What Kind of Transmission Fluid Does Your Vehicle Need?

What kind of transmission fluid does your vehicle need?
June 28, 2023

Your transmission fluid is one of the most important — but often overlooked — fluids inside your vehicle. Healthy transmission fluid is vital to your automobile’s overall functionality, efficiency and life span. Operating your vehicle with dirty fluid or low fluid levels can cause excessive wear on your transmission’s most critical components, resulting in possible breakdowns and expensive repairs. 

Transmission fluid lubricates the mechanical parts, prevents wearing and grinding, cools the system and maintains fluid pressure. Checking your fluid regularly is essential to a solid maintenance plan.

Depending on your vehicle’s make and model, checking the fluid is as simple as taking a reading from the transmission’s dipstick. For sealed transmissions or systems without a dipstick, a professional technician can evaluate the levels, determine the fluid’s health and check for leaks.


Transmission Fluid Categories

Since using the correct transmission fluid is vital to your vehicle’s operation, you should always consult your owner’s manual to determine the right type. The three basic types of transmission fluids include:

  • Automatic transmission fluid: If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, it needs an automatic transmission fluid (ATF) formula. Many newer vehicle models with manual transmissions also require automatic fluid. Besides lubricating the parts in the system, ATF delivers the friction levels and hydraulic pressure necessary for these components to work.
  • Manual transmission fluid: Most vehicles with older manual transmissions require this fluid type. Manual transmission fluid is often much heavier and denser than automatic fluids. Vehicle owners should not use manual fluid for any automatic transmission types.
  • Specialty and synthetic transmission fluids: This fluid category features formulas less likely to oxidize, break down or deteriorate in harsh operating conditions. Because of their unique components, automobiles with dual-clutch systems or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) require these specialty blends.


Types of Automatic Transmission Fluid

ATF types have different viscosities, friction coefficients and additives that dictate which vehicle models use them. Consulting your owner’s manual is the first step in deciding which fluid type to use. The most prevalent ATF types include:

  • Dexron III, Mercon V and ATF+4: These three ATF types are the most common on the market, formulated and licensed exclusively by the three most prominent automobile manufacturers in North America — GM for Dexron VI, Ford for Mercon V and Chrysler for ATF+4. These products feature unique formulas for the market’s newest technologies. Dexron III/Mercon V fluids are backward compatible with older Dexron/Mercon specifications.
  • Dexron VI/ Mercon LV: This is the latest specification from GM and Ford. It offers improved performance and fuel efficiency compared to its predecessors. Dexron VI and Mercon LV fluids are not backward compatible with older specifications and should not be mixed with them.
  • Dexron ULV/Mercon ULV: This specification is for the latest generation 9 and 10-speed transmissions. Designed for today’s technologically sophisticated high-speed transmissions that require ultra-low viscosity (ULV) fluids.
  • Multi-Veicle Synthetic: No specific manufacturer licenses synthetic formulas. These blends use advanced additive technology and ingredients to provide superior system efficiency and protection.
  • CVT: Many vehicle manufacturers use CVTs in their newer models to improve fuel economy and transmission performance. Most of these formulas contain synthetic-based oils to enhance productivity. 
  • Type F: Type F fluids are common for older Ford vehicles that haven’t been mainstream since the 1970s. Unless your car is an antique, this fluid type is probably not for you.


How to Check Your Transmission Fluid

If your transmission has a dipstick, checking the fluid involves a few easy steps:

  • Park your car on a level surface and run the engine until it’s warm.
  • Remove the transmission’s dipstick.
  • Wipe the dipstick clean and reinsert it.
  • Check the markings on the dipstick to ensure the correct level.
  • Evaluate the fluid’s color and smell. You may need to change it if it has an odor or a dark and grimy shade instead of a bright or transparent color.

If your car has a sealed transmission, a qualified mechanic can put your vehicle on a lift and perform the maintenance.


Trusting Hot Shot’s Secret for Your Transmission Fluid and Additive Needs

At Hot Shot’s Secret, we understand the importance of healthy transmission fluid to your vehicle’s overall performance and life span. We offer a comprehensive variety of the market’s top-performing transmission fluids and additives. Our products are scientifically proven to maximize the lubrication of your transmission’s vital components while reducing excessive friction buildup.

Browse our transmission fluids to select the best type for your vehicle’s needs. Feel free to contact us with questions or to obtain additional product information.