What Color is Transmission Fluid When it Leaks

Transmission fluid is important for the transmission and its moving part to function well, because of its importance it should be changed as often as possible to avoid damage to the transmission.

Despite the importance of the transmission fluid, it can leak and for various reasons, one way to know if your transmission fluid is leaking is by looking at the color. So, what color is transmission fluid when it leaks?

Transmission fluid is mostly reddish brown in color when it leaks but can take a darker shade the older it gets. If a new transmission fluid leaks, it will be reddish brown with a thin viscosity but when it’s old, it will become dark brown with a thicker viscosity.

What Color is Transmission Fluid?

The color of transmission fluid can change over time with use, when dirty and contaminated. However, for new transmission fluid, the color is usually ‘Translucent Vibrant Red’. Translucent red means the fluid will be red in color but see-through and viscous.

This color can however change to Light Brown or orange as it gets older. With light brown transmission fluid, the vehicle can still be driven but should be changed as soon as possible. The only clause to driving when the transmission fluid is this color is that it should still be see-through.

Transmission fluid can also have other colors like; pink, and dark brown. If it ever changes to any of these colors, the vehicle should be taken to the mechanic for a change.

What Color is the Transmission Fluid When It Leaks?

The color of the leaking transmission fluid will depend on whether it’s a new fluid leaking or an old fluid. For new fluid, when leaking, it will be reddish brown in color while old fluid leaking will be brown in color.

How Do You Know if your Transmission Fluid is Leaking?

It can be quite confusing when you see fluid in a location under the vehicle and do not know the source. This leakage can be from any part of the vehicle that uses fluid, so how do you know if it’s your transmission fluid that’s leaking?

Here are a few ways to know if your transmission fluid is leaking;

1. Warning Light On

The first sign of knowing if your transmission fluid is leaking is if the warning light on the dashboard is on. Warning lights in vehicles serve as an alert to possible problems in the engine.

This may however not be pointing to leaking transmission fluid but other problems in the vehicle.

2. Wet Spots Under the Vehicle

One easy way to know if your transmission fluid is leaking is by checking under the vehicle for wet spots.

Wet spots under the vehicle can however be a result of other leakages, so it will help if you know the location of the transmission in the engine and the color of the transmission fluid.

3. Unusual Vibration

There will be unusual vibration in the engine area if the transmission fluid is leaking. The transmission functions well when it is well lubricated by the fluid and leakage means the transmission has low or no fluid to run on.

Low or no transmission fluid will cause difficulty in gear shifting hence the vibration.

4. Too Much Heat Coming from Transmission

Due to the fact that the transmission is not getting the needed fluid as a result of leakage, it will be forcing itself to function well thereby getting hot.

This heat will definitely be felt in the vehicle from the transfer case. You can also feel the heat in form of burning transmission fluid.

5. Grinding Sound from the Gear

Low or no transmission fluid as a result of leakage will cause the gears to grind against one another. To function properly, the gears need to be lubricated, if it is not getting enough fluid there will be difficulty in shifting gears and obstruction in movement.

6. Burning Smell

Another sure way of knowing your transmission fluid is leaking is when you begin to perceive a burnt smell. Leaking fluid comes in contact with other parts of the engine which eventually heats up when the engine is running. The heat from the engine causes the fluid to burn hence the smell you will perceive.

Is Transmission Fluid Oily or Watery?

Transmission fluid is an oily slick fluid known to have the same texture as engine oil or brake fluid when touched.  Because transmission fluid has the same color as some other fluids, one can easily tell them apart by touching them to feel the slickness.

Why Does Transmission Fluid Leak?

Transmission fluid leakage is quite common in cars and this happens due to various reasons, some minor and others major. Here are some reasons why your transmission fluid will leak;

Cracked Fluid Line

The fluid line is a durable part of the transmission made of aluminum or steel. A lot of things like exposure to heat, debris, and dirt can cause the fluid line to crack or in other situations break. A crack in the fluid line will allow fluid to escape leading to leakage.

Failed Transmission Pan Gasket

Another reason why your transmission fluid will leak is if the transmission pan gasket has failed. A failed transmission pan gasket can be a result of fault from the manufacturer, exposure to heat, or misalignment of the gasket when installed.

Wear and Tear of Transmission Pan

The transmission pan is most likely to experience wear and tear over time as a result of driving and driving conditions. Rocky terrains and debris from the road will slowly and eventually wear out the transmission pan.

Broken Seal

The transmission has lots of seals some made of metal and others rubber. A major cause of broken seals is heat, if you live in a hot temperate area you will constantly have to deal with broken seals.

In extremely hot situations the seal starts wearing out and gets weak heat, a worn-out seal will eventually have a crack or cracks. Cracks in the seal will allow transmission fluid to pass through.

However, when your transmission fluid is leaking, endeavor to fix the leakage and add the transmission fluid back.

What Does Water in Transmission Fluid Look Like?

When water is in the transmission fluid it changes color from the usual red to a strawberry (pink) color.

A pink color transmission fluid is what you should try to avoid as it spells trouble for the transmission and its various parts. Water in the transmission fluid will ruin the seals and cause the friction clutch to fall apart.

Once noticed that the transmission fluid color has changed to pink the car shouldn’t be driven at all. Oftentimes, by the time the color of the transmission fluid is noticed to have changed some serious damage is already done in the transmission.


Rather than having to deal with damaged transmission parts as a result of fluid leakage, it is better to take preventive measures such as regular maintenance to prevent it from happening.