Hot Shot’s Guide to Transmission Fluid

November 9, 2022

While anyone with a car or truck knows it’s essential to keep tabs on your engine oil, did you know your transmission fluid is just as important? 

Transmission fluid lubricates and cools the metal parts in your transmission. Essentially, it prevents the excessive buildup of friction which creates a smooth shifting experience. Without transmission fluid, your car wouldn’t even be able to run. Your gears would grind, you’d have trouble shifting and your transmission would overheat, all of which can cause severe damage to your vehicle.


Different Types of Transmission Fluid

There are two main types of transmission fluid on the market:

  • Automatic: Automatic transmission fluid is designed for automatic vehicles. In addition to lubricating the transmission system, automatic fluid also provides the hydraulic pressure and friction necessary for these parts to work. 
  • Manual: Manual transmission fluid is designed for use in older manual vehicles. However, many newer manual vehicles use automatic fluid instead. 

There are also two ways of producing transmission fluid:

  • Traditional: Traditional transmission fluid is a mixture of crude oil and reshaped hydrocarbons.
  • Synthetic: Synthetic fluid is created using chemical reactions. Since synthetic is purer than traditional transmission fluid, it’s less likely to break down or oxidize.

The type of transmission fluid your car needs will vary depending on the make, model and year, so check your manufacturer’s recommendations before buying a bottle of new fluid.

What Does Transmission Fluid Look Like?

This substance looks different from the other fluids and additives you use in your car, so you might wonder what color transmission fluid should be. It depends on the manufacturer. Most automatic transmission fluid is a bright, transparent red, but it can also come in blue, purple, green or amber. The color itself doesn’t matter – it’s just to differentiate the transmission fluid from all the other fluids in your car. 

On the other hand, manual transmission fluid tends to be darker in color, like motor oil. It’s also much more viscous than automatic fluid, making it ideal for manual cars and trucks.

Fresh transmission fluid should also smell sweet and slightly tart. If the transmission fluid in your car smells burnt, it’s getting old and may need to be changed soon. 


When to Change Your Transmission Fluid 

Most manufacturers recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. However, if you experience issues with your transmission, you might need to change it sooner. 

How do you know when you might be running low? The following are potential indicators of low or contaminated transmission fluid: 

  • Leakage: Puddles, fluid trails or other evidence of leakage are sure signs of an issue.
  • Color change: If your transmission fluid goes from bright and transparent to dark and muddy, it’s probably time for a change. 
  • Difficult shifting: If your car has delays when going into gear or slips, slides or bumps when shifting, the problem may be your transmission fluid.
  • Burning smell: If you notice a slight burning smell, especially if it’s a little tart, your transmission may be overheating.  
  • Chattering: Your vehicle might feel like it’s rumbling or chattering on startup, which is a sure sign that something is wrong with your transmission.
  • Warning light: If you notice a light on your dashboard that indicates high transmission temperatures, stop your car right away. Your transmission is overheating. The check engine light may also indicate issues with your transmission.

If your car completely runs out of transmission fluid, extensive and expensive repairs are likely on the horizon.

How to Check Transmission Fluid Health

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you may be able to check your transmission fluid yourself. If your car has a dipstick, you should be able to check on your own. However, many modern cars have sealed transmissions, meaning they’re inaccessible from under the hood. If your car has a sealed transmission, you can bring it to a mechanic who will put the car on a lift.

Checking your transmission fluid with a dipstick is easy:

  1. Park your car on a level surface and allow the engine to run for a few minutes. Your owner’s manual should tell you whether to turn the engine off or leave it on during the process.
  2. Pull the transmission dipstick. It should resemble your oil dipstick, but it will be further under the hood.
  3. Wipe the dipstick clean and reinsert it. Then remove it again.
  4. Check the markings on the dipstick. If the fluid line is lower than the “full” marking, you should add some transmission fluid.

You can also take this opportunity to examine the fluid’s color and smell. If your fluid looks dark or opaque or if you smell something acrid, it’s time to change your fluid. 


How to Change Transmission Fluid

You can change your transmission fluid yourself if you have the proper equipment. You’ll need a socket wrench set, a drain pan, new transmission fluid and a funnel. Make sure you wear the proper PPE to avoid injury.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Lift your car if necessary.
  2. Open the hood and remove the transmission fluid cap.
  3. Place your drain pan under the transmission fluid pan. 
  4. Remove the bolts on the transmission pan using a socket wrench and allow the fluid to drain. 
  5. Reinstall the transmission gasket and replace the bolts.
  6. Pour in the new fluid using a funnel. Then replace the cap.

Not much of a DIYer? Take your car to the local mechanic for a fluid change or a transmission flush, if your mechanic offers it.

A transmission flush is a procedure that removes all the contaminated old transmission fluid from your system using a flush machine. This procedure often includes running a cleaning solution through the transmission system to further scrub the remaining fluid out. A flush can help extend the life of your vehicle and prevent further issues from developing within your transmission system.


Choose Hot Shot’s Secret for Your Transmission Fluid


If you’re looking to buy transmission fluid, you need a product you can rely on. At Hot Shot’s Secret, our automatic transmission synthetic formulas are scientifically proven to reduce breakdown while increasing wear resistance, especially when compared to our competitors.

Our Blue Diamond line, which we’ve designed for a wide range of heavy uses like auto, construction, agriculture and even boating. These heavy-duty lubricants increase film strength and boundary layer protection for resilient, long-lasting protection.  Infused with our patented FR3 Nano Technology, this fluid provides unparalleled longevity and performance. We’ve also got the Adrenaline line is formulated specifically for the intense conditions of racing.

Want to push your vehicle’s performance to the next level? Shop our selection of science-backed transmission fluids or browse our site to see our other products today.