Changing your transmission fluid may seem like just another tedious task added to your to-do list. Still, it’s a crucial part of your vehicle’s maintenance that you can’t ignore — or you’ll face transmission failure!
However, changing your cars transmission fluid can be tricky.
Questions like “How much transmission fluid do I need in my car?” are probably racing in your mind.
This article will walk you through what transmission fluid is, how to check transmission fluid levels and how much transmission fluid you’ll need for a change. You’ll also get the answers to some insightful FAQs to boost your knowledge and ease the process.
This Article Contains
- What Is Transmission Fluid and Why Do I Need It?
- How Much Transmission Fluid Do I Need in My Car?
- 5 Other FAQs About Transmission Fluid
Let’s get started.
What Is Transmission Fluid and Why Do I Need It?
Transmission fluid is a vital lubricant that ensures your vehicle is running efficiently.
It lubricates components in the transmission which are prone to producing friction during vehicle operation. Aside from lubricating transmission components, transmission fluid also:
- Conditions gaskets
- Assists in controlling your cars transmission temperatures
- Prevents wear on metal surfaces
- Increases the rotational speed of your transmission
Needless to say, it’s pretty essential.
How Much Transmission Fluid Do I Need in My Car?
Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” number for adding transmission fluid. Different vehicle models require a different transmission fluid level in different fluid change intervals.
You may also require a different type of fluid depending on whether you have a manual transmission or automatic transmission.
But, a safe way to see how much fluid your vehicles transmission needs during a top-up is to eyeball it and add a small amount of fluid at a time.
Hear us out.
If your fluid inspection shows low transmission fluid levels:
- Prepare your car for a top-up of new fluid by letting it run for five minutes (or until it’s warmed up to operating temperature).
- Next, recheck your transmission fluid level. If you still have low transmission fluid levels after the car has warmed up, add half a quart (32oz) of new fluid at a time. Then, recheck the levels.
Repeat this step until your level reads “full” on the transmission fluid dipstick.
You can also inspect your vehicle’s owner’s manual for exact figures on transmission fluid levels and transmission service intervals.
However, if your time is precious and you’re looking for exact numbers so that you know how much fluid to buy, here’s a rough guide:
|City Car, Family Car, Sedan||1.8 – 10.3 US quarts|
|Convertible, Roadster||2 – 10.6 US quarts|
|Coupe, Muscle Car||4 – 13.5 US quarts|
|Estate Car, Station Wagon, Touring||1 – 9.5 US quarts|
|Green/Eco Car, Electric Vehicle (EV)||1.5 – 4 US quarts|
|Hatchback, Liftback||1.9 – 9.1 US quarts|
|Limousine||9.5 – 12 US quarts|
|Microcar||2.5 – 6.3 US quarts|
|Minivan, Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)||2 – 9.7 US quarts|
|Pickup, Commercial Vehicle||2.2 – 12 US quarts|
|Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), Subcompact Car||3.5 – 17.1 US quarts|
|Supercar, Exotic Car, Sports/Race Car, Grand Tourer||1.7 – 11.9 US quarts|
Now, let’s discuss some other questions about transmission fluid levels you might want to know.
5 Other FAQs About Transmission Fluid
Here are some answers to common questions about transmission fluid levels we missed.
1. How Do I Check My Transmission Fluid Levels?
Here’s a more detailed procedure for checking your vehicle’s transmission fluid level during a fluid change or top-up:
- Step 1: Use your owner’s manual for the recommended procedure for checking your transmission fluid (some steps may vary for different vehicle makes and models).
- Step 2: Park your vehicle on a level surface for the most accurate reading.
- Step 3: Be cautious of components like hot engine parts or engine cooling fans that may continue running after the engine is turned off.
- Step 4: Determine if you should check your vehicles transmission fluid with the engine running or off by inspecting your owner’s manual. This varies from car to car and will affect accuracy (see your owner’s manual).
- Step 5: For some vehicles, moving the gear selector into each gear for a few seconds before checking the fluid is recommended. Then, return it to “Park” or “Neutral” and engage the parking brake before leaving your vehicle.
