10 Signs of Low Transmission Fluid and How to Fix Them

10 Signs of Low Transmission Fluid and How to Fix Them – There are two types of transmission in vehicles. There is the manual transmission and there is the automatic transmission. Each one has its uniqueness.

However, they function almost the same way. The difference is that the automatic transmission engages the gear without a direct prompt from the driver.

As a result of the mechanical parts involved in automobile transmission, there’s a need to apply lubricant to prevent damage and excessive friction.

Besides the lubricating function of the transmission fluid, it also helps engage the gears with ease. As time progresses, the transmission fluid experiences reduction due to mechanical activities of the gears.

It is critical to note that driving a vehicle with the transmission fluid below the recommended level is detrimental to the car’s health.

An Automatic Transmission

Signs of Low Transmission Fluid and How to Fix Them

Here are 10 signs of low transmission fluid in a vehicle and how to fix them.

Jerking during a Transmission Shift

Hard gear shifting is the first sign of low transmission oil. Whenever you notice how hard it is to shift a gear, it is time to check your transmission oil level.

Usually, you’ll notice a jolt each time you engage the transmission. A simple way to confirm it is to pay attention to the frequency of the jolt.

If each gear you engage results in the jolt, it usually proves that there is a fault with the transmission fluid.

Delayed Transmission Shift

Automobiles are designed to respond efficiently to every mechanical engagement.

If you engage the gear and there is a delay in its response, it may signify that the fluid is low, especially when it takes time to engage the reverse gear.

In some cases, you may have to rev up the engine to a high RPM before it responds, and when it does, it comes with an intense jolt. At this point, you must check the transmission fluid and ensure it is up to the recommended level.

Slipping Gear

When you notice that your car is not moving any faster as it should when you match the gas pedal, it may be a sign that your transmission fluid is low.

You can check this by putting your vehicle on a highway and reaching a high speed. If you rev up your engine and the speed doesn’t adjust to balance up with the rev level, it shows your car is experiencing a transmission slip.

You have to check your transmission fluid level. Even though, there are other causes of transmission slip, enable to check your transmission fluid before taking your car to a repair shop.

Transmission Overheating

Heat is one of the major consequences of friction. And the job of the transmission fluid is to lubricate the transmission system and perform thermal management functions.

An overheating transmission indicates that the fluid is not functioning properly. It is either low or poor.

Always check for the level and quality of the transmission fluid any time you notice that your transmission is overheating.

Poor Motion Around Corners

Low transmission fluid may result in difficulties maneuvering turns and bends.

It is a clear sign of low transmission fluid because the pickup tube can’t suck in enough fluid.

Burnt Transmission Fluid

You may begin to perceive a burning oil in your vehicle.

It often happens when there’s a limited quantity of fluid to manage the heat and friction generated in the transmission system.

The smell may also come from the engine oil, but when this symptom shows up with a few other symptoms or signs of low transmission fluid as discussed in this article, it points to the fact that the transmission fluid is low.

Strange Noise from the Transmission System

Besides heat, another effect of friction is sound.

When mechanical parts of your car produce unusual sound, it shows there’s an underlying problem. Similarly, when you notice strange sounds coming from your transmission system every time you engage the gear, it signifies insufficient lubrication.

Transmission Fluid Leaks

It’s very clear that when there is transmission fluid leakage in your vehicle, you are bound to have a reduction in the quantity of transmission fluid.

As a warning, always check the transmission fluid level any time you observe a leak. To be sure whether it is your transmission fluid, you will see a red/pink pigment in the fluid when you observe it closely.

Limp Mode

Limp mode is a digitally induced function of your car that reduces the engine power in response to a malfunction.

Your car may enter limp mode when your transmission fluid is low. Although this happens in more modern vehicles. Limp mode isn’t available in all vehicles.

Vibration When Engaging Gears

Comparable to jerking, you may notice vibrations in your gear as you shift from one gear to another. It may come with a humming noise in the transmission system.

This is a sign that the transmission fluid is low or a pointer to other problems within the transmission system.

A Manual Transmission

How to Fix a Low Transmission Fluid

Before you make a decision to fix low transmission fluid problem, the first thing is to carry out a routine check and ascertain that the fluid is actually low.

Cramming your transmission fluid may be as damaging as having a low fluid level. The first thing to do when trying to fix this problem is to find out if the fluid level is indeed low.

How to Check Transmission Fluid

  • The first step is open the bonnet of your car and then locate the transmission fluid dipstick. The dipstick is usually located close to the engine, and it looks exactly like the engine oil dipstick.
  • The next step is to start the car engine.
  • Shift the transmission through all the gears while allowing it to engage for a few seconds at each gear. Replace it back to packing gear. This step helps circulate the transmission fluid as much as possible.
  • Leave the engine to run.
  • Pull out the dipstick and wipe off the oil at the tip of the dipstick.
  • Reinsert the dipstick in its place.
  • Pull it out again and check the oil level at the tip of the dipstick.
  • The reading should be somewhere in the hot or cool rating at the tip of the dipstick.
  • Equally, check the quality of the transmission fluid to ensure it is still clean.
  • Turn off the engine.

How to Top-Up Transmission Fluid

You’ll need a long funnel that fits the dipstick tube to top up the transmission fluid. Pull out the dipstick and insert the funnel into the dipstick tube.

The tip of the funnel should be long enough to reach the passage of the tube.  Remember, that it is a top-up, and the fluid level must stay within the marked level on the dipstick: not above or below.

Add a small quantity of fluid at a time and check with the dipstick to know the new level of the fluid. Wipe off the oil from the dipstick and add more fluid if the level is still low.

Repeat the process until the level is up to the marked point on the dipstick.

Low Transmission Fluid FAQs

Here are answers to popular and frequently asked questions that car owners ask about signs of low transmission fluids.

How do I detect low transmission fluid sound?

Usually, transmission fluid sound results as you engage the gear.  Periodically, it may come with vibrations and other symptoms of low transmission fluid. In most cases, the sound is a humming sound or a clicking sound.

How do you know if your transmission fluid is low without a dipstick?

There are several symptoms that can reveal to you that the transmission fluid is low. Once you observe a combination of a few of these symptoms, especially as discussed in this article, it is a clear sign that your transmission fluid is low, and you need to top it up.

Can transmission fluid get low without a leak?

Yes. Frequent use of the car consumes the transmission fluid. It is recommended that you top up your transmission fluid after 5,000 miles, but that should only be done after you’ve certified that the transmission fluid is low. However, the mileage may vary from one vehicle to another. It is best to check the manual for the recommended mileage.

What happens if you drive on low transmission fluid?  

Initially, you will notice several symptoms that point out the low transmission fluid. However, you may damage your transmission system in the long run if you continue to drive the car with low transmission fluid.

How long can I continue driving on low transmission fluid?

In most cases, you will begin to find it challenging to drive your car from the first time the transmission fluid is below the recommended level. As it goes lower, engaging gears becomes more difficult. Your car may totally refuse to move at a certain level of fluid. Eventually, you can’t use the car for too long when the transmission fluid is low.

Wrap Up

Transmission fluid performs a vital role in the efficient operation of the vehicle transmission system. It keeps your vehicle transmission lubricated to prevent slip, friction, wear and tear of parts, and malfunctioning.

Besides preventive function, the transmission fluid also helps the transmission system engage gears easily. Always remember that different vehicles use different transmission fluids.

It is best to ensure that the transmission fluid you intend to use for your vehicle fits the automakers’ recommendation.