One of the most common issues with cars is leaking transmission fluid when parked. Often the leak looks like a reddish puddle beneath your parked car. So, what causes a transmission fluid leak when parked and how to fix this?
When parked, the most common causes of a transmission fluid leak are a damaged pan gasket or fluid line; also, warped or worn out seals.
The full list of 12 possible causes for a transmission fluid leak that we will look at in this article are:
- Damaged Transmission Fluid Lines
- Broken Seals
- Damaged Transmission Pan
- Damaged Transmission Pan Gasket
- Overheated Transmission
- Too Late in Changing the Fluid
- Slipping of Transmission Gears
- Late Gear Engagement
- Torque Converter
- Engine Light Is On
- Transmission Gaps
If there’s a transmission fluid leak in your car, it may not run efficiently. You can still drive your vehicle because this problem is not that critical. But you have to correct the problem as soon as possible. The transmission fluid may leak out in the transmission case, leaving the metal gears without any lubrication.
Read on to learn more about a transmission fluid leak when parked, the possible causes, its dangers, and how you can fix this issue.
Transmission Fluid Leak When Parked
If you move your car after it has been parked in your garage or on your driveway after several days, and you see a pool of liquid on the floor, your car has a leak problem. If the leak is a pink or red color, it is likely a transmission fluid leak.
If it is, then the most probable causes are a damaged pan or its gasket or the fluid lines, warped or worn out seals, or faulty torque converter, and so forth. There are many causes of transmission fluid leak so pinning down the real cause is somewhat difficult.
Leaking transmission fluid is not really a critical problem. You can still drive your car, but you need to have this problem fixed. If you don’t, the transmission fluid in the transmission case may leak out, leaving the transmission gears without any lubrication. That will cause greater damage to your transmission.
Generally, the transmission fluid leak will be coming from the transmission pan. Perhaps it was not mounted properly with incorrect bolts, so it is not fully secured. In some cases, tightening these bolts fixes the problem.
Since there are many probable causes of this problem, troubleshooting it will take time. So, don’t wait until all the transmission fluid is wiped out. Drive your car to the nearest service center to stop the leak.
How Do You Know It’s a Transmission Fluid Leak?
Your car is using many types of fluid so that it can run efficiently. One of these fluids is the transmission fluid which functions as the lubricant of the transmission gears. These metal gears rub against each other as you drive your car. They need lubrication to lessen the friction and the heat generated by metal-to-metal contact.
How can you know if it is really transmission fluid leaking in your car? You can determine if it is really a transmission fluid leak to use old newspapers and a large sheet of aluminum foil. Put the newspapers on top of the aluminum foil and then place them under your car overnight.
Inspect the newspaper the next morning and check if they have liquids on them. If the liquid stains are pink or light brown, or reddish in color and located at the vehicle‘s center, the leak is likely coming from the transmission case. The smell of the liquid is similar to burnt petroleum.
12 Possible Causes of Transmission Fluid Leak
There are many reasons why transmission fluid can leak from the transmission pan. In some instances, troubleshooting the problem will take time and a lot of patience. The probable causes of this problem are the following:
1. Damaged Transmission Fluid Lines
Transmission fluid lines can be damaged by debris on the road as you drive. They are also affected by heat and cold and can wear out over time. If these lines are punctured, fluid will naturally leak out from them.
2. Broken Seals
The transmission case uses several seals to prevent fluid leaks and to maintain the hydraulic pressure inside. Over time, these seals will gradually deteriorate. They will grow brittle and develop cracks.
In time they will be damaged. That’s when they can no longer prevent transmission fluid from leaking. It is quite difficult to determine if the cause of the fluid leak is due to bad seals. Oftentimes, this cause is only considered if the other causes have already been eliminated in troubleshooting the problem.
You should always check the seals on the input and output shaft of the transmission. They are the most prone to damage and deterioration. The seal on the tail housing should be inspected regularly as well, along with the seals on the valve body, speedometer input, driveshaft, sensors, and shifter housing.
3. Damaged Transmission Pan
The transmission pan holds the transmission fluid. It can wear out as it grows old and weak. This pan can get punctured by the stones, rocks, and other debris that hit it while you are driving your car. If this pan gets punctured, then the transmission fluid will surely leak out.
Fluid leaks can also come out from this pan because of loose bolts. The pan will not be tightly secured on its base. So, there will be an opening for the transmission fluid to leak out. If a big rock punctures a hole in the pan, your car will lose transmission fluid very fast.
4. Damaged Transmission Pan Gasket
This gasket is a tiny thin piece of rubber placed between the transmission pan and the transmission case. Its function is to seal the transmission fluid in the housing to prevent it from leaking out from the pan.
Although it’s just a small piece of rubber, it performs a critical role in the efficient performance of your car’s transmission. If it is made of low-quality rubber, it will quickly deteriorate and compromise the seal of the transmission case and cause fluid leaks.
