How to Identify a Transmission Fluid Leak

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Car problems can be frustrating and expensive. Before you spend time and money going to a mechanic, take a look at your car and see whether you can identify the problem. Use the method and signs listed below to tell whether your car has a transmission fluid leak.

  1. Identify the color of the leaking fluid. A transmission fluid leak is usually red. If it's about time for the fluid to be changed, it may be brownish [source: Cars Direct]. Be aware that other car fluids, such as anti-freeze and windshield wiper fluid, are also red. You'll be able to differentiate between those fluids and transmission fluid by the consistency and smell.
  2. Identify the consistency and smell of the leaking fluid. Transmission fluid is a slick liquid that's oily to the touch, much like engine oil or brake fluid. It usually smells similar to petroleum. If the transmission fluid needs to be changed, it will smell burnt.
  3. Identify where the leaking fluid is dripping from. Transmission fluid leaks around the front and middle of the car [source: Ford]. If you find puddles of red, slick liquid on your driveway where the front and middle of your car sit, you most likely have a transmission fluid leak.
  4. Pay attention to signs from your car. If the transmission is slow to start, your transmission fluid levels are low and there may be a leak. If the transmission doesn't start at all, you may not have any transmission fluid at all [source: Carley].
  5. Remember that transmission fluid leaks can be avoided with regular maintenance. Depending on how much you drive, you may need to change the transmission fluid every two years or 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers).