The transmission fluid is a lubricating fluid made to keep parts in the transmission working properly and temperatures within cool. When it becomes dirty, it may change from its original red or green coloring to brown or black. The fluid discoloration shows you need to replace your transmission fluid and filter, though this equally depends on whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, vehicle type, and how you drive. Service manuals will equally include specified intervals of when you should replace your transmission fluid — often every 20,000 miles. Manual transmission fluids wear out quicker, though driving often in heavy traffic and towing heavy loads can equally shorten the long-lasting effect of your transmission fluid.
In addition to the suggested maintenance requirements and discoloration, symptoms that your transmission fluid may require replacement include:
- Puddling under your vehicle.
- Delays or problems with shifting gears — more noticeable in manual vehicles.
- High transmission temperature warning light turning on.
- Slight burning smell — most automatic transmission fluids have a sweet odor instead.
2 Types of Transmission Fluid
There are 2 different kinds of transmission fluid. They differ in general materials and intended purpose, and each vehicle has a specified fluid it is compatible with. All of them have chemicals harmful to humans, animals, and the environment if not disposed of correctly. The 2 main ones are:
- Automatic Transmission Fluid:Made for vehicles with automatic transmission and some newer manual cars, automatic transmission fluid assist with lubricating gears, brake band friction, and valve operation. It is made from reshaped hydrocarbons in crude oil and catered toward specific cars.
- Manual Transmission Fluid:Manual transmission fluid is often made from a variety of different oils, such as regular motor oil, even heavier hypoid gear oil, and other heavy metals like lead. It is exclusively used in manual vehicles.
- Synthetic Transmission Fluid:Synthetic transmission fluid is produced from pressurized and temperature-regulated chemical reactions to make the ideal fluid. It’s made to oxidize less and not break down or thin out in high temperatures. Different vehicle manufacturers may recommend synthetic fluid over traditional depending on each model’s requirements.
4 Procedures to Dispose of Transmission Fluid
Irrespective of the type of transmission fluid you have, when it gets to time to change it, you will have to dispose of old fluid to do so. Like many automotive fluids, transmission fluid contains parts that can be harmful if taken in and detrimental to the environment, such as toxic heavy metals and lead. It needs intentional disposal methods to protect your health and ecosystems. Luckily, transmission fluid is recyclable, so getting rid of old fluid has benefits beyond improving vehicle function. Follow these 4 steps for proper disposal of transmission fluid:
- Collect old fluid from transmission flush.Ensure the drain pan you use is large enough to handle up to 2-gallons worth of liquid.
- Pour fluid from the drain pan into a leak-proof container.Use a funnel to avoid spiliing. A sealed plastic bottle or a milk jug will often do the trick. Make sure the container is clean of any other liquids or oils, as most collection facilities will not accept mixed fluids, and that the lid seals tight. Store it in a safe place away from children or pets.
- Locate a local automotive fluid collection site.Some local waste facilities will collect your used transmission fluid together with other automotive fluids. Check your local government offices to know a household hazardous-waste accepting location near you. Or, check if your local auto parts store will take the fluid from you — most will do so for free since they can make money off what they sell to recycling centers.
- Drop off old the transmission fluid for disposal.There are few waste management groups that will drive and pick up old transmission fluid, so you will most likely need to take it in yourself. For safe conveyance, double-check the seal on your storage container to ensure it won’t spill in your vehicle or whatever mode of transportation you use.
Old transmission fluid should never be dumped down the drain, in the grass, on the sidewalk, or mixed with any other type of oil. It can be harmful to animals or people who come into contact with it, as well as potentially contaminating water supplies. When taken to a treatment facility, the old fluid can be cleaned and rearranged for reuse. Be smart about disposing of all automotive fluids, and know that all automatic, manual, and synthetic transmission fluids need intentional disposal.