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How to Check Manual Transmission Fluid

Omkar Phatak
Of the many car maintenance jobs that you need to perform periodically, one of the most important ones is checking the transmission fluid. First we will deal with the why and then the how associated with the procedure.

Role of Lubricant

The lifespan of a car part is entirely dependent on the degree of wear and tear it suffers over time, because of the effects of heat and friction. A manual transmission involves many gears and working parts, that will wear out without a lubricant.
The transmission fluid has anti-wear compounds that can reduce friction between the gears substantially and ensure smooth working. This fluid may evaporate and lose its viscosity with time. That's why, fluid levels need to be checked regularly, as depletion may lead to major repairs.

Checking the Fluid Level

Manual transmissions are easier to repair and manage than their automatic counterparts. The instructions for fluid check will depend on what car model you are using.
The procedure is quite simple and straightforward as you will discover further. All you need is your car reference manual or an appropriate Hayne's manual, along with a couple of rags to clean up.
To check the fluid levels, it is important that your car is parked on a level surface. This will ensure that you do not misread the level. So park your car on any flat surface with as little slope as possible.
Ideally, you should check the transmission fluid after the car has been driven and parked for some time. Open the car hood and look for the transmission fluid dipstick. This is a scale with a top cover that stays immersed in fluid all the time.
Locate and remove the dipstick, which is generally located at the back of the engine block. Wipe it thoroughly with a cloth. You will see two levels marked there which are 'full' and 'low'. Reinsert it inside and let it dip into the fluid. Then remove it to check the fluid level. If it is below full, then you need a fluid change immediately.
Also observe the texture of the fluid. If it is foamy with brownish color, it may need to be changed even if its full.

Fluid Change Interval

The recommended fluid change depends on the make of your car. It is difficult to provide an exact specification without the knowledge of what your car model is. Still, on an average, broadly, a fluid change is recommended after every 30,000 to 60,000 miles of running.
Often, leaks can bring down the fluid levels drastically. So it is better to check the levels every month. At the slightest sign of transmission problems, make sure that you check the fluid levels.
It is recommend that you get hold of the appropriate Hayne's manual which will have detailed information about checking transmission fluid levels and how to change it.
Ensuring adequate levels of lubricant will help elongate the life of your transmission substantially. Ignoring leaks will result in total failure of the transmission mechanism one day. Ergo, make sure that a periodic check is carried out.