Why Check Transmission Fluid When the Engine is Running? – Top Reasons You Need to Know

You are currently viewing Why Check Transmission Fluid When the Engine is Running? – Top Reasons You Need to Know

Checking transmission fluid is a crucial aspect of vehicle maintenance. But have you ever wondered why checking the fluid level when the engine is running is necessary?

The transmission fluid is responsible for keeping your vehicle’s transmission system lubricated and cooled, preventing damage and ensuring smooth gear shifts. However, regular wear and tear can deplete the fluid level over time.

To keep your transmission in top shape, monitoring the fluid level and checking it regularly is essential. But why should you check it with the engine running? This article will explore why checking the transmission fluid level with the engine running is crucial and how it can help you avoid costly repairs in the long run.

Understanding the Basics Behind Transmission Fluid

The various parts of an automotive gearbox are lubricated with gearbox fluid to ensure the gearbox operates effectively. Automobile gearbox fluids come in a variety of varieties. The gearbox determines the kind utilised for a specific vehicle. ATF is used in automatic transmissions. 

However, regular motor oil or automatic gearbox fluid can be used in a manual gearbox. Instructions on the proper type of transmission fluid are frequently found in the owner’s manuals of vehicles with conventional transmissions.

Top Reasons Why You Need to Check Transmission Fluid During a Running Engine 

Your car’s transmission is an integral part of its overall performance. Checking the transmission fluid level is a critical aspect of car maintenance. But did you know that checking the transmission fluid level while the engine runs is even more important? Here are some reasons why:

1. Accurate Measurement

 It will give you a more accurate reading. When the engine is off, the fluid settles at the bottom of the transmission, and you might get false readings that could lead to misdiagnosis of transmission problems. 

By checking the fluid level while the engine is running, you get a more accurate reading of the fluid level and condition.

2. Optimal Temperature

The proper temperature of the transmission fluid is essential for the transmission to function correctly. Checking the fluid level while the engine runs ensures the transmission fluid is at the optimal temperature. 

This will give you an accurate reading of the fluid level and its condition, which is critical in identifying potential problems.

3. Detection of Immediate Concerns

A considerable benefit of checking the transmission fluid level is detecting transmission concerns immediately. You can identify a gearbox issue, such as delayed shifting or gear slippage, by routinely checking the fluid level. 

You may keep an eye out for any variations in fluid level and colour that might point to underlying gearbox issues.

4. Better Diagnosis of Transmission Problems

Regular checks can help you diagnose potential transmission problems. If you notice a burnt smell or a discoloration in the fluid, it could indicate significant problems like transmission overheating or contamination.

5. Avoidance of Costly Repairs

Regularly checking the transmission fluid level can help avoid costly transmission repairs. It can help you identify potential problems early before they escalate and cause significant damage to your transmission. 

This could save you considerable money on repair costs and prevent the need for a complete transmission overhaul in the future.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Checking the Transmission Fluid 

Step 1: Locate the Transmission

The location of the transmission varies from one vehicle to another. In most vehicles, the transmission is located in the front of the car, beneath the hood. Once you have located the transmission, locate the dipstick – a long rod or handle typically made of plastic or metal.

Step 2: Prepare the Vehicle

To check the transmission fluid level, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. Ensure the car is engaged in “Park” or “Neutral” mode with the handbrake. This will provide a more accurate reading since the fluid needs to be warm for an accurate measurement.

Step 3: Check the Transmission Fluid Level

Once the vehicle is running, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag, reinsert it into the transmission and then pull it out again. The dipstick usually has a range to indicate the ideal fluid level. Add more fluid if the fluid level is lower than the ‘full’ mark.

Step 4: Add Fluid

If you need to top off your transmission fluid:

  1. Use the correct type of fluid recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
  2. Use a funnel to add the fluid and add a little bit at a time until you reach your desired level.
  3. Recheck the level after adding more fluid to ensure it does not exceed the maximum range.

Step 5: Check the Fluid Quality

Consider smelling and observing the fluid’s colour while you have the dipstick out. Transmission fluid that has been properly maintained should be pink or crimson in colour and smell slightly sweet. The fluid may need to be changed if it is brown or black and smells burnt.

The Final Thoughts 

Checking the transmission fluid level while the engine is running is critical to maintaining a healthy transmission. It is a simple task that can help you detect potential problems early and avoid costly repairs. 

Make it a regular part of your car maintenance routine to ensure your transmission’s longevity and optimal performance.