prevents your transmission system from overheating and is very important for the overall performance of your vehicle. If transmission fluid is not maintained correctly, leaks, overheating and other common transmission problems can result in a major fault and a repair bill totaling thousands of dollars.

Over time, due to contaminants flowing through the system and mixing with the fluid, the original bright red color can start to turn through a number of shades. A bright and deeper red color is normal, while a brown or burnt color are good indicators that you need to arrange a transmission fluid change or flush.

transmission fluid color chart min

How to Identify and Remedy Transmission Fluid Problems

If your transmission fluid has not been changed in a while, it might be time to check under the hood. To do this you’ll first need to read your vehicle’s manual to find out whether your engine should be turned off or running while you do the check. This is important to ensure an accurate reading. You’ll need to use the transmission fluid dipstick (different to the engine oil dipstick). Dip the dipstick into the transmission fluid reservoir and wipe it on a clean white rag.

If the color indicates a fluid change is required, you have two options when it comes to arranging transmission fluid maintenance–a fluid change or a fluid flush. If the color of your fluid is red to dark red, a fluid change will usually be sufficient. However, with this option, some contaminants may remain and you may need to arrange another change sometime soon in the future. If your fluid is dark brown to burnt in color you will need to consider a full fluid flush. This completely replaces the old fluid in your system with new fluid. To keep your transmission fluid in even better condition, adding transmission fluid additives can reduce the frequency of fluid changes, prevent leaks and keep your system performing at its best.

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