What transmission fluid do i need? Types transmission fluid

What transmission fluid do i need? There are many different fluids that run throughout a car. From motor oil to radiator fluid to air conditioning refrigerant, it’s important to keep each of these fluids in check in order to keep your car in tip-top shape.

Among these essential fluids is transmission fluid. While most people know about the importance of changing your engine oil, many don’t fully understand what is transmission fluid. the role of transmission fluid plays, and when to change it. However, it’s just as important!

What Is Transmission Fluid?

Transmission fluid is a specially formulated lubricant designed to protect your car’s transmission gears and clutch packs, enabling smooth shifts and preventing heat from destroying the fluid.

What transmission fluid do i need

Transmission fluids are lubricants used in internal combustion engines, such as those found in automobiles. This fluid helps reduce friction between moving parts and reduce the amount of heat generated.

It also cools the transmission by transferring heat away from the transmission and other internal engine components. It is essential to check your transmission fluid level regularly and change it if it is low or begins to break down.

What Does Transmission Fluid Do?

According to AAMCO and one of the most trusted and recognized automotive brands in the country, transmission fluid lubricates the bearings and metal parts inside a car’s manual gearbox and keeps them from grinding down as they move.

In an automatic transmission, it not only lubricates the moving parts, but also provides hydraulic pressure and friction to make the internal parts work. Transmission fluid in both manual and automatic transmissions also helps to keep the transmission cool.

Shifting gears is a strenuous task for a car, and transmission fluid is what allows a vehicle to shift with ease without wearing down its parts. While manual transmission oil or fluid has existed in some shape or form since the beginning of automobiles, automatic transmission fluid was created in the 1940s and has played an important role in cars ever since.

Automatic transmission fluid is not the same as manual transmission fluid. Automatic transmission fluid is a transmission oil that is used in automatic vehicles only, but in the case of a manual transmission where the clutch and shifter are used during gear shifts, manual transmission oil is used.

There are several different types and qualities of transmission fluid, and it’s best to reference your owner’s manual or a trusted auto technician when it comes to choosing the correct fluids for your vehicle.

What Transmission Fluid Do I Need?

This really depends on your vehicle’s make and model, as different manufacturers have different recommended transmission fluids.

For instance, there are many variants of Mercon and Dexron nowadays, such as Mercon V and Dexron VI. These variants are backwards compatible, meaning Mercon V can be used for a vehicle that requires Mercon III. They are not forwards compatible though.

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For Honda and Acura

Honda and Acura vehicles typically use Z-1 (older version) and DW-1 (synthetic upgraded version). You can use DW-1 in vehicles that require Z-1, but not the other way around.

For Chevy, Buick, and GMC

Chevy, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Saturn, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac vehicles typically use Dexron.

Dexron is usually backward compatible in auto transmissions. In other words, if your owner’s manual indicates that you should use Dexron III, you should ask your mechanic about using Dexron VI.

For Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and some Mazda cars

Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and some Mazda vehicles typically use Mercon. If you drive a pre-1977 vintage Ford vehicle, you may need Type-F.

For Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep

Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles should use synthetic ATF+3 or ATF+4, depending on the specific model.

For Toyota and Lexus

If you drive a newer Toyota or Lexus, you can use synthetic T4 ATF. Pre-2005 Toyota and Lexus vehicles may call for Dexron III. Call a dealership to purchase OE (Original Equipment) fluids.

For Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Kia

Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Kia vehicles typically need SP ATFs. Make sure to find a product that is formulated for your 4, 5, or 6-speed transmission.

For Subaru and Nissan

Newer Subaru and Nissan vehicles may need Subaru ATF, ATF-HP, or Matic ATF (S, K, D, or J type). Pre-2005 Subarus used Dexron III and pre-2005 Nissans typically used Dexron II. Ask your mechanic about compatibility with Dexron VI before your next transmission flush.

