Every vehicle needs several automotive fluids in order to run properly. Some of the most important fluids include engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze and power steering fluid.
If You Notice Your Car Leaking Fluids, Here are a Few Ways to Identify What Those Leaks May Be:
- Radiator Fluid is bright green and very slippery.
- Antifreeze, or coolant, can be pink or green and is hazardous to your pets. Ingesting this fluid poses a serious health threat to animals.
- Brake Fluid is a light yellow and can change to a foggy brown color when mixed with water. You should have this fluid changed every other year to ensure brake safety.
- Power Steering Fluid is has a yellow tint.
- Automatic Transmission fluid has a deep red hue. It has a sharp odor and is thick in texture.
- Windshield Washer Fluid can be any range of colors from bright blue, orange, pink or yellow. It has the consistency of water and may smell somewhat sweet.
- Motor Oil can be bright or dark brown depending on how often you change it. Frequently changed motor oil will be light brown, while old motor oil will be a darker shade. You should have your motor oil changed every 3000-5000 miles.
- Gasoline has an amber hue, but you may recognize its very distinct odor. It is highly flammable, so steer clear of any open flames (lighters, matches, cigarettes, etc.)
Bring Your Vehicle in to Make Sure Your Car’s Fluids are:
- Filled to the proper level
- Clean and clear
- Free of leaks
- Flushed and replaced as needed
Transmission Fluid Flush Tips
Change transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. Most owner's manuals say it isn't necessary. Yeah, right. That's why transmission shops are making a fortune replacing burned out automatic transmissions. For optimum protection, change the Transmission Fluid and filter every 30,000 miles (unless you have a new vehicle that is filled with Dexron III ATF, which is supposed to be good for 100,000 miles).
Why ATF Wears Out
An automatic transmission creates a lot of internal heat through friction: the friction of the fluid churning inside the
torque converter, friction created when the clutch plates engage, and the normal friction created by gears and bearings
carrying their loads.
It doesn't take long for the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) to heat up once the vehicle is in motion. Normal driving
will raise fluid temperatures to 175 degrees F., which is the usual temperature range at which most fluids are designed to
operate. If fluid temperatures can be held to 175 degrees F., ATF will last almost indefinitely -- say up to 100,000 miles.
But if the fluid temperature goes much higher, the life of the fluid begins to plummet. The problem is even normal driving
can push fluid temperatures well beyond safe limits. And once that happens, the trouble begins.
At elevated operating temperatures, ATF oxidizes, turns brown and takes on a smell like burnt toast. As heat destroys the
fluid's lubricating qualities and friction characteristics, varnish begins to form on internal parts (such as the valve
body) which interferes with the operation of the transmission. If the temperature gets above 250 degrees F., rubber seals
begin to harden, which leads to leaks and pressure losses. At higher temperatures the transmission begins to slip, which
only aggravates overheating even more. Eventually the clutches burn out and the transmission calls it quits. The only way
to repair the damage now is with an overhaul -- a job which can easily run upwards of $1500 on a late model front-wheel
drive car or minivan.
As a rule of thumb, every 20 degree increase in operating temperature above 175 degrees F. cuts the life of the fluid in
At 195 degrees F., for instance, fluid life is reduced to 50,000 miles. At 220 degrees, which is commonly encountered in
many transmissions, the fluid is only good for about 25,000 miles. At 240 degrees F., the fluid won't go much over 10,000
miles. Add another 20 degrees, and life expectancy drops to 5,000 miles. Go to 295 or 300 degrees F., and 1,000 to 1,500
miles is about all you'll get before the transmission burns up.
If you think this is propaganda put forth by the suppliers of ATF to sell more fluid, think again. According to the
Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association, 90% of ALL transmission failures are caused by overheating. And most of
these can be blamed on worn out fluid that should have been replaced.
On most vehicles, the automatic transmission fluid is cooled by a small heat exchanger inside the bottom or end tank of the
radiator. Hot ATF from the transmission circulates through a short loop of pipe and is thus "cooled." Cooling is a relative
term here, however, because the radiator itself may be running at anywhere from 180 to 220 degrees F.!
Tests have shown that the typical original equipment oil cooler is marginal at best. ATF that enters the radiator cooler at
300 degrees F. leaves at 240 to 270 degrees F., which is only a 10 to 20% drop in temperature, and is nowhere good enough
for extended fluid life.
Any number of things can push ATF temperatures beyond the system's ability to maintain safe limits: towing a trailer,
mountain driving, driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather, stop-and-go driving in city traffic, "rocking" an
automatic transmission from drive to reverse to free a tire from mud or snow, etc. Problems in the cooling system itself
such as a low coolant level, a defective cooling fan, fan clutch, thermostat or water pump, an obstructed radiator, etc.,
will also diminish ATF cooling efficiency. In some cases, transmission overheating can even lead to engine coolant
overheating! That's why there's a good demand for auxiliary add-on transmission coolers.
An auxiliary transmission fluid cooler is easy to install and can substantially lower fluid operating temperatures. The
plate/fin type cooler is somewhat more efficient than the tube and fin design, but either can lower fluid temperatures
anywhere from 80 to 140 degrees when installed in series with the stock unit. Typical cooling efficiencies run in the 35 to
ATF Fluid Types
What kind of automatic transmission fluid should you use in your transmission? The type specified in your owner's manual or printed on the transmission dipstick.
