What Color Is Transmission Fluid? Transmission Fluid Color Guide

What color is transmission fluid

Table of Contents

FramingNailersGuide is reader-supported. If you buy an item through the links on this site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Last Updated on March 1, 2021 by John Patterson

The transmission system of your car is something that must go right to run your vehicle smoothly.

It transfers the engine power to the wheels and consists of several other parts.

The blood of this system is the transmission fluid, and knowing what color is your transmission fluid is crucial.

Typically, the automatic transmission fluid color is red. It can be blue or yellow too.

The color of the fluid changes over time, and you must know which color indicates what and take action accordingly.

To let you know about all these, I’ve prepared this guide on automatic transmission fluid color guide, manual transmission fluid color guide, how to identify transmission fluid leakage, etc.

Without any further ado, let’s begin.

Transmission Fluid Color Guide

Transmission Fluid Color Guide

First, let’s get to know the different colors of automatic transmission fluid.

What Color is Automatic Transmission Fluid?

What Color is Automatic Transmission Fluid?

If it’s fresh new, then in most cases, the color of automatic transmission fluid is bright red.’

Best Automatic Transmission Fluids on Amazon:  

No products found.

But as time goes by, the color changes. The color loses its brightness and turns into a darker version of red.’

Don’t get confused.

I’m going to discuss the different stages of transmission fluid colors here elaborately.

What do they mean and what you should do for each of the states?

#1. Bright Red 

Bright Red 

Your new transmission fluid is going to be bright/vibrant/transparent red. It’s completely fresh.

You have nothing to do in this case. Everything is going fine. Your transmission system is in good shape and giving the desired service.

#2. Light Brownish

Light Brownish

If you see your transmission fluid’s color turns into light brownish, still nothing to worry about. You don’t have to do anything at this stage too.

It’s not brand-new fluid, but it’s in a healthy state.

However, checking the transmission fluid regularly from this stage won’t hurt. Your vehicle provides a maintenance schedule, and you just need to follow that.

#3. Dark Brown

Dark Brown

When you start to see the fluid becomes dark brown, consider it an ideal time to change the fluid.

Don’t be too troubled, but don’t take it lightly either. The dark brown color indicates the fluid is now old and contaminated.

You guessed it right. Now it’s not working correctly, meaning it’s not aiding the transmission system with enough lubrication.

At this stage, the chemical composition of the transmission fluid is breaking down. As a result, it’s not removing the heat from the transmission system and facilitating its parts.

Therefore, it’s high time to do a complete transmission flush when you see the transmission fluid becomes dark brown.

#4. Deep Dark Brown / Black

Deep Dark Brown / Black

If you see the color of the transmission fluid turns to deep dark brown or black, you should consider flushing the fluid and changing the filter immediately.

At this stage, if you see some internal damages to your transmission system, it won’t be anything surprising at all. So, it’s better if you don’t let the transmission fluid to reach this point. Take action before you face this stage.

You may have to take the transmission system for servicing or rebuild the transmission system entirely.

#5. Light Pinkish

Light Pinkish

Pink is a pleasant color for eyes, isn’t it? But unfortunately, when you will see your automatic transmission fluid becomes light pinkish, you perhaps have no other option but to rebuild or change the transmission system entirely.

Why so?

It’s because this indicates your transmission system has been affected by water or coolant. The water or coolant comes to the transmission tank from the radiator via a damaged or leaked cooler line.

The imprudent amount of water starts to cause rusting to the transmission system.

So, altogether, you have to rebuild or replace the transmission system.

Next, let’s know about manual transmission fluid color.

What Color is Manual Transmission Fluid?

What Color is Manual Transmission Fluid?

Color-wise the manual transmission fluid is pretty similar to the engine oil.

It’s difficult to distinguish between these two by just colors. If you are not an expert, then you may have to smell these two fluids to identify the manual transmission fluid.

The manual transmission fluid doesn’t change its color easily. The color remains the same, even after one year of use.

Best Manual Transmission Fluids on Amazon:  

No products found.

Pro Tip: You can use the automatic transmission fluid for some manual transmission systems nowadays. But don’t use a manual transmission fluid for an automated transmission system.

Is the Leaked Fluid You see Transmission Fluid?

The core idea of writing this point is to help you identify if the leaked fluid you are seeing is transmission fluid or not.

First, see what color the leaked fluid is. What color is transmission fluid when it leaks? Check if it’s bright red /light brownish/dark brown/deep dark brown/light pinkish.

If you see any of those colors, then very likely it’s transmission fluid that leaked out of the system. Above, I wrote about which color indicates what condition. Cross-check the leaked fluid color with that.

You have some other parameters to help you identify if it’s transmission fluid or not.

It feels oily but thinner than engine oil. It smells like petroleum.

If it leaked from the front or middle of the car, then very likely it’s transmission fluid.

Last but not least, check to see if the transmission system starts slow or not. If it’s slow to start, then it is a sign of either low fluid level or leakage of transmission fluid.

Honda, Nissan CVT, Ravenol PDK, Dexron III, Transynd, Subaru Transmission Fluid Color

Honda – Bright red.
Nissan CVT – Light green amber /light translucent/light red.
Ravenol PDK – Yellow.
Dexron III – Cherry red.
Transynd – red.
Subaru – Clear brown.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question #1. How do I know if my transmission fluid is leaking?

Answer: Above, I’ve already described the way to know if your transmission fluid is leaking or not. It’s pretty easy to identify the color, smell, and feel of the leaked fluid.

If you see any red/light brown/dark brown/black/light pink color coming out from either the front or middle of the car, then see how it feels and smells. If it feels oily and smells like petroleum, then very likely it’s transmission fluid, which is leaking.

Question #2. How do you know if your manual transmission fluid is low?

Answer: You have multiple ways to know if your manual transmission fluid level is low.

  1. a) You will find it difficult to change the gear. You will feel it sluggish while shifting the gear, or it will shift quicker than usual.
  2. b) You will feel a vibration while changing the gear if the fluid level is low. The gear changing should be comfortable and smooth if the fluid level is ok.
  3. c) If the fluid level is low, then it will take about 2 to 3 seconds to respond to your gear changing action (either reverse or drive).
  4. d) You will find the clutch pedal gets stuck after you press it down. It’s because of the low fluid level.
  5. e) You may observe inconsistent movement from your car. That means it may move forward or backward all of a sudden.

Question #3. Why does my transmission fluid look milky?

Answer: If your transmission fluid looks milky, then very likely your car is having a faulty transmission system or perhaps a defective radiator. When a defective radiator passes coolant to the transmission system, then the fluid may look milky.

Final Words

I’m sure you are now clear about what color is transmission fluid and what you should do at what stage of the color.

As I said, the transmission fluid is the blood of your transmission system, and the transmission system plays a crucial role in running your car.

So, it’s quite apparent that you should take the necessary steps before it’s too late.

It’s costly to rebuild or replace a transmission system. Better check the system regularly to avoid such a situation.

Related Reading: 
#1. Brake Fluid Color Guide
#2. Power Steering Fluid Color Guide

About the author

John Patterson

Hi there! My name is John Patterson. I’m a meticulous guy who loves to deal with the perfect tools for various needs. No matter if it’s a woodworking tool or gardening tool or anything else, I don’t compromise the quality and usability. Since 2010 I’ve been testing different tools for different DIY and professional tasks. Later in 2015, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started by answering people in the forums and several Q/A sites like Quora. Then I founded this blog to aid others like you with my knowledge and experience.