The Difference Between Manual and Automatic Transmission Fluids
Written By: Sean
May 12, 2015
There are two types of vehicles in the world: one that sports manual transmission and one with automatic. These two are very different, and so is the fluid used for their gearboxes. The transmission fluid is an extremely vital liquid required by your car; it runs through steel tubes as it moves throughout your transmission’s moving parts. This is what keeps said parts lubricated and running in tip top order.
But did you know that you have to change your transmission fluid from time to time? Of course, we’re not saying that you have to change it every week. What we mean is that you have to change it after a certain amount of miles or a certain period, whether your car is using automatic or manual transmission. Note that different car manufacturers and models require different kinds of manual or automatic transmission fluid. Here’s what you need to know about manual and automatic transmission fluid.
Manual Transmission Fluid
Compared to automatic transmission fluid, manual transmission fluid has a lighter viscosity. In terms of purpose, there’s also a difference since it’s used is to keep the internal temperature down, which then keeps the car from overheating. It’s also used to lessen the wear and tear of the gears. The majority of car makers would advise you to change your vehicle’s manual transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. But in some cases where you need to drive in heavy duty situations like racecar driving, the car’s limit can only be merely 15,000 miles.
The main problem with manual transmission fluids has nothing to do with the breaking down of the liquid but with fluid contamination. This happens when the parts of the gearbox such as the synchronizers, gears, and bearings slowly deteriorate. This will cause shards of metal particles to float in your lubricant, which will lessen the effects of the fluid and will even damage your engine. Moreover, the fluid in manual transmissions is harder to check compared to automatic; it’s best to just bring in your car to you trusted mechanic to have the fluid checked.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
Automatic transmission fluid doesn’t just lubricate and clean your ride’s gearbox but it also brings in power from your vehicle’s engine into the tires. In short, this fluid can also power your transmission. However, this type of fluid also heats up faster than your manual transmission fluid. Most car manufacturers would recommend the fluid and filter to be changed every 20,000-30,000 miles. Of course, it is best to check your owner’s manual or call up the manufacturer to know for sure.
The main problem with automatic transmission fluid is that since it heats up faster, it also breaks down faster because of the friction. And as with manual transmission fluid, floating metal debris could sometimes contaminate the fluid that may potentially damage your engine. Luckily, the manufacturer provides you with a dipstick for the sole purpose of checking your transmission. Remember that your transmission dipstick is different from your crankcase dipstick. Each one has a different measure on it so try not to confuse them with one another as this may yield an erroneous result. To check the fluid, just pull out the dipstick while the vehicle is still warm however, some car manufacturers may advice otherwise. Once again, best to check your manual and manufacturer.
If you have noticed that your transmission oil level is low, it’s best to have your mechanic check if there is a leak as it does not burn up during usage unlike engine oil. A faulty transmission is no joke at all. It is best to be safe than sorry.