Many car owners are not aware of the importance of having the right amount of transmission fluid in their cars. Not having enough fluid or overflowing fluid in the transmission may incapacitate your car. So, a common question to answer is, how much transmission fluid do I need?
If the transmission fluid in your car is low, you should only add around one-half quart of fluid at a time. If the transmission fluid in your car has completely drained out, you will need from 4 to 12 quarts of fluid to fill it back.
To ensure that the transmission fluid is at the right level, the engine should be running when you are topping it up. Of course, the transmission should be at the park position with the handbrake activated so that the car won’t move.
Read on to learn more about how much transmission fluid you need to add to your car, how to check its level, and how to add more transmission fluid.
How Much Transmission Fluid Do I Need?
If you suspect that the transmission fluid in your car’s transmission case is already lacking, you should top it up slowly by adding around one-half quart at a time. But before you do that, start the engine and let it run for about 5 minutes, then start topping the fluid up.
But if the transmission case is completely drained out of fluid, you need to pour from 4 to 12 quarts of transmission fluid until it is at the right level. Remember that the dipstick can show that it is already full when in reality, it is not. Again, it is best to let the engine run for a few minutes to get the proper reading.
If the transmission fluid is deficient, add more fluid but check if there are no leaks. Since you are running the engine while topping up the transmission fluid, you should place your car’s gear in the park position and activate the handbrake. This will prevent the car from moving.
It is also important for you to use a transmission fluid recommended by your car’s service manual. This will ensure that your car’s transmission will operate optimally.
Signs of Low Transmission Fluid
It is when the transmission fluid is low when the gears encounter problems. So, you need to be able to know when the level of the fluid is getting into a dangerously low level. Here are the signs that you should be aware of:
- Warning light – there should be a check light flashing on your dashboard whenever the fluid in the transmission case is dangerously getting low
- Difficulty in shifting gears
- Transmission slipping problems
- Strange sounds coming out of the transmission case
- Leaks in the transmission case
- Overheating in the transmission
Right Amount of Transmission Fluid Is Important
How much transmission fluid to add? The exact amount of transmission fluid you need to add will depend on the fluid level and condition inside the transmission case. A majority of passenger cars need from 12 to 16 quarts of fluid. The make and model of your vehicle will dictate how much transmission fluid is needed.
Most vehicles have dipsticks that are used to check the fluid level. However, some cars don’t have them. You have to put these cars on the lift to check the fluid level from the transmission case itself underneath the car body.
It is better to run the engine for a few minutes before checking the dipstick level. Add as much fluid until the dipstick says it is already full. You also need to check the cold mark in a cool engine. The fluid must be at the upper end.
On the flip side, the hot mark should be at the upper end when the engine is running. To be safe, be sure that the transmission fluid is within the safe zone. That is, it should be within the two marks when the engine is warm.
If a mechanic is servicing the transmission of a car, he should replace the filter too. Lastly, he should drop the oil pan too. Then about 4 to 5 quarts of fluid are added to replace the lost fluid while the transmission is being serviced.
However, if you notice that you have to keep adding fluid to the transmission, there must be a leak. You need to find the leak and seal it. If it’s difficult for you to do it, have a mechanic inspect and repair the leak.
So, how much transmission fluid do you need? Ideally, you should only add about half-a-quart of fluid at a time. The dip-stick can show full, even when it is not full. Start the engine and let it run for about five minutes. If the transmission fluid in your car has completely drained out, you will need from 4 to 12 quarts of fluid to fill it back.
If your car has a dipstick, it will be easy to add transmission fluid if you think it is already lacking. You will need a funnel so you can use it to pour the fluid into the transmission case slowly. But do remember to warm up the engine first before you start doing this.
How to Add Transmission Fluid
You need to warm up the engine because the oil or fluid needs to be warmed up to perform at its highest efficiency level. If your car has no dipstick, you have to bring it to a car mechanic where they can check and refill the fluid in return for a service fee.
If your car has a dipstick, then you can do it yourself. Here are the steps that you can follow in adding transmission fluid to your car:
1. Check the Car Operator’s Manual
This manual will show you the right transmission fluid that you can use for your car. It will also show you if there are any special instructions you need to follow in adding fluid to the transmission, such as:
- How frequently you should change the transmission fluid. It is OK to add fluid when you think it is already insufficient. However, most carmakers recommend the changing of transmission fluid every 30,000 to 100,000 miles. It will depend on the type and model of your vehicle as well.
- The dipstick in the transmission case will also show you the type of transmission fluid that your car requires.
