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Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

Manali Oak
Do you know what ATF is? How does it look and what does it do? Read on to find out.
Before we turn to understanding what ATF is, let us know what automatic transmission is. It is an automatic gearbox that changes gear ratios as a vehicle moves. Automatic gears relieve the driver from the crucial task of changing gears with the changing speed.
Automobiles equipped with automatic transmission are popular due to the ease they provide in driving. In fact, most cars in the United States have automatic transmission.
ATF stands for automatic transmission fluid. It serves as a lubricant for automobile gears. Besides being a lubricant, it also aids the valve operation and helps reduce brake band friction. It acts as a hydraulic medium in the power steering systems in cars. What is it composed of? It is a highly refined mineral oil. Synthetic automatic transmission fluid offers better performance and service life.
What are the different types of automatic transmission fluids? Type F is a very old form of ATF that was introduced in 1967 by Ford and also used by Toyota.
It was used for asbestos clutches. Type CJ is a special fluid meant for Ford C6 transmissions and is similar in composition to Dexron II, a fluid by General Motors. Mercon is specific to Ford and was introduced in 1987. This fluid is in current use.
Mercon V is the latest type introduced by Ford and it was revised in 2007. Dexron is the ATF used for General Motors' automobiles. Type B was the original formulation used and Type A was in use even before that.
Dexron II, Dexron IIE, and Dexron III are some of the improved variants of Dexron. The MERCON and DEXRON series are two main specifications of ATF. Every automobile manufacturer recommends one of the ATF specifications in the vehicle owner's manual.
ATF products are sold under the license from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that has given the specifications.
It is important to check your car's automatic transmission fluid level every month. That's necessary to improve the performance of automobile components which show lack of smooth shifting. The owner's manual will furnish you with the details on replacing the automatic transmission fluid of your automobile.
For older vehicles, the recommended interval between consecutive additions of ATF is about 24,000-30,000 miles of running.
How to check the ATF level of your vehicle? In order to check its level in your car, you need to park it in the gear position 'park' or 'neutral'. You need to let the engine warm up. So leave the car engine in the running state for some time, unless the owner's manual suggests otherwise. Take the gear shift through all the gears and bring it back to 'park'.
Next, find the dipstick, which is located behind the car engine and remove it. Then push the stick back and remove it again. This time, observe the tip of the dipstick. See if there are two markings, one for the cold readings and the other for the warm ones. Check the level of ATF.
If it does not match with the 'full' mark on the dipstick, it means you require adding ATF. It needs to be added through the hole from which the dipstick came out. You can use a funnel to do this. Do not forget to put back the dipstick to where it was after the fluid test is done.
ATF is a somewhat neglected but very important constituent of an automobile engine. The automatic transmission system has worked wonders by automating the process of changing automobile gears. ATF is like one of its 'essential nutrients'.