Make sure it is placed properly. If a careless mechanic did not align it correctly to its seat, fluid leaks would also come out from the pan.
5. Overheated Transmission
Heat is generated inside the transmission housing with the movements of the gears inside while you are driving your car. If the fluid level is deficient, there will not be enough time to cool down before it makes another turn.
This will cause the transmission to overheat. The transmission fluid will then start to leak. To prevent this problem, you need to ensure that there is enough transmission fluid inside the housing. You need to check if it’s at its proper level regularly.
6. Too Late in Changing the Fluid
Not changing the transmission fluid as often as you need to can also cause leaking problems. Debris will accumulate in the fluid as you continuously drive your car. If the fluid is not changed often enough, this debris will circulate inside the transmission housing, causing damage to the gears, the seals, and the pan gasket.
In time, transmission fluid will find its way into the small openings and leak outside the pan. To prevent transmission fluid leaks, you should follow the car manufacturer’s recommendation regarding the frequency of transmission fluid changes.
7. Slipping of Transmission Gears
The hydraulic pressure inside the transmission housing has to be maintained. It connects the force between your wheels and the car engine. You can maintain the right pressure by having the right level of transmission fluid.
If this level gets too low, your car will experience slipping of gears because of the lack of hydraulic pressure. This condition will also cause the transmission fluid to leak out of the pan.
8. Late Gear Engagement
The transmission gears must build up a specific level of pressure before your car can move forward. Delayed engagement between gears occurs when you place the gears on the drive or neutral. If the transmission fluid level is lower than what is required, the car will take time before it can move.
This delayed movement causes the transmission fluid to leak from the pan. If you apply more pressure on the gears, more transmission fluid will leak. Aside from wasting the fluid, you could also damage the car brakes. Prevent this problem by regularly changing the transmission fluid.
9. Torque Converter
The torque converter propels the transmission fluid into the power system of the car. If it even has a small crack in its body, transmission fluid will leak. Leaks will also occur in a damaged needle bearing. This problem is difficult to fix, so you should let a professional mechanic repair it.
10. Engine Light Is On
The ECM (electronic control module) of your car has a trouble code installed to detect the faults in its transmission system. Your car’s transmission system has many sensors and solenoids that send signals to the engine to turn the engine light on.
The control unit has detected a fault if the signal sent to the engine says it should turn ON. This will cause a shift or change in the transmission. It will also limit the revolutions per minute of the engine. As soon as the rpm is limited, the transmission fluid will leak.
11. Transmission Gaps
Transmission fluid leaks can also occur when there are gaps in the transmission housing of your car. Gaps or open spaces could exist in the pan gasket, seals, torque converter, and fluid lines.
If your car was involved in a road accident that damaged its transmission, this could be one reason you are experiencing a transmission fluid leak. The transmission consists of many internal shafts.
An accident could destroy the seals of these shafts creating gaps or spaces where the fluid can escape. If your car were hit on its wheels and axles, there would also be a great chance that the transmission fluid will leak.
Preventing Transmission Fluid Leaks
If you put off fixing the fluid leaks coming from your car’s transmission system, it may result in more expensive repairs. Do it now and avoid bigger transmission problems. The work that you need to do is really very simple:
1. Regularly Check the Transmission Fluid Level
You can ensure that the level of transmission fluid in the system is enough if you will check it regularly. Your car should have a transmission dipstick that you can use for this purpose. If it is low, you need to top it up. Be sure that your car is parked on a level surface so you will get an accurate reading.
2. Change Transmission Fluid as Recommended
You need to change this fluid regularly or as recommended by the car manufacturer. If you practice regular fluid change, you will also see the small problems in the transmission system before they grow big. So, you can do the appropriate fix before the problem gets worse.
For transmission fluid changes, only use the fluid recommended by the car manufacturer. Don’t use cheap fluids because instead of fixing your problems, they may even make them worse.
3. Drive Properly
Driving properly means shifting gears smoothly and not abruptly. Smooth transition between gears is less stressful to the gears. Sudden shifting puts too much stress on the gears and heats the transmission fluid faster.
4. Do the Appropriate Fix
Before doing the leak repair, check the amount of fluid lost in the transmission case. This will show you how fast the leaking was and how serious the problem is. If the amount lost is small, you can apply a stop-leak fluid to close the gap.
You can still use this stop-gap method if the problem is serious. If the gaps are bigger, a huge amount of liquid will be lost. The specific cause of the problem (as discussed above) will determine the kind of fix requirement. If the transmission fluid leak problem is beyond your capability to fix, you need professional help to repair it.
Conclusion: Transmission Fluid Leak When Parked
If your car is parked in your garage or driveway for several days and you notice that there’s a pool of liquid on the floor, there is something in your car that is leaking. That fluid may have leaked from the transmission case.
The most common cause of transmission fluid leak is a punctured fluid line, damaged pan gasket, or worn-out or warped seals. There are cases where the cause of the problem is hard to pinpoint. So, you may need a professional mechanic to fix it.