Posted under Car Fluids

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your closets and cabinets. After months of enduring punishing winter weather, your car can benefit from a spring spruce up, too! Ensure your routine seasonal maintenance includes checking and replacing your transmission fluid. This comparatively small investment of time and effort may save you a lot of trouble and expense as warm weather wears on and spring turns to summer.

Now For The “How”

“How do you check transmission fluid?” and “Where is the transmission fluid?” are some of the most common questions drivers ask about vehicle fluid services. Here’s a five-step overview of how it’s typically done. This outline gives you a general idea of the procedure.

NOTE: Many newer vehicles do NOT have a way for owners to check the transmission fluid. Still, it’s an important maintenance procedure, so take your vehicle to a professional to perform this service. 

  1. The transmission fluid level is typically checked with the engine running at normal operating temperature. You may not get an accurate reading if the transmission fluid is cold.
  2. The vehicle should be in a specific gear (usually PARK or NEUTRAL) and on a stable, level surface.
  3. Open the hood and locate the transmission fluid dipstick.
  4. Remove the dipstick. The tip should be covered in transmission fluid all the way to the FULL indicator line. If the fluid level is low — meaning it doesn’t rise to the FULL indicator line — you can just top it off.
  5. Wipe the dipstick clean with a clean, soft cloth, and then repeat step #4 to verify accuracy. If dirt or debris is visible on the cloth, or if the fluid is dark or discolored, it’s time to have the transmission fluid inspected.

How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid?

Typically, it's recommended that you check the automatic transmission fluid at every oil change. That makes it a natural addition to your automotive maintenance regimen. However, the frequency of transmission fluid changes can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for the specific schedule for your vehicle. Similarly, your owner’s manual will note the right transmission fluid for your vehicle. This is important because manufacturers require numerous formulations for proper transmission operation. Using the wrong type — even in small quantities — can result in transmission failure.

Why Is It Important to Change Transmission Fluid?

Your transmission works hard, ensuring power gets from the engine to the wheels. To perform this essential function, it must be filled to the right level with the proper transmission fluid.

The transmission needs fluid to:

  • Lubricate and clean internal components, protecting them from corrosion
  • Help keep the transmission cool, even as temperatures rise
  • Maintain the hydraulic pressure required for proper operation

Because your transmission is so important, you want to know the warning signs. Be on the lookout as your transmission shifts, including:

  • Delayed engagement
  • Slipping 
  • Harsh engagement
  • New or unusual noises

If you feel something isn’t right, or your car sounds funny when it shifts, consider visiting an automotive professional for a timely maintenance check. It may help you catch a problem early when the remedy could still be a relatively easy fix, like replacing the transmission fluid. 

It’s Complicated and Messy, So Why DIY?

You may wonder if it’s worth checking transmission fluid yourself. Well, for one, dipsticks can be challenging to locate. Today, some vehicles don’t even have one, while others may have two (one for motor oil, another for transmission fluid). Secondly, used transmission fluid may be considered hazardous waste and can’t just be tossed in the trash.

Save yourself the time and hassle and bring your vehicle to Jiffy Lube®. A trained technician will check your transmission fluid and — if replacing transmission fluid is called for and you agree to the service — perform a fluid exchange that meets or exceeds Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications. In addition to a fluid top off or exchange, you will receive one-on-one attention. You will have a chance to ask questions, and the technician will be able to ask you about your driving style so your service can be tailored to your vehicle and your driving conditions.

After visiting Jiffy Lube for routine seasonal maintenance, you can hit the road feeling confident that your vehicle can get you anywhere you want to go.

NOTE: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube service centers. Please call ahead or check to ensure the service is available at the Jiffy Lube location near you.