Your Transmission Fluid Is Toast. What Should You Do?

Imagine you're checking your automatic transmission fluid and instead of seeing the bright red oil you're used to, the fluid looks extremely dark and has a distinctive burnt odor. That's the classic sign of transmission fluid that's been pushed beyond its service life. And now that you've found the problem, you're probably wondering what you should do about it.

Understanding the Causes Behind Burnt Fluid

If you're faced with burnt transmission fluid in your vehicle, then chances are you didn't change your transmission fluid when you were supposed to. Most auto makers recommend fluid changes every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on the type of fluid it uses. The longer you put off a fluid change, the more worn your fluid gets, making premature transmission failure more likely.

Transmission fluid can also break down if it overheats. This usually happens when you constantly use your vehicle to tow loaded trailers and campers or if it's constantly used for high-speed driving without the appropriate cooling modifications.

A Change of Fluids Could Make Things Worse

Upon seeing (and smelling) burnt transmission fluid, your first inclination might be to have your transmission flushed as soon as possible. However, what seems to be a completely reasonable step could be the very thing that finally puts your transmission out to pasture.

For starters, flushing the old fluid could also flush away worn clutch material, with some unexpected side effects. Automatic transmissions rely on a certain degree of friction in order to operate properly. As the fluid gets older and linings of the various clutches and bands within your transmission wear away, the worn clutch material may be the only thing that's providing enough friction for the transmission to operate.

The strong detergents found in brand-new transmission fluid could easily dislodge deposits that then become stuck in various channels and crevices. This could essentially starve your transmission of oil and cause premature failure.

A Rebuild May Be In Your Future

On one hand, merely draining and refilling your transmission with the proper fluid could help it last a little longer. However, it's a gamble that might last for several thousand miles or several dozen. It all depends on how long you've been using the old fluid and the overall stress your transmission was subjected to.

Instead of taking care of the problem with a simple drain and fill, your mechanic may recommend that you have your transmission rebuilt or replaced altogether, depending on how many miles you've pushed your transmission fluid past its lifespan. Contact a business, such as Karry's Automotive Service Center, for more information.