How to Check Transmission Fluid Using an Automatic Transmission Dipstick
Though it is among the easiest parts of automotive maintenance, most people often forget to check the level of their vehicle's transmission fluid until side effects start to manifest. Lack of transmission fluid can cause the transmission components to grind and overheat, thereby damaging themselves as well as the other parts they need to work hand in hand with. This can be avoided by regularly and properly checking and reading the level of the transmission fluid using a dipstick.
Difficulty level: Easy
Things you'll need:
- Maintenance or repair manual
- Vehicle-specific transmission fluid
- Clean rags
Step 1: Park your vehicle on a level surface. Remember that even a slight angle in your vehicle's position can offset the level of the fluid, giving you inaccurate reading.
Step 2: Unless your manual says otherwise, warm up the engine to its operating temperature and leave it idling, with the gear set in park or neutral.
Step 3: Open the hood and find the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) dipstick, which is often located at the back of the engine. Though they look similar, the ATF dipstick is usually shorter than the engine oil dipstick. In some vehicles, these dipsticks are labeled.
Step 4: Unscrew the cap of the dipstick tube and pull the dipstick out of the tube. Wipe it off with a clean rag and check its bottom tip to know if the fluid has reached the "cold" mark (if the engine is cold) or "hot" label (if the engine has already warmed up).
Step 5: Put the dipstick back into the tube, making sure it's pushed all the way in. Carefully pull it out again.
Step 6: Examine the dipstick's tip once again to know the fluid level reading. If it's between the full and low line, you have nothing to worry about.
Step 7: If the ATF didn't meet the line labeled with 'Full', you need to add transmission fluid into the small hole where you've taken off the dipstick. With a long, narrow neck funnel, pour a small quantity of ATF at a time. It pays to check the fluid level each time.
Step 8: Put the dipstick back into its place and replace the cap.
WARNING: Make sure to use vehicle-specific automatic transmission fluid because ATF with the wrong viscosity and chemical properties can harm your transmission's internal components.