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Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs of Low Transmission Fluid

low transmission fluid

No matter what vehicle you own, or dream of owning, will ever be able to run at peak condition without an adequate level of transmission fluid. This lifeblood liquid, which lubricates the exterior of and other components of the transmission system, assures that each piece of this valuable system doesn’t wear out long before its time.

Allowing low transmission fluid levels to continue in your vehicle will either lead to expensive repairs or even the loss of the car that you worked so hard to obtain. So, how exactly do you avoid wasting your hard-earned money on your dream car? Simple, don’t ignore the warning signs.

Hard to Shift

Vehicles with either a manual or automatic transmission both need transmission fluid that is clean and warm enough to flow freely inside your transmission system. If this liquid is running low the transmission will lack the hydraulic power necessary to make shifting gears an easy process.

Surging or Lurching Feeling

When you step on the gas pedal you should feel a smooth coasting sensation. If, instead, you feel your vehicle surging or lurching forward and then falling backward when simply trying to get to wherever you may be going then it is time to check your transmission fluid. As the erratic movements are often caused by inadequate fluid force during each level of transmission operation.

Erratic Slippage

For those who drive a car with an automatic transmission; if you have started noticing that your vehicle is having difficulty accelerating when you step on the gas, the tachometer increases in speed while the car itself seems to have little to no power or your vehicle ceases to move at all, this is often due to erratic slippage of the transmission’s clutch bands.

Thanks to low transmission fluid, these bands often become too loose to move adequately enough to each gear, which supplies the wheels with enough power to move to the gear indicated.

I know, this is about as understandable as your doctor trying to tell you something with all that crazy medical terminology, right? So, to make this a bit clearer, check out what happened to this 2006 Dodge 2500 turbo diesel when it began experiencing this symptom.

Gurgling Noises

If you hear gurgling noises coming from your transmission, much like the noises that you hear coming from the 2008 Mazda 3 in the video below, then your transmission is probably running low on its much needed transmission fluid.

What exactly causes this annoying noise? This sound is often due to there not being enough transmission fluid to fully enter and lubricate the transmission system, which causes air pockets to form and create a sound that indicates that your transmission fluid level is dangerously low.

Burning Smell or Smoking

What is the first thing that you notice when something is overheating? If you answered a burning smell or serious smoking from the item that is burning, you would be correct. The same can be said for your transmission. Much like your engine needing the proper amount of engine oil to avoid overheating, your vehicle’s transmission needs the proper amount of transmission fluid to avoid friction and heat and ultimately complete destruction.

If you notice this smell or smoke coming from your engine when driving, pull over immediately and let everything cool. If, after cooling for several minutes, you continue to notice this symptom then you likely have done serious damage to your transmission.

Related: https://automotiveward.com/your-car-smells-like-burning-rubber/

Photo: http://www.forestriverforums.com/forums/f112/transmission-temp-46460.html

Stuck in Neutral

The worst symptom that you could possibly experience with low transmission fluid is your car feeling as if it is stuck in neutral. I don’t know about you, but I sure hate to feel as if I am stuck in a holding pattern awaiting something to push me to the next level. That is exactly what it feels like if the transmission fluid in your car is so low that your vehicle’s transmission fails to function at all.

This sure is a scary situation if you are attempting to climb a hill, so it is my advice to never let your transmission fluid get as low as you do your gas level when you are trying to coast to the pump.

When to Change Transmission Fluid

when to change transmission fluid

Now that you know how important it is to keep your vehicle’s transmission fluid from running low, it is time to let you know when to change your vehicle’s transmission fluid. Just like any other fluid in your car, transmission fluid has a shelf life and breaks down over a certain period of time and abuse.

While most mechanics recommend flushing your vehicle’s transmission fluid every two to three years; or every 30,000 miles; if you observe symptoms like jerking, shifting gears too early or late, grinding noises and vibrations, stalling or your transmission fluid is a dark red or purple color with an odd burnt smell it is time for a fluid change or flush.

These symptoms can mean real danger when it comes to your vehicle’s transmission, so it is always imperative to consider a transmission fluid flush when your owner’s manual recommends doing so.

In Conclusion

To wrap-up this somewhat drawn out reasoning of just how important your vehicle’s transmission and transmission fluid really is, as well as the warning signs for when the essential fluids are either running low or have reached their peak danger zones the most important thing I can say is – DON’T IGNORE.

The truth is, many of us tend to bury a small problem until it becomes a LARGER more frightening one. If you have even one of the symptoms listed above, get to your local mechanic if you want to keep your car running like new.

Ellen Richardson

Ellen Richardson, better known as The Automotive Maven, has had a passion for all things automotive since the first time that her father let her pretend that she was behind the wheel in his antique VW Van. Since then, the little girl who also loved to pretend that she was an award-winning writer/journalist has been using her passion to help others realize the important roles that vehicles play in each of our lives.