Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
Transmission Fluid - The Lifeblood of an Automatic
transmission fluid is a specially formulated oil
designed to meet the requirements of automatic
transmissions and the rather harsh conditions under
which they must perform. The fluid is typically red in color
and translucent. The red color of ATF
distinguishes it from other fluids used in your vehicle,
which helps reduce the risk of adding a different fluid,
such as engine oil, to the transmission. The red
dye in automatic transmission fluid also helps
distinguish it from other fluids when a leak occurs.
All automatic transmission fluids contain a number of
different chemical compounds designed to lubricate, cool
and clean the internal parts of the transmission.
Other compounds that make up automatic transmission
fluid include rust and corrosion inhibitors,
detergents, anti-foam additives, anti-oxidation
But, while most automatic transmission fluids contain
each of the above mentioned compounds and additives,
they are not the same. Each type of ATF is
developed for a specific list of automatic transmissions
and transaxles - they each have a specific viscosity and
a specific friction coefficient that is best suited for
the transmission they are designed for.
Condensed Automatic Transmission Fluid Application Chart
below or our full
Transmission Fluid Application Guide for the correct
fluid to use in your vehicle.
Inside the transmission, in addition to providing
lubrication to all the moving parts and gears, ATF also
provides hydraulic pressure to the transmission's
clutches and bands to engage and shift gears. To keep
the fluid and transmission from overheating, a
transmission oil cooler located inside the vehicle's
radiator continuously cools the transmission fluid when
the vehicle is in operation.
Transmission Fluid Overheats
Even with its built-in cooling properties and external
oil cooler, transmission fluid can and does overheat
more often than most vehicle owners realize.
Common causes for transmission overheating include:
fluid level, old,
dirty and/or oxidized fluid
> Clogged or restricted transmission filter
> Engine Overheating
> Transmission slipping,
> A failing torque converter or faulty torque
converter clutch solenoid
> Extended stop and go traffic, extended travel
through desert or mountains
> Spinning the wheels
The Consequences of Excessive Transmission Heat and
Under normal operating conditions and when operated
within its designed temperature range (between 175 and
195 degrees Fahrenheit for most vehicles) a good quality
transmission fluid will provide in the neighborhood of 100,000 miles of
service before oxidation occurs. But, as you can
see in the chart below, when the
temperature of ATF rises, things begin to deteriorate
brief narrative explaining the
Fluid Temperature/Failure Chart.
235°F, vital transmission fluid additives start
to boil. This results in varnish build up inside
At approximately 255 to 260°F,
the internal seals begin to harden, which causes
internal and external fluid leaks. Internal
leaks equates to pressure loss, which causes
slipping and a variety of shift problems.
the fluid temperature reaches 295°F, the fluid
continues top breakdown at a rapid pace. At this point the fluid
no longer provides adequate lubrication and the
clutch plates burn up and slip badly.
next 20° temperature increase, (approximately 315°F), the seals and clutches are
completely fried and the transmission is doomed.
Catastrophic transmission failure is eminent and
will occur very soon if it has not already
Transmission Fluids are Not the Same
fluid is designed to work with a specific list of
Using the wrong type of ATF in your automatic
transmission can adversely affect the performance of the
transmission and, in some cases, actually damage the
transmission. Moreover, adding the wrong type
of transmission fluid will void the vehicle
So, as long as your warranty is in effect, you'll want
to follow the manufacturer's guidelines exactly when
adding fluid or when servicing the transmission.
Check your Owners Manual for the type of transmission
fluid for your vehicle.
Note: If you do not have the vehicle Owner's
Manual, the transmission fluid type for your vehicle may
be indicated on the transmission dipstick.
Alternatively, check the ATF Application Guide below or
see our full
Transmission Fluid Application Guide here.
Most Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler vehicles
Mercon V: Most Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles
Mercon LV: Some Ford and MAZDA vehicles
DEXRON: Most GM and pre-2004 Toyota Vehicles and some Ford vehicles
All Honda and Acura (not CVT transmissions)
SP-III: All Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia vehicles (not for CVT and dual clutch transmissions)
Matic S, Matic K, Matic D: Nissan and Subaru vehicles
Toyota ATF-WS: All 2004 and newer Toyota vehicles
Honda DW (
ZF ): All Honda vehicles (not for CVT)