2. Start and Keep the Engine Idling
Put the gear in neutral, then activate the parking brake, then turn on the ignition key. Keep the engine running for about 5 minutes before doing anything. Once the engine is warmed up, you can start the process.
3. Remove the Dipstick
Remove the dipstick from its place in the transmission case.
4. Place a Funnel in the Dipstick Hole
There is a special funnel with a longer neck that you can buy for this purpose. Place the open end of this funnel right on the hole where the dipstick is supposed to be.
5. Pour the Transmission Fluid
You can now start to pour the fluid inside the transmission case. Do it little by little, so you will not overfill the case.
6. Depress the Brake
With the car idling, step on the brake and then run the transmission through its gears. Doing this will circulate the transmission fluid. It will also ensure that you will get the correct reading on the dashboard.
7. Check the Fluid Level Again
Recheck the transmission dipstick to see if you still need to add some more fluid. If there is still a need, do it little by little. At this point, your car will only need very little fluid topping up.
8. Restore the Dipstick in Its Place
Place the dipstick back in its place and be sure that it is deeply seated. You may need to press down a latch on the top or turn it until it locks to secure it in its place.
How Much Transmission Fluid to Add?
The actual amount of transmission fluid that you are going to pour will depend on the following factors:
1. Fluid Is Low on the Dipstick
If you notice that the fluid is quite low on the dipstick, start pouring one-half quart to one quart at a time. Then dip the stick and check if that’s enough. If the level is not yet enough, pour another one-fourth quart or less at a time.
Recheck the dipstick. If it is up to the safe zone, you can still pour in some more. But that level is already safe.
2. If You Are Changing the Fluid
If you are completely changing the transmission fluid, it could take 12 to 16 quarts of fluid to replace the old one.
3. If You Are Servicing the Transmission
If you brought your car to the repair shop for a transmission service, you would need from 4 to 5 quarts of transmission fluid. This will replace the fluid that will be lost in the pan while the transmission is being serviced.
Cost of Adding Transmission Fluid
The actual cost of adding transmission fluid to your car also depends on the type of work you are doing with the transmission. Obviously, it is cheaper to add transmission fluid than to change it completely. How much does it cost to change transmission fluid?
The approximate costs of the different types of transmission service are the following:
- Adding fluid to top up the current fluid level at the transmission will only cost the number of quarts needed for the fluid to reach the safe zone. So, if you need only 1 quart of fluid, it will only cost you from $8 to $20, depending on the brand and type of fluid your car requires. The price of most transmission fluids ranges from $8 to $20. On average, the cost of a DIY adding of transmission fluid ranges from $40 to $90.
- For a complete transmission fluid change, the average cost is around $100. The cost of having it changed by a dealer, independent mechanic, or a car service center ranges from $80 to $250.
How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level
To determine the level of transmission fluid on your car, you have to know where to check. Where are the transmission and its dipstick located? Don’t mistake the transmission dipstick with the engine oil dipstick.
At the back of the engine and near the firewall is where the transmission and the car’s dipstick are typically located. But that’s only for rear-wheel drives. On front-wheel drives, the transmission dipstick is located at the front of the engine. This is not always true, though. You still have to look at the car operator’s manual to be sure of its location.
Check the current level of the transmission fluid by doing the following:
- Pull the transmission dipstick out from its seat and wipe off the fluid with a rag.
- Dip it back again inside the transmission case.
- Pull it back out again.
- You will now clearly see the current level of the fluid in the case.
- Compare it with the hot and cold marks on the dipstick.
- Where is the current level located? Near the hot or near the cold mark? That will determine how much transmission fluid to add.
Purpose of Transmission Fluid
The transmission fluid plays an important part in the efficient operation of your car’s transmission. It acts as a lubricant to the metal gears that constantly run in contact with each other while you are driving your car.
So, the main function of the transmission fluid is to reduce the friction between the metal parts that constantly touch each other at elevated speeds. If these metal parts are not lubricated constantly, their metal surfaces will expand and eventually fuse.
But this is not the only function of transmission fluids. They also do the following:
- Protect the metal parts from wear and tear
- Condition the gaskets and seals
- Help increase the rotational speed of the gears
- Help control the temperature inside the transmission case
Conclusion: How Much Transmission Fluid to Add
If you feel that the transmission fluid in your car is already lacking, you should add around one-half quart at a time. But if the transmission case of your car is completely drained out of fluid, you should pour in from 4 to 12 quarts of transmission fluid to fill it back up.
The fluid should be the type that is recommended by your car’s service manual. Remember always that the dipstick may show it is already full when actually it is not. To be sure, start the engine and then run it for about five minutes, then check again.