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for early transmission trouble and warning signs.

My Automatic TransmissionLOOK for fluid leaks...  Routinely check your garage floor, driveway or parking spot for fluid leaks.  Transmission fluid leaks are fairly common and they can cause major problems if allowed to continue.

If you see leaked fluid on the ground directly below where you park your vehicle, the first thing you need to do is determine if the leaked fluid is transmission fluid or one of the other fluids (engine oil, power steering fluid or brake fluid).  Clean transmission fluid is red in color and translucent.  Old transmission fluid may be a darker red or brown.  Oxidized "burnt" transmission is very dark, possibly even black, in color and has a burnt odor.

My Automatic Transmission

If you believe the leak is transmission fluid - you must check the transmission fluid level right away.  If the fluid level is low, add the correct type of transmission fluid to bring the level into the "full range" on the dipstick.  If the transmission fluid level shows full (and you are quite certain the leaked fluid is transmission fluid) then you will need to continue checking the transmission fluid level daily until the origin of the leak can be confirmed and the leak is repaired.

How to properly check transmission fluid level

WARNING: Allowing the transmission fluid level to drop below the full range on the dipstick will cause heat to build up inside the transmission.  Excessive heat will cause internal transmission damage rather quickly.

Learn how quickly excessive heat can ruin a transmission.

My Automatic TransmissionLOOK for smoke...  another sign of a possible transmission problem is seeing any signs of smoke when the engine is running or after shutting a hot engine off.  Smoke coming from the engine compartment or from underneath your vehicle is most likely caused by an overheated engine or fluid leaking onto the exhaust pipes or other hot surfaces and burning off.  Again, the leak could be transmission fluid or any one of the other fluids used in your car.  But, regardless of the type of fluid that is leaking, if it is causing the vehicle to smoke it is a fire hazard.  Leaked fluid onto hot exhaust pipes is one of the top causes of vehicle fires.

How to locate and repair a transmission fluid leak

My Automatic Transmission

LOOK closely at transmission dipstick...  When checking the transmission fluid level, after wiping the fluid from the dipstick look closely to see if the dipstick is stained.  The stain will be brown or dark brown in color and will not wipe off.  If you see such a stain, it means the transmission is either running hot or has gotten very hot in the past. 

This is an especially troubling sign if you recently purchased the vehicle.  What sometimes happens is the seller (whether an individual or dealer) will replace oxidized/burnt transmission fluid with fresh fluid to cover up the fact that the transmission was severely overheated at some point.  But, these scrupulous individuals or dealers do not replace the transmission dipstick.  A transmission overheats to the point that the dipstick becomes stained, internal damage has likely occurred.

Repair Information.  You can either drive the car until the transmission begins to slip or shows other symptoms of failing and then get it repaired or consider selling the vehicle now.

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  Transmission Noises and What They Mean - Whining, Gurgling...
  Transmission Problems You FEEL - Slipping - Hard Shifts...
  Transmission Problems You Can Smell - Fluid Leaks - Burnt Fluid
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  My Automatic Transmission  
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 How to Check Transmission Fluid Condition
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