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How to Tell if Your Vehicle is Leaking Transmission Fluid

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What is Transmission Fluid & What Does it Do?

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Transmission fluid is an essential fluid for automatic and manual transmissions. Stored in the transmission pan that is connected to the transmission, this vital fluid also provides pressure to change gears in automatic transmissions. In manual gearboxes, it provides lubrication and cooling for the internal moving parts.

Transmission Fluid Leak Symptoms

A transmission leak can cause a host of issues for your vehicle. With a leak, the transmission system doesn’t get the lubrication and pressure it needs, which can cause you to experience diminished performance. Here are some signs that you might be dealing with a transmission fluid leak.

Reddish-Brown Spots Under Vehicle

Be on the lookout for reddish-brown stains on your garage floor or driveway. Many times, this is your first sign that there is an issue with the level of your transmission fluid. These spots can be in the center of the vehicle (RWD) or on the side of the vehicle where the transmission is located (FWD). Manual gearboxes may have light brown or reddish-brown stains on the ground.

Gear Shifting Issues

Because there isn’t the proper amount of transmission fluid to keep everything lubricated, you may notice a delayed response when the gears shift or a failure to shift at all. The transmission may go into a “limp home mode” where it remains in one gear to allow you to get to your auto technician. A manual gearbox may become noisy or difficult to shift when the fluid becomes low.

Check the Fluid Level

If your automatic transmission is equipped with a dipstick, check the fluid level. If it is low, this is another sign of a leak. Many newer vehicles do not have a dipstick or require the vehicle to be raised to check the fluid level and may require a trip to your auto technician. Manual gearboxes also require the vehicle to be raised up to check the fluid level.

What Causes Transmission Fluid Leaks?

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Learn what can cause a transmission fluid leak in your vehicle. If you have a transmission fluid leak, your trusted auto technician can pinpoint the source.

Transmission Pan Gasket

The transmission pan gasket sits between the transmission pan and the transmission case. A deteriorating transmission gasket is a common cause of a transmission fluid leak. Some manufacturers may also use RTV sealer as a gasket, which will deteriorate over time. Fel-Pro® offers replacement pan gaskets for many applications.

Transmission Lines

There are hoses and lines that connect the transmission to the radiator or transmission cooler. A crack or loosened connection in a hose can cause a leak. Some manufacturers use a crimp style clamp to connect rubber hoses to metal lines; these rubber hoses can take a compression set over time and start to leak from these connections.

Transmission Seals

Over time, heat and lack of fluid maintenance causes wear and tear on the seals in the transmission system, causing damage that creates a fluid leak.

Can You Drive with a Transmission Fluid Leak?

If you suspect that your vehicle has a transmission fluid leak, it’s time to make an appointment with your auto technician. A leak won’t fix itself and can lead to further damage to your car’s transmission if not addressed in a timely manner. Don’t ignore the signs of a transmission fluid leak.


Learn more about Fel-Pro quality gaskets that are specifically designed for the repair environment, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

Tags: Leak Inspection Checklist
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