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Automatic Transmission
Fluid Color and What it Means

   

The color of the automatic transmission can help in diagnosing a transmission problem and give you an indication of the overall health of your transmission.

To use the information and ATF color chart provided below you must first determine the color of the transmission fluid that is in your transmission or transaxle.  To do this, follow these instructions:

1. OPEN YOUR VEHICLE'S HOOD AND LOCATE THE TRANSMISSION DIPSTICK.

2. PULL THE DIPSTICK OUT OF THE FILLER TUBE.

3. DETERMINE THE FLUID COLOR

Look closely at the fluid on the end of the dipstick to determine the fluid color.  Match the color with the closest color shown on the fluid color chart below.  The Chart provides an explanation and suggested course of action for each fluid color.

Tip: Place a few drops of transmission fluid on a clean white sheet of paper to get a more accurate color reading.


Automatic Transmission Fluid Color Chart

fluid color chart

Check fluid condition regularly and follow the manufacturer's transmission/transaxle service procedures and service intervals.
 
Check fluid condition regularly and follow the manufacturer's transmission/transaxle service procedures and service intervals.
 
Dirty and contaminated fluid does not provide adequate lubrication.  Poor lubrication causes excessive wear and  damage to internal parts.

This fluid condition also increases heat inside the transmission, which can quickly lead to transmission failure.

Very dark or black fluid color means the fluid is old, dirty and/or oxidized.  A burnt odor confirms fluid oxidation.

If transmission is working properly, a fluid and filter change or flush should be done immediately.  If problems exist, a rebuild may be necessary.

  When water enters the transmission, the friction clutches fall apart and seals are ruined.  The only fix is to rebuild or replace the transmission.

Water enters the transmission  through a damaged/leaking transmission oil cooler line radiator.      

More ways to check the condition of transmission fluid.

Fluid Smell: Smell the fluid - if it has a burnt odor, the transmission has overheated and the fluid is oxidized.  The result is poor lubrication, increased friction, increased heat and excessive wear or damage to internal parts and seals.  In most instances, burnt smelling transmission fluid means some internal damage has already occurred.  Learn how fast excessive heat can ruin your transmission.

Blotter Test: Place a couple of drops of the ATF on a paper towel and wait about 30-seconds or so.  If the fluid has spread out and is red or light brown in color, the fluid is good - No action is needed. If the fluid does not spread out and is dark in color, the fluid is oxidized.  In this case, a fluid and filter change or flush is needed.

   

 

 
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