Types of Transmission Fluid

Different fluid specifications mean that different additives and ingredients are used in it, which is why it’s so important to use only the fluid recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

What transmission fluid do i need

Each specification is meant to provide only the best lubricating, anti-wear, anti-rust, and anti-corrosion properties for specific car makes. Transmission fluid properties are also meant to:

  • Protect and clean metal surfaces
  • Extend rotational speed and temperature range
  • Provide the right amount of viscosity
  • Prevent foam and oxidation of fluid
  • Extend the life of the fluid
  • Improve cooling ability and reduce high temperatures
  • Condition gaskets

The most notable transmission fluid specifications are the DEXRON and MERCON series. This is what most car manufacturers use today. There are also oil based and synthetic based ATF which provide different properties such as longer life and effectiveness in high heat. The different types of transmission fluid include:

Type F –Type F is the specification mostly used in cars in the 1970s. Not so prevalent now, but type F was widely used in the past and did not include friction modifiers (which reduces the friction in lubricated parts). Mostly for vintage transmission nowadays, you won’t see much of this type around.

Dexron/Mercon – Probably the most common ATF specifications today, DEXRON and Mercon have very similar standards which is why they are often grouped together. Both includes friction modifiers and a lot of other grades are based on these two.

HFM Fluids – Stands for Highly Friction Modified, and as you can guess includes friction modifiers for vehicles that need a lot of reduced friction. Not a lot of explanation needed.

Synthetic Fluids – Synthetic fluids are very popular today and are available from aftermarket brands (which closely meet Dexron and Mercon specifications). Synthetic fluid offers better performance and service, with improved resistance to heat, cold, oxidation, friction, and shearing. Many manufacturers are adopting synthetic fluids nowadays as they are simply better although they often cost more.

Which Type Of Transmission Fluid Should You Use?

There are two primary types of transmission fluid, automatic and manual. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is used in all cars that have automatic transmissions and in certain modern manual transmission cars. Manual transmission oil is the fluid used in some manual cars; it is never used in automatic transmission vehicles. In some cases gear oil is used within manual transmissions.

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Underneath the umbrella of ATF are several varieties, Type F, Dexron III/Mercon, HFM-Style Fluids used by Chrysler, Honda/Acura, Jeep/Eagle, Hyundai, Toyota/Lexus, Saturn, Sterling.

Some of these fluid types are interchangeable though it is important to check with your owner’s manual to be sure. Numerous manufacturers formulate fluids that meet the individual standards of those various ATF fluids. It is important to review the “spec sheet” to validate your vehicle’s fluid requirements has been tested and approved for any fluid used in your transmission.

Increasingly more vehicles require a synthetic variation of ATF. Synthetic transmission fluid tends to be more expensive however it carries numerous benefits compared to regular ATF.

What transmission fluid do i need

It has a superior ability to handle heat while being more resistant to oxidation and rust. Drivability and smooth shifting is also enhanced. These features can save you money in the long run due to its ability to extend transmission life.

Once you know which fluid is correct for your vehicle, you can complete your maintenance check and add fluid if you are low. Do that by inserting a long funnel into the ATF dipstick hole. Carefully add the fluid in small increments and recheck the level each time until the fluid level reaches the “warm” line. Be careful not to overfill or spill ATF on hot engine parts. Reinsert dipstick fully.

How To Check Transmission Fluid?

It’s a good idea to check your vehicle’s transmission fluid several times a year to monitor fluid level and condition. Check the fluid immediately if your transmission jerks, hesitates or shifts hard.

  • Transmission fluid should be checked regularly to make sure there are no leaks leading to low fluid levels and to make sure the fluid isn’t worn out, allowing damage to occur.
  • Before getting started, gather a light-colored towel and find the transmission dipstick, which should be located near the oil dipstick and labeled appropriately. If you can’t locate the dipstick, check your owner’s manual. Some cars today aren’t equipped with dipsticks, likely because they don’t want you to mess with it and want you to take it to your dealer instead.
  • When ready, park your vehicle on level surface, engage the parking brake and start the engine. Leave the car in neutral or park. Let your vehicle warm up and continue to run throughout the operation unless the owner’s manual says otherwise. (Be aware that some automatic transmission fluid levels are checked with the engine off. Check the owner’s manual.)
  • Remove automatic transmission fluid dipstick. Wipe clean, reinsert fully and remove again.
  • Observe markings at end of dipstick. Your dipstick might have two markings for “full”—one warm, one cold. If the automatic transmission fluid level does not come up to the “warm” line, you’ll need to add automatic transmission fluid.
  • Also look at the fluid color—it should be a bright red; smell—it should not smell burnt; and consistency—the fluid should be clear of any contaminants.

