Signs of Low Transmission Fluid: Is It Serious?
One day you are driving down the road and you notice something doesn’t feel right with your vehicle. Maybe it’s a noise or a feeling of sluggishness, regardless you know something is not right.
A few weeks ago I had this happen as I was driving to the gas station. The Jeep just did not want to shift into gear. Sometimes It would feel like it was in gear and then I could feel it slip out. Other times, I’d hit the gas and the Jeep would move backward before finally shifting into gear and chugging a bit before going. It’s a 3 speed automatic, so that should not happen.
Of course, my mind instantly went to the worst case scenario. In my situation, I knew right away it was a transmission issue.
This got me thinking about the consequences of driving a car with a transmission leak. I had an assumption about the answer but I really didn’t know. I had not had to deal with transmission issues before. As a result, I did some research and here is what I found.
Can You Drive A Car With A Transmission Leak?
So, can you drive a car with a transmission leak? Yes. As long as you maintain proper levels of transmission fluid you should be able to drive your car even if you have a transmission leak. However, if you cannot maintain proper levels of transmission fluid by adding fluid occasionally, do not risk it. Repairs and replacement transmissions can cost thousands of dollars.
If the fluid is low on the dipstick, be sure to add the correct Automotive Transmission Fluid (ATF) for your vehicle before driving it. If you have any doubts about the health of your transmission, don’t risk it — call a tow truck and get your vehicle to a good mechanic.
If you find you have a leak, I strongly urge you to get it to a mechanic or inspect it very well yourself. A small leak could turn into a big leak in a short about of time. This could turn a minor issue into a very expensive problem if your transmission goes out.
If My Transmission Leaks When It Is Parked, Is It Serious?
All transmission leaks need to be investigated. Transmission fluid is dyed green or red so it can easily be identified.
If your transmission leaks when it is parked, you need to investigate the fluid closer. Touch the oil with your fingers or a paper towel. What color is it? If it is green or red you probably have an issue with your transmission leaking. If the fluid is is black or clear your leak probably does not involve the transmission.
A minor transmission leak by itself is not all that serious. If your transmission fluid levels are okay, It should be good enough to drive, but you need to check your transmission fluid levels each day so you do not let the fluid levels get low.
Signs of Low Transmission Fluid
Did you find transmission fluid on your driveway? If so, you might have low transmission fluid. What if you don’t notice fluid on the driveway, or maybe you have a gravel driveway and can’t see the fluids easily?
For this reason, let’s discuss some of the common signs you might have low transmission fluid.
Difficulty Shifting Gears
Whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, low fluid levels along with dirt or gunk in your transmission fluid are the most common causes for having a sluggish response from the transmission. For your transmission to function properly it needs to be grime free and have clean transmission fluid.
You will need to check your owners manual regarding how frequently you need to change your transmission fluid. Many manufacturers will suggest a 30,000 to a 50,000-mile interval but check your owners manual.
Does it feel like your vehicle is lurching forward and then falls backward while normal driving conditions? If so, there may not be enough force from the transmission fluid. If so, check your transmission fluid level. If it is low, look up in your owners manual or call your dealership to identify the correct transmission fluid for your vehicle. Then you can fill it to the correct level. If you continue to have issues, schedule an appointment with a mechanic.
Inconsistent Shifting of Gears
If your transmission shifts gears erratically (shifts too soon or too late), it is a common sign of low transmission fluid in automatic transmissions. Do you hear any noises when the transmission is shifting gears? If you hear a banging noise, you can be sure there is a problem.
Transmissions require proper hydraulic pressure to function as designed. A lack of fluid will prevent smooth operation for the gears within the transmission and it can cause the vehicle to get out of rhythm when shifting gears.
Slipping Gears or Delayed Gear Response
This is what I felt when driving my Jeep and I knew my transmission had an issue.
If you press the gas and the vehicle does not respond or it takes a little bit before the vehicle starts to move, it could be a sign of low transmission fluid. Low fluid doesn’t allow the gears to stay into the mode you have selected and this is why you have an issue. However, if you check your fluid levels and the fluid is full, you likely have an issue with dirty fluids. Residue has likely built up within the transmission preventing the gears and fluid from moving freely.
If fluid levels are full and you are having these symptoms, you can try changing fluids, but it may be worth consulting your mechanic just to be safe.
Transmission fluid helps through lubrication for easy gear shifting and to keep temperatures down within the transmission. If fluid levels are low, there will be a higher level of friction. Friction causes heat and high transmission temperatures can cause catastrophic failure within the transmission.
If your transmission operates at temperatures above 240 degrees it can cause serious damage. If you notice your transmission is hot, stop and let it cool down.
Why do you think big 18 wheelers are stopped on the side of the road when going through the mountains. They are letting their brakes and transmissions cool down from the extreme working conditions.
If you are having temperature issues with your transmission, my advice is to play it safe. This is an issue where it could be work stopping and calling a tow truck to bring your vehicle to a mechanic for evaluation and repair.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Transmission Leak?
Now that you know what to look for with regard to identifying a leaky transmission, it raises the question, how much does it cost to fix a transmission leak? I had to look this one up. According to transmissionrepairguide.com (not an endorsement), here is what I found for the cost to fix a leaky transmission:
So, how much does it cost to fix a transmission leak?To fix a transmission fluid leak, budget between $150 to $200 on average. This is assuming the problem can be solved without having to remove the transmission from the vehicle. Common repairs include small things like replacing gaskets, fluid lines, drain plugs, seals or pan bolts.
The biggest determination of repair costs for a leaking transmission is the location and ultimate cause of the leak.
So, what happens if the transmission in your vehicle cannot be repaired? If this is the case, hold on to your wallet! LOL
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Transmission?
So, how much does it cost to replace a transmission? Expect the average cost to replace a transmission to range from $1700 to $3500. You may be able to find a salvage or used transmission for your vehicle in the $700 to $1500 range. I use LKQ Online when I shop for used or salvage parts because they offer protection with their used parts.
There are also companies who will rebuild transmissions. You could opt to purchase a remanufactured transmission. Prices for rebuilt and remanufactured transmission vary widely in price. I have seen them go for as little as $800, but sometimes they are equal in price to buying a brand new transmission.
How Long Does It Take To Replace A Transmission?
So, how long does it take to replace a transmission? Expect it to take a day or two for a mechanic to replace a transmission. Some modern vehicles can be more labor-intensive and may require three to four days to complete the task. The actual time will be dependent on the actual vehicle and type of transmission.
Here is what I suggest. If you are using a local shop to do the work, call your dealership and ask them for a quote that included labor hours. This way you know how long the manufacturer expects the process to take. As long as the local shop is within a reasonable timeframe when compared to the dealer’s estimate, you should have a good grip on the estimated time required to replace the transmission.