What the Color of Your Automatic Transmission Fluid Means

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You won’t be able to see your transmission fluid unless you have a leak. The transmission fluid dipstick is located underneath your vehicle in nearly all cases, so it’s hard to see what the fluid is telling you about your transmission’s health. So, why are we here at PKW Motorwerks bringing this up? To stress the importance of transmission service when your European automobile manufacturer recommends it and to clue you in on an automotive service secret: the various stages of transmission fluid colors.

Stage 1: Red

New transmission fluid is red, transparent, and ready to do its job. This color means the fluid is brand new or like-new, i.e. it hasn’t aged enough to turn any of the additional colors listed below. Unless it’s leaking onto your garage floor, you needn’t worry about red and transparent transmission fluid.

Stage 2: Light Brown

After the transmission fluid has seen a few miles, it will begin to turn light brown. You can still see through the transmission fluid, but not as well as you can new or like-new fluid. You still don’t need to worry about changing the transmission fluid yet if it is light brown and somewhat transparent.

Stage 3: Dark Brown

Once the transmission fluid turns brown-to-dark-brown and looks opaque, it’s time to change it. This fluid has aged beyond its lifespan and is also dirty. Old and dirty transmission fluid can clog the filter and damage the transmission parts. Usually, the fluid is ready to change every 30,000 miles.

Stage 4: Black

If the fluid is so dark brown that it appears black, or if it is black, you’ve waited too long between transmission fluid changes and you could be damaging your transmission every time you drive. This fluid has lost its viscosity and oxidized, which is very bad for any engine part, including transmission parts.

Bonus Stage: Pink

Well, actually, pink transmission fluid isn’t a bonus. If your vehicle’s transmission fluid is pink, there is either coolant or water mixing with it and this means you’ve got serious engine or transmission damage. Pink transmission fluid usually signals a total transmission rebuild or replacement. Sorry to be blunt.

You don’t need to worry about the color of your European automobile’s transmission fluid if you bring it in for preventative maintenance to PKW Motorwerks. Call our shop in Plainfield, IL, at 630-381-8834 to set up an appointment that fits well within your busy schedule. We are European automotive specialists.

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