How Often Should Transmission Fluid Be Changed?

As mentioned previously, many people are aware of the importance of changing motor oil, yet are unaware when it comes to transmission fluid.

Over time, both automatic and manual transmission fluid will break down and become contaminated with particles and debris. While transmission fluid doesn’t need to be changed as frequently as your motor oil, for example, it’s important to keep a close eye on it and check it regularly.

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If your transmission fluid level is low or the fluid has started to break down, you’ll notice a decrease in performance when shifting or engaging into gear. This can also increase the risk of damaging internal gears and parts as they begin grinding together due to a lack of lubricant.

Some manufacturers, depending on your style of driving and the type of transmission your car has, recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000-60,000 miles. However, it’s important to note that this can vary depending on your car’s make and model. Always follow the manufacturer recommendations for your specific vehicle.

Towing heavy loads, stop-and-go city driving and harsh weather conditions can cause more strain on your transmission and transmission fluid. If you commonly drive in these conditions, you’ll want to check your transmission fluid levels and condition often to avoid any issues.

How Do I Know if My Transmission Fluid Is Low?

Transmission overheating is the leading cause of transmission failure. Transmission overheating is typically a result of low fluid or depleted fluid due to lack of regular fluid maintenance.

If a leak forms in your transmission system, you will lose transmission fluid and eventually be driving with low fluid levels. The transmission will begin to overheat and slip, and while it won’t typically cause the vehicle to stall, it will cause the engine to rev higher than normal or feel as though you have no power.

What transmission fluid do i need

When your fluid levels are low, this can result in permanent damage to your car’s transmission and lead to costly repairs, rebuilds or even replacements.

Look for signs of leakage on the ground where you park and if your vehicle has a dipstick, check your transmission fluid levels every time you change your oil. If it shows even slightly low, you probably have a small leak that will turn into a larger leak and cause expensive repairs in the future if you don’t address the problem early.

What Happens if a Car Runs Out of Transmission Fluid?

If your car runs out of transmission fluid completely, it will most likely not go into gear, barely move or not shift at all. This is especially the case if you have an automatic transmissions car.

Unfortunately, allowing a vehicle to get to the point where it has no transmission fluid will likely lead to extensive and costly repairs. This is why it’s so important to look out for the signs listed above! If you’re ever in doubt, check your transmission or take your vehicle to a professional who can check it for you.

Benefits Of Additives In Transmission Fluid

You may be able to improve the performance of your transmission fluid with optional additives. Additives are bought separately and may help reduce sludge formation, prevent leaks, and soften worn seals.

These products are cheaper and easier than a full transmission flush, although some experts recommend against them.
Additives can be especially beneficial for vehicles that tow heavy leads, withstand extreme temperatures and road conditions, or accrue high mileage.


What kind of transmission fluid does a transmission take?

In general, there are two main types of transmission fluids: automatic transmission fluid and manual transmission fluid. There is also synthetic transmission fluid and specialty fluids used and specified in various types of transmissions including CVT and dual clutch models.

What happens when transmission fluid is low?

One major sign of low transmission fluid is overheating. If there’s not enough fluid to cool everything down, you may notice a burning smell or see smoke coming from your car. If left alone this can lead to a loss of power or other permanent damage, so seek assistance from a service center right away.

Is transmission fluid universal?

Most universal transmission fluids are formulated without key additives or contain unnecessary additives that could adversely affect your transmission, resulting in performance and reliability issues. We recommend using the exact fluid that was designed for your transmission.

Above is information about What transmission fluid do i need? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Types of transmission fluid. Thank you for reading our post.

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