How do you know if your transmission fluid is burnt out?

Answered by Antonio Sutton

Determining if your transmission fluid is burnt out can be done by examining its color, consistency, and smell. When transmission fluid breaks down and becomes burnt, it undergoes various changes that can indicate a problem. Here are some key signs to look out for:

1. Color: Fresh transmission fluid is typically a bright red color. However, as it becomes burnt, it may turn darker, ranging from brown to black. This change in color indicates that the fluid has deteriorated and may no longer be effectively lubricating the transmission components.

2. Consistency: Burnt transmission fluid may also become thicker or have a sludgy consistency. Instead of its usual smooth texture, it may appear sticky or have particles suspended in it. This change in consistency can impair the fluid’s ability to flow properly through the transmission system.

3. Smell: One of the most noticeable signs of burnt transmission fluid is the smell. Fresh transmission fluid tends to have a sweet or tart odor. However, when the fluid breaks down and overheats, it emits a distinct burnt smell. This burnt odor can be quite strong and pungent, indicating that the fluid has been exposed to high temperatures.

It is important to note that these signs are not definitive proof that your transmission fluid is burnt out, but they are strong indicators that there may be an issue. If you notice any of these signs, it is recommended to have your transmission system inspected and serviced by a qualified mechanic.

In addition to examining the fluid itself, there are other symptoms that may suggest burnt transmission fluid:

4. Slipping Gears: If your transmission fluid is burnt, it may not provide sufficient lubrication to the gears, causing them to slip. This can result in delayed or erratic shifting, making it difficult to maintain the correct gear ratio.

5. Overheating: Burnt transmission fluid can lead to increased friction and heat within the transmission system. If your transmission is overheating, you may notice warning lights on your dashboard or experience a burning smell coming from the engine compartment.

6. Poor Performance: As the transmission fluid deteriorates, it may lose its ability to properly lubricate and cool the transmission components. This can result in reduced performance, such as sluggish acceleration, difficulty in shifting gears, or a decrease in overall power.

7. Transmission Leaks: If your transmission fluid is burnt, it can cause seals and gaskets to degrade, leading to leaks. If you notice reddish-brown spots or puddles underneath your vehicle, it could be a sign of a transmission fluid leak.

It’s worth mentioning that the lifespan of transmission fluid can vary depending on driving conditions, maintenance, and the type of fluid used. Regularly checking and replacing your transmission fluid as per the manufacturer’s recommendations can help prevent it from becoming burnt and prolong the life of your transmission system.

If you notice a dark or black color, a thick or sludgy consistency, and a strong burnt smell in your transmission fluid, it is likely that it has become burnt and requires attention. It is advisable to have your transmission system inspected by a professional to diagnose and address any underlying issues.