Are you finding that your automatic car or truck is having trouble shifting? Before you scare yourself into expensive transmission repairs, consider just checking your fluid levels. Faulty transmissions and those just low on fluid share a lot of the same symptoms! So here’s a handy how-to to get you started.

  • Put your vehicle in neutral or park. With your parking brake on, let your engine run. This gets your fluids warm and moving – unlike your oil, your transmission fluid is checked when your engine is warm.
  • Locate your dipstick. This can be tricky because location varies from vehicle to vehicle, and the dipstick will appear similar to the one for your oil.
  • Pull out the dipstick. Be sure that the engine was warm and don’t turn off the engine as you remove the dipstick.
  • Wipe the dipstick clean. With a rag, wipe the dipstick clean and return it to the filler tube.
  • Check the fluid level. Remove the dipstick once more. Visually check the level of the fluid. If it’s a little low, make sure you have the appropriate fluid to top it off.
  • Inspect the fluid. Dip the tip of your index finger into the fluid on the dipstick and rub it between your finger and thumb. The fluid should appear red/pink. If it looks or smells burnt – or has debris in it – it’s probably time to change your transmission fluid.