What Does it Mean if My Transmission Fluid Is Black?

If your transmission fluid is black, the transmission is likely giving you trouble as you drive your automobile. Midwest Auto Care advises that black transmission fluid has oxidized completely and can no longer protect the transmission. It will also fail to help the transmission shift gears. Consequently, you may end up with an inability to get your vehicle into gear or the transmission may refuse to shift through the gears. It’s important to have your transmission fluid changed every 30,000 miles to prevent this. Black is the end stage of transmission fluid. Let’s talk about the other colors.


Your transmission fluid should always be red and translucent unless it is a different original color. For the most part, all transmission fluid is red. Red means that the transmission fluid is lubricating the transmission properly and helping it shift gears. This transmission fluid does not need to be changed at this time. It is in good condition and capable of doing its job.


Orange transmission fluid is a sign that the fluid is aging but can still do its job without needing to be changed. Some people also describe this color as light brown. It’s important to plan to have the transmission fluid changed soon, but as long as it is orange or light brown and translucent, it can still do its job without fail. You can go a few more miles before having it changed.


Brown and dark brown transmission fluid is the precursor to black. This fluid needs to be changed right away because it is oxidizing and no longer protecting the transmission. If you continue to ignore the need for a transmission fluid flush and refill, you will start to have some of the problems with the transmission that we discussed above. Additional problems include an overheating transmission, strange sounds coming from the transmission, and vibration when the gears shift.


Aside from black, you also never want your transmission fluid to be pink. If it is, it is mixing with the engine coolant because you have a serious breach between the two systems. Pink transmission fluid is diluted and contaminated. Continuing to drive your automobile will damage the transmission beyond repair. Your vehicle will also likely overheat because the coolant is diluted.

Midwest Auto Care in Lake Station, IN, is here to help, so call us today if it’s time for a transmission fluid flush and refill. Remember, every 30,000 miles is a good rule of thumb.

Photo by PongMoji from Getty Images via Canva Pro

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