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Transmission Fluid



Transmission Fluid | What Does It Do?

There are many different fluids that run throughout a car. From motor oil to radiator fluid to air conditioning refrigerant, it’s important to keep each of these fluids in check in order to keep your car in tip-top shape.

Among these essential fluids is transmission fluid. While most people know about the importance of changing your engine oil, many don’t fully understand the role of transmission fluid and when to change it. However, it’s just as important! 

In an automatic transmission, it not only lubricates the moving parts, but also provides hydraulic pressure and friction to make the internal parts work. Transmission fluid in both manual and automatic transmissions also helps to keep the transmission cool. 

Shifting gears is a strenuous task for a car, and transmission fluid is what allows a vehicle to shift with ease without wearing down its parts. While manual transmission oil or fluid has existed in some shape or form since the beginning of automobiles, automatic transmission fluid was created in the 1940s and has played an important role in cars ever since. 

Automatic transmission fluid is not the same as manual transmission fluid. Automatic transmission fluid is a transmission oil that is used in automatic vehicles only, but in the case of a manual transmission where the clutch and shifter are used during gear shifts, manual transmission oil is used.

Transmission Fluid Types

In general, there are two main types of transmission fluid: automatic transmission fluid and manual transmission fluid. There is also synthetic transmission fluid and specialty fluids used and specified in various types of transmissions including CVT and dual-clutch models. In order to keep your car running properly, it’s important to know which kind of transmission you have and what specific fluid it requires.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

This type of transmission fluid is designed for cars that have automatic transmissions. It’s also used in some more modern manual transmission cars. Automatic transmission fluid meets the requirements of automatic transmissions and helps with various functions, including:

  • Gear lubrication
  • Torque converter operation
  • Valve body operation
  • Clutch friction operation
  • Brake band friction
  • Transmission cooling

Manual Transmission Fluid

Manual transmission fluid in older vehicles, which is sometimes referred to as manual transmission oil or lube, is common for some older manual transmission cars.

This heavier 75W to 140W fluid is never used in automatic transmission cars, and even if your car is a manual transmission, it doesn’t mean it will use this type of manual transmission fluid. Most later model vehicles with manual transmissions will use an automatic fluid in their manual transmissions.   

Synthetic vs. Traditional Transmission Fluid

While traditional transmission fluid is made from crude oil and the reshaping of hydrocarbons for specifications of different vehicles, synthetic transmission fluid is created through different chemical reactions. This type of transmission oil is less likely to break down, oxidize or thin out in high temperatures.

So how do you choose between traditional and synthetic transmission fluid? Unfortunately, this answer isn’t always black and white. Be sure to check the specifications provided by your vehicle’s manufacturer and when in doubt, consult a transmission specialist.

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