What Happens If I Run Out of Transmission Fluid?

First – What is Transmission Fluid?

Transmission fluid keeps the gears of your transmission moving smoothly.

Most people are familiar with engine oil – after all, oil changes are a frequent part of car maintenance. Transmission fluid is a little less known – although just as important. Transmission fluid keeps all the parts inside your gearbox – your car’s transmission – from grinding as they move. Transmission fluid allows your car to shift with ease. There are several different types of transmission fluids and it is best to follow the advice of your owner’s manual or a trusted AAMCO mechanic for which type is best for your car.

Related: What is Transmission Fluid?


Running Low on Transmission Fluid

If a leak develops in your transmission system causing you to lose transmission fluid and you continue driving with low fluid levels you can permanently damage your car’s transmission leading to costly repairs, rebuilds or replacements depending on the amount of damage.

Symptoms of Low Transmission Fluid

There are a few easily identifiable symptoms that you may be running low on transmission fluid including:

  • Warning Lights: You will see a dashboard warning light indicating that your transmission fluid temperature is hotter than normal.
  • Smell: If you start to notice a burning smell – especially a sweet or tart burning smell this could indicate the need to check your transmission fluid level.
  • Trouble Shifting: If you begin to have problems when shifting such as a delay when getting into gear this is a sign that something in wrong with your transmission system.
  • Color: If your transmission fluid has turned a brown color this is a clear indicator of a problem – transmission fluid is typically a clear red color.
  • Puddles: If you are noticing puddles forming under your car of red liquid then this is most likely a transmission fluid leak.
Hand pouring transmission fluid through funnel as for the good car maintenance

You can easily check the levels of transmission fluid by pulling the transmission dipstick. Refer to your owner’s manual for location of the dipstick and the right levels to look for. If you have low fluid levels, you’ll need to add more fluid.

Related: Checking Your Transmission Fluid


What if I Run Out of Transmission Fluid?

If you completely run out of transmission fluid it is likely that your car will not drive at all – especially if it an automatic transmission car.

One of the functions of transmission fluid in an automatic car is to provide a coupling between the engines output and your transmission so without fluid there is no coupling and the car won’t be able to move.

If you do let your transmission fluid get to the point where it has completely run out then it is very likely you will be looking at extensive repairs, or even a full replacement of your transmission as the metal gears inside will be damaged.

Related: Reasons Your Transmission Is Overheating


AAMCO Colorado, The Transmission Experts

Have a transmission leak?

Letting your car continuously leak transmission fluid puts both you, and your car at risk. Low transmission fluid results in excessive wear and tear, which causes the transmission to run hot, and eventually fail. If you think you have a transmission fluid leak, don’t wait until it’s too late – bring your car into the experts at your nearest AAMCO Colorado location before your leak turns into a costly repair.

At AAMCO Colorado we start off all of our transmission services with our multi-point inspection – if your transmission problem can be solved with a simple fluid change or our Power Purge® service then that is what we will recommend. Our certified transmission experts will never suggest a transmission repair or rebuild that you don’t need.

If you are having transmission troubles find your local AAMCO Colorado and call or book online today to visit us today.


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