How to Identify a Transmission Fluid Leak

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

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).

Advertisement

Originally Published: Jul 11, 2011

Transmission Fluid Leak FAQ

How often should you change transmission fluid?
Depending on how much you drive, you may need to change the transmission fluid every two years or 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers).
What does bad transmission fluid smell like?
It usually smells similar to petroleum. If the transmission fluid needs to be changed, it will smell burnt.
How can you tell if your transmission is going out?
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.
What is leaking from my car?
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.
How do you know if you have a transmission fluid leak?
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.