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How to Tell If Your Transmission Is Leaking Fluid

Is your car leaking transmission fluid? This kind of issue is serious, but it's also common and can be dealt with easily. Here's what to do if your car is experiencing a transmission fluid leak.

AAMCO Lee's Summit  | 08/15/2018  | Transmission Advice

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How to Tell If Your Transmission Is Leaking Fluid

1. Check the Dipstick

If you have concerns about your transmission, the first step in diagnosing the problem is to check the transmission fluid level by looking at the dipstick. To check the fluid level, simply remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, then re-insert it and remove it again.

The fluid should look pink and nearly clear. If the fluid looks brownish, it needs to be replaced. When the level is low, add the amount needed but not too much. Overfilling can cause the fluid to run hot.

2. Dashboard Warning Light

Modern cars have all kinds of dashboard warning lights. These are designed to alert you to any number of possible engine issues. Your transmission light could come on for a variety of reasons, such as the fluid causing the transmission to run hotter than normal.

Take a look at your owner's manual to see specifically what the warning light might be telling you. If the light stays on, it's a good idea to take your car to a mechanic so that they can run a proper diagnostic and fix the problem.

3. Fluid Leaks

This is one of the easiest ways to find out if your transmission is leaking fluid. Take a look beneath your car, or on the ground where you typically park. Transmission fluid will leave dark spots on your driveway or garage.

If you notice spots on the ground, check all of your fluid levels to make sure everything looks good.

4. Grinding Gears

When transmission fluid gets low, the transmission will not behave correctly. This can result in a number of suspicious symptoms such as grinding gears. This sound might also be telling you that the transmission synchronizer is damaged.

Anytime something doesn't sound quite right, check your fluid level and take your car in for a professional to diagnose.

5. Clunking Sounds

This is another sound your car might start making that will alert you to a possible transmission issue. If your transmission begins making a clunking sound, don't delay in taking it to a shop to have it fixed by a professional.

6. Strange Vibration

Along with making odd sounds, you might also notice a strange vibration as you drive. This is probably because the gears are slipping.

Because the fluid is low, the transmission is not able to behave as designed, resulting in odd performance like extreme slowness or sudden surging. This not only causes vibration and unreliable performance, it's also a sign that the car is not safe to drive.

7. Burning Smell

When transmission fluid is leaking, you will likely begin to notice certain smells that let you know something is wrong. A burning smell might be alerting you to the fact that your transmission fluid is overheating.

This is no reason to panic. It might not be related to your transmission at all, but you shouldn't take that chance or delay having the problem diagnosed. Simply take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to have it looked at.

8. Delay In Acceleration

The transmission in a vehicle is designed to switch gears instantaneously. Under normal conditions, the gears shift effortless so that you never notice. However, when the transmission level is low, there is often a delayed response in shifting from one gear to the next, and the car won't accelerate as smoothly as intended.

You'll notice that when you press down on the gas pedal the engine revs yet doesn't move as quickly. This is a sure sign that you need to have your transmission looked at right away.

9. Makes Noises in Neutral

Not every sound that your car makes should cause you to worry. But when if it begins making new sounds, such as when it shifts gears or when in neutral, this is a good time to check it out.

When a car makes a bumping sound, it could be a sign that your transmission fluid needs to be replaced. The good news is that this is an easy fix. You can do it yourself or take your car to a garage to have it done by a professional.

10. Extreme Heat From the Transmission

The transmission in your car does a lot of work. This is why it's so important that it has the proper amount of fluid. When the fluid gets low, the gears suddenly don't have sufficient lubrication and can begin to get hot.

When your transmission overheats, you can often feel the heat rising through the floor from the transfer case. Pay close attention to the temperature gauge on your dashboard for signs of the engine overheating.

If the transmission is hot, you'll likely begin to smell the burning transmission fluid and will need to take in for repair immediately.

Dealing With a Leaking Transmission

There are many things that can cause your car to stop running the way it should, including when the transmission is leaking fluid. The first step toward solving the problem is noticing that the problem exists.

This list should help you to easily identify a transmission oil leak. Diagnosing a transmission leak is vital to the maintenance of your car. Fortunately, dealing with a fluid leak can be an easy fix, and the sooner you notice and take it in for repair, the longer your car will run smoothly.

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