For older Ford automatics and certain imports, Type "F" is usually required. Most Fords since the 1980s require "Mercon"
fluid, which is Ford's equivalent of Dexron II.
For General Motors, Chrysler and other imports, Dexron II is usually specified.
NOTE: Some newer vehicles with electronically-controlled transmissions require Dexron IIe or Dexron III fluid. GM says its new long-life Dexron III fluid can be substituted for Dexron II in older vehicle applications.
CAUTION: Using the wrong type of fluid can affect the way the transmission shifts and feels. Using Type F fluid in anap plication that calls for Dexron II may make the transmission shift too harshly. Using Dexron II in a transmission that requires Type F may allow the transmission to slip under heavy load, which can accelerate clutch wear.
Changing The Fluid
It's a messy job because there's no drain plug to change the fluid, but you can do it yourself if you're so inclined. To change the fluid, you have to get under your vehicle and remove the pan from the bottom of the transmission.
When you loosen the pan, fluid will start to dribble out in all directions so you need a fairly large catch pan. You should also know that removing the pan doesn't drain all of the old fluid out of the transmission. Approximately a third of the old fluid will still be in the torque converter. There's no drain plug on the converter so you're really only doing a partial fluid change. Even so, a partial fluid change is better than no fluid change at all.
A typical fluid change will require anywhere from 3 to 6 quarts of ATF depending on the application, a new filter and a pan gasket (or RTV sealer) for the transmission pan. The pan must be thoroughly cleaned prior to reinstallation. This includes wiping all fluid residue from the inside of the pan and scraping all traces of the old gasket from the pan's sealing surface. Don't forget to clean the mounting flange on the transmission, too.
When the new filter is installed, be sure it is mounted in the exact same position as the original and that any O-rings or other gaskets have been properly positioned prior to tightening the bolts. Then tighten the bolts to the manufacturer's recommended specs.
When refilling the transmission with fresh fluid, be careful not to allow any dirt or debris to enter the dipstick tube. Using a long-neck funnel with a built-in screen is recommended.
CAUTION: Do not overfill the transmission. Too much fluid can cause the fluid to foam, which in turn can lead to erratic shifting, oil starvation and transmission damage. Too much fluid may also force ATF to leak past the transmission seals.
Add half a quart at a time until the dipstick shows full. The transmission really isn't full yet because the dipstick should be checked when the fluid is hot, and the engine is idling with the gear selector in Park. So start the engine, drive the vehicle around the block, then recheck the fluid level while the engine is idling and add fluid as needed until the dipstick reads full.
Monthly Checklist Tips
Take 10 minutes and use our Monthly Checklist to do your own quick visual car inspection and fluid levels check. A few minutes each month could save you a lot of money on repairs down the road. Following a basic car maintenance checklist can help keep you on the road and out of the repair shop. A little vehicular pampering can also help extend your fuel economy and put less of a burden on the environment. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.
Basic automobile maintenance and upkeep describes the action of examining and testing the state of your car's engine and servicing or replacing parts and fluids. Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure the safety, reliability, drivability, comfort and longevity of your car. Completing a monthly preventive maintenance checklist, will alert you to fixable problems, before it's too late.
The actual schedule for a monthly preventive maintenance checklist varies depending on the year, make, and model of your car, its driving conditions and driver behavior.
Auto makers create their recommended service schedules based on boundary factors such as:
- number of trips and distance traveled per trip per day •extreme hot or cold climate conditions
- mountainous, dusty or de-iced roads
- heavy stop-and-go vs. long-distance cruising
- towing a trailer or other heavy load
Our monthly preventive maintenance checklist (created by experienced service technicians) recommends a maintenance schedule
based on the driving conditions and behavior of the car owner or driver.
Common Car Maintenance Tasks Include:
- Car wash
- check/replace the engine oil and replace oil filters
- check/replace fuel filters
- inspect or replace windshield wipers
- check or refill windshield washer fluid
- inspect tires for pressure and wear
- Tire balancing
- Tire rotation
- Wheel alignment
- check, clean or replace battery terminals and top up battery fluid
- inspect or replace brake pads
- check or flush brake fluid
- check or flush transmission fluid
- check or flush power steering fluid
- check and flush engine coolant
- inspect or replace spark plugs
- inspect or replace air filter
- inspect or replace timing belt and other belts
- lubricate locks, latches, hinges
- check all lights
- tighten chassis nuts and bolts
- check if rubber boots are cracked and need replacement
- test electronics, e.g., Anti-lock braking system or ABS
- read fault codes from the Engine control unit
Following a basic car maintenance checklist can help keep you on the road and out of the repair shop. A little vehicular pampering can also help extend your fuel economy and put less of a burden on the environment. Take 10 minutes and use our Monthly Checklist to do your own quick visual car inspection and fluid levels check. A few minutes each month could save you a lot of money on repairs down the road. Remember ... Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.
Fisher's Tire & Service: Proudly serving the Truck & Auto Fluid Exchange needs of customers in the Pensacola, Escambia County, FL, area for over 25 years.
Areas Served : Milton FL | Molino FL | Pensacola FL | and surrounding areas