Transmission Leaks: Why They Happen And What To Do When You Have One

If you happen to spot a puddle of fluid under your car after it has been parked for a while, try to determine the color of it if you can. A puddle under the car isn't always a sign of trouble since water will drip out of your air conditioner under normal circumstances. However, that water is clear. If the fluid you see is brown or red, it might be transmission fluid. Driving your car with a transmission leak could be dangerous because you could do damage to your car or your car could break down and leave you stranded. Here's a little more information about why transmissions leak, how to tell if your fluid is low, and what to do about the situation.

What Causes A Transmission Leak

The most common reason for a leak is a worn out seal in the transmission system somewhere. When a seal frays or breaks, fluid is able to leak through. When the fluid leaks out, it drips down to the ground, which is why you can often see a puddle of reddish fluid under your car. If you're not certain of the color, just slip white paper or cardboard under the leak until enough drips collect to show a color. Clean transmission fluid has a pinkish color but the older it gets, the darker the fluid becomes.

While a seal is a common reason for a fluid leak, fluid can also leak due to something as simple as loose bolts or something as serious as a cracked part in the transmission. You'll need to have a mechanic diagnose the problem to see what caused the fluid to leak out.

How To Check The Level Of Fluid In Your Car

If your transmission fluid is leaking, you probably shouldn't drive your car until you know how much fluid is in it. You can do that by checking the fluid with a dipstick in the same way you check your oil. If you've never done it before, read your owner's manual for complete instructions because the procedure can vary by car model.

Basically, you start your car and let it warm up before checking the fluid. That causes the fluid to expand so you get a true reading of the fluid level when your car is in operation. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it off with a cloth or paper towel. Then, insert the stick again and pull it back out. Now look at the markings on the stick. You'll be able to read if the fluid level is normal or if fluid needs to be added. If the fluid is very low, don't drive your car without talking to a mechanic first.

What To Do About A Transmission Leak

If the fluid is dripping out very slowly, you might be able to add transmission fluid yourself so you can drive the car to a shop. Buy the type of fluid that is recommended in the owner's manual for your car. Add the fluid and then verify that it isn't rapidly leaking out.

Drive straight to a transmission shop and don't put off the repairs or your car may break down and leave you stranded. A transmission leak needs to be repaired as soon as possible or you could cause very expensive damage to the transmission. If the leak is bad and your car won't hold fluid, then have your car towed to the transmission shop instead of risking damage by driving it there.