Top 8 Symptoms You Used the Wrong Transmission Fluid

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Edgar Moulton.


Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

Your transmission is a vitally important part to your car. With tons of moving metal parts, using the wrong transmission fluid in your transmission will spell disaster sooner than later. If you think you’re having issues with your transmission, read the list of issues below and see if any of them pertain to your situation. And if they do, whether it’s advisable to keep it and repair it or sell it as a junk car!

Why Transmission Fluid is Important?

Like many other moving parts of your car, your transmission is made of metal parts that move. Because these parts are moving and rubbing against each other, there needs to be fluid surrounding them to prevent too much friction or heat. Too much friction or heat (which both go hand in hand) will mean your car parts are being worn down at a much faster rate than they should, leaving you with a repair bill sooner than expected. 

Using the wrong transmission fluid in your car is a sure way to destroy your car's transmission. There are three main types of transmissions used in vehicles today: an automatic transmission, a manual transmission, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Because they’re different, they require different liquids inside them to keep them running properly (this includes mixing transmission fluid). If you use the wrong transmission fluid, symptoms will appear. Some signs of transmission fluid problems are listed below. 

What are some reasons of transmission fluid problems? Well, if you’ve tried to replace your own oil but weren’t completely sure what you were doing, you may have put in the wrong fluids. Less likely, but still possible, is that the mechanic you took your automobile to to change the fluids got it wrong. 

8 Common Symptoms of the Wrong Transmission Fluid

Because they employ different chemicals in the fluids, some transmission fluids are incompatible with different transmission types. To run effectively and to the fullest extent possible, your car transmission requires the proper fluid, as indicated by the car manufacturer. If you or your mechanic uses the wrong transmission fluid, you’ll see one or more of these signs.

Sign #1: You’ll have difficulty shifting gears

If your automatic transmission is stalling when changing gears, it means something is wrong with it. (Obviously!) This is one of the main signs of using the wrong transmission fluid, or it could mean something more serious. But it’s definitely worth hoping that it’s something as simple as putting the correct fluid in, as something more serious might require your transmission to be rebuilt.

Sign #2: You rev the car, but the transmission slips

If your car’s transmission is slipping gears, not only is it a sign that there’s a problem, it’s extremely dangerous. If you’re driving down the highway and your car slips out of gear (or into a lower or higher one), it can be dangerous for you and anyone else in your car. It could also mean trouble for the surrounding cars, especially if your car is a front-wheel drive, as a change in engine revolutions (and thus power and torque delivery) may suddenly affect your steering (this is called torque steer). Slipping gears is a tell-tale sign that you may have accidentally used the wrong transmission fluid, and you should take it to a mechanic as soon as possible to get it looked at. 

Sign #3: You smell something burning from the transmission or hood

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If you notice a burning smell coming from your engine bay, it’s an important sign to get your transmission serviced. One of the main transmission fluid problems will be a burning smell that comes from an overheating transmission. So if you can smell something burning from your engine bay, it’s definitely a sign that your transmission may be going out, and it’s time to get it looked at by a trusted auto garage

Sign #4: Hearing metallic grinding noises while driving

If you hear grinding noises (especially when the car changes gears), it’s a serious problem. It could mean a few things, but it could be the cause of transmission fluid fault that will wear down your transmission much more quickly than it should. 

Sign #5: Dragging or clutch locking up

If you drive a manual transmission car and your clutch locks up, it could be that you don’t have enough (or the right) transmission fluid. This will very quickly lead to wear and tear on your transmission and cause it to die much sooner than it would if you have the correct fluid. 

Sign #6: The transmission fluid is leaking

This one is actually pretty easy to spot. If you park your car in the same spot every night, look underneath the car and see if there is a red, sweet-smelling liquid (as opposed to a dark brown liquid — that’s motor oil)  underneath your engine and transmission bay. If there is, it means your transmission is leaking fluid, and you will need to not only restore your transmission fluid but also fix the seals so that the leak doesn’t continue. 

Sign #7: Noisy or bumpy sound while in neutral

If you hear any humming, whirring, or buzzing while in neutral (or while coasting on the freeway), it may mean something is wrong with your transmission. If you don’t have transmission fluid to lubricate the metal parts, they may cause some of the noises we mentioned above. Furthermore, a lack of lubrication will cause the metal gears to grind away, and you’ll have tiny shavings of metal in the transmission that will create the above noises as well. 

Sign #8: The dashboard check engine light is on

Like we have said in the past, most modern cars have a check engine light that’s hooked up to the car’s computer and will illuminate on the dashboard if something is wrong. While it won’t tell if you added the wrong transmission fluid, it will be able to tell if something is wrong with the transmission (and something will go wrong if you did). If the check engine light is on, your best bet is to take it to a trusted mechanic to get it checked out to see if it is the transmission that’s having problems.

If Your Car Becomes Totaled, Consider Selling Your Junk Car To Junkcarsus

If your car has been diagnosed with a faulty transmission — whether it’s from adding the wrong fluid or something more major, the repair is going to cost you a lot of money. The average transmission replacement cost is between $1200 and $5000. If the entire car itself isn’t worth that much, it’s obviously not worth fixing. So what can you do with a car that’s not worth as much as the repair bill it would cost to fix it?

Sell it to us at JunkCarsUS!

At JunkCarsUS, we have been in the car scrapping business for over 12 years and are the number one junk car buyer in the USA. Over the years, our team of experts has simplified the process into three easy steps.

  1. Contact us! Give us a call at (855) 547-1550 or fill out a junk car quote to let us know you’re interested in selling your junk car. If you give us the make, model, year, mileage, and condition of your car, we’ll give you our cash offer on the spot.
  2. Accept our offer! We have a highest price guarantee of any junk car buyer in the USA to ensure you get as much money as possible for your junk car. Once we have given you our offer, we will NEVER go back and try to change it!
  3. Arrange for FREE towing! There are absolutely NO hidden fees when you work with us, which means everything (including towing) is included. Just tell us where the car is located and when is the most convenient time for you for us to pick it up, and one of our trusted tow truck drivers will arrive on time and safely tow it away at no cost to you.

We will take nearly any vehicle in any condition, including ones with damaged transmissions! No matter how damaged and how many problems with it, we will give you a more than fair price for it!

But what about paperwork?

Our team of experts has been doing this for so long; it’s super easy for us to fill out all the paperwork for you. When you give us the information over the phone, we will fill it all out and give it to the tow truck driver for free car pick up. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line, and he’ll hand your cash right over to you.

So if you’ve googled “What happens if you put the wrong transmission fluid?” and didn’t like the answer you got, give us a call at (855) 547-1550 and change that repair bill into cold hard cash in your pocket! 


What if I accidentally use the wrong transmission fluid?

Unfortunately, even if you put the wrong fluid in by accident, it will still damage your transmission. You can see what will happen to your transmission in the FAQ below.

What happens if you put the wrong transmission fluid in your car?

Because there are three different kinds of transmissions (automatic, manual, and CVT), each transmission requires a specific fluid to make it work optimally. When you don’t have the correct fluid, the transmission will begin to fail in any number of ways. If you spot the problems early, swapping the incorrect fluid to the correct one may be enough to save it, but if you drive it long enough, it will lead to major issues.

What are the signs of transmission fluid problems?

Any time your transmission isn’t working properly, it could be a sign of transmission fluid problems. Some of those issues will show up as: grinding noise, a slipping clutch, trouble changing gears, slipping gears, or noises coming from the transmission while you’re in neutral.

Edgar Moulton.


Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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