If you don't know much about cars or how to repair them, troubleshooting problems in your vehicle isn't an easy job. Even a seemingly simple problem, such as finding and fixing a leak in the transmission's reservoir, can become a huge headache if you don't know where to start. The problem can persist until it eventually damages the transmission for good. There's one thing you should understand about transmission leaks. The fluid doesn't always drip to the ground or pavement below the car to let you know if there's a leak. Sometimes, the fluid leaks into the engine instead, which might confuse or frustrate you after awhile. You can try to find out if your transmission is leaking fluid from the reservoir by using the tips below. 

Do You Need to Do Anything Special When You Check the ATF fluid?

Measuring the level of your transmission's AFT fluid is the easiest thing you can do to troubleshoot a reservoir leak. However, if you don't check the fluids in the right temperature conditions, you won't obtain a correct measurement of how much fluid is actually inside the transmission's reservoir. In addition, you also have a chance to find other problems that affect your transmission fluid when there's a leak, such as a bad smell and smoke.

You should always check the ATF fluid, which stands for automatic transmission fluid, when the car's engine is hot. When your car's running, transmission fluid leaves the reservoir and circulates through the transmission and brake system to lubricate your gears and brakes. If the reservoir is low or empty, there isn't enough transmission fluid inside it to lubricate the parts properly. 

If there's a significant leak in the reservoir, you may notice a burning smell coming from the reservoir when the car's running. As hot air from the engine rises, it heats up the reservoir's housing. In normal cases, the heat won't cause any problems. It'll help the fluids move through the transmission. When there's a leak in the reservoir, the heat will burn instead. 

You may also see smoke rise from the reservoir as the fluid burns. The smoke could appear cloudy or black, depending on how bad the leak is inside the reservoir. 

How Do You Check the Transmission Fluid?

Once you note the visible signs of a reservoir leak, it's time to check the inside of the reservoir to see how much fluid is actually inside it. Here's how you do it:

  • Turn the car's engine on, place the gears in the park position, and leave the car running. 
  • Raise and secure the hood into place with the latch.
  • Locate the transmission's fluid reservoir, which should look like a small handle attached to a stick. The words "trans fluid" will most likely run across the handle.
  • Pull the handle out of the reservoir slowly, then carefully wipe down the entire length of the stick with a paper towel or thin hand towel.
  • Place the stick back into the reservoir, then remove and examine it. If the stick has very little transmission fluid on it, you can refill it up to the recommended fill line. Don't overfill the reservoir.
  • Wait 5 minutes, then recheck the stick. 

If the stick still has very little transmission fluid on it, refill the reservoir with new fluid, followed by a bottle of transmission stop leak fluid. The stop leak fluid will temporarily protect the transmission from further problems by forming a seal inside the reservoir. Be sure to schedule an appointment with a mechanic as soon as you. 

If you can't see the mechanic right away, protect your transmission and other car parts by only driving the car in cool temperatures, such as in the early mornings or late evenings. Driving in hot weather makes the engine heat up more and work harder. Try to avoid heavy traffic to keep from shifting gears or hitting the brakes often. Both of these issues can overwork the transmission and remove the stop leak's seal. Go to websites to find professionals in your area.