- Step 6: Locate the transmission dipstick handle (typically brightly colored). Your owner’s manual will show you the dipstick location.
- Step 7: Remove the transmission dipstick, wipe it off with a clean rag, and reinsert it. Be cautious of spilling any fluid on hot engine or exhaust parts.
- Step 8: Remove the dipstick again and check the fluid level (it should be between the low and full marks). Additionally, old transmission fluid (which is a dark brown color) must be changed or flushed.
- Step 9: If you have a leak in your transmission pan (drain pan) or drain plug, and need to refill, fix the leak as soon as possible. Then you can use the recommended transmission fluid and fill it appropriately. You’ll know you have a leak in your transmission pan or drain plug if you notice a puddle of red or light brown fluid under your car by the transmission.
- Step 10: Reinsert the transmission fluid dipstick when complete.
2. What Are the Signs of an Overfilled Transmission?
There are three main signs you should look for that indicate that you have excess transmission fluid:
- There’s a puddle of fluid on the floor under your transmission. Excess pressure in your transmission due to excess fluid will likely cause the seal of your transmission to crack or fail — resulting in complete transmission failure.
- Difficulty shifting gears properly (manual transmission). Difficulty shifting gears is usually a result of foamy fluid from excess pressure in your transmission (a common sign of overfilled fluid).
- Your engine starts overheating because the transmission fluid fails to neutralize component friction. Sounds counterintuitive, but excess transmission fluid won’t be as effective at cooling things down, leading to an engine overheating.
3. Why Does Transmission Fluid Wear Out?
Intensive use of transmission fluid increases the rate at which it deteriorates over time.
Intensive use includes frequent stop-and-go city driving, trailer towing, and hauling heavy loads. These intensive driving conditions raise the operating temperature of your transmission, which can strain the transmission and its fluid.
Unlike its neighbor, engine oil (a primary lubricant) — transmission fluid functions as both a lubricating oil and a hydraulic fluid. This means that besides general lubrication of parts, transmission fluid also cools the transmission and helps facilitate gear shifts.
With all that extra effort and strain, it’s no wonder old fluid wears out!
Luckily, transmission oil is tough. Usually, you only need to do a transmission fluid change every 30,000 to 60,000 miles — or more. It’s advised to change your transmission filter simultaneously.
4. What’s the Difference Between Automatic Transmission Fluid and Regular Transmission Fluid?
Automatic transmission fluid (like Transyn DEX VI or Dexron VI) contains extra additives like friction modifiers and coolant improvers since an automatic transmission (and automatic gearbox) works harder to change gears without your input.
Automatic transmission fluid also creates hydraulic pressure, so it needs to be slightly “tougher” than manual transmission fluid.
Manual transmission fluid is a simple lubricant that reduces friction in a manual gearbox. Both manual and automatic transmission fluids support the smooth functioning of hydraulic parts.
Note: CVT fluid is specifically for continuous variable transmission (CVT) — which is a type of automatic transmission but not entirely the same as regular automatic transmission.
5. What Is a Transmission Fluid Flush?
A transmission fluid flush is the process of cleaning out the old fluid from your cars transmission system through the drain plug and replacing it with fresh fluid.
A transmission flush is essential for prolonging the longevity of your transmission. It helps prevent transmission repair (or even engine repair) down the road. It’s recommended to have a transmission flush every 30,000 miles (two years).
Your mechanic will likely encourage you also to change your transmission filter during a flush.
Failing to monitor your transmission fluid level is a mistake that will cost you dearly in the long run, as the transmission damage you could face is detrimental. In extreme cases, transmission failure could damage the engine, possibly leading to engine repair.
But in your busy day-to-day life, finding the time to change or top up your transmission fluid might be the last thing on your mind.
If only someone else you can trust could do it.
That’s where AutoNation Mobile Service steps in!
AutoNation Mobile Service is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution with expert mechanics to perform your transmission fluid change — right in your driveway.
So what are you waiting for?
Fill out this online form for an accurate estimate of your transmission fluid change cost or transmission repair.