Blog Car Care Advice How Much Transmission Fluid Do I Need? (And Why)
Car Care Advice

How Much Transmission Fluid Do I Need? (And Why)

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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.

Worry not!
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. 

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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:

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: 

  1. 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). 
  1. 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, Sedan1.8 – 10.3 US quarts
Convertible, Roadster2 – 10.6 US quarts
Coupe, Muscle Car4 – 13.5 US quarts
Estate Car, Station Wagon, Touring1 – 9.5 US quarts
Green/Eco Car, Electric Vehicle (EV)1.5 – 4 US quarts
Hatchback, Liftback1.9 – 9.1 US quarts
Limousine9.5 – 12 US quarts
Microcar2.5 – 6.3 US quarts
Minivan, Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)2 – 9.7 US quarts
Pickup, Commercial Vehicle2.2 – 12 US quarts
Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), Subcompact Car3.5 – 17.1 US quarts
Supercar, Exotic Car, Sports/Race Car, Grand Tourer1.7 – 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:

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:

  1. 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. 
  1. 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).
  1. 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.

Final Thoughts

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.