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Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) can be safely called the lifeblood of the vehicles which comes with much functionality. ATF can also be used for special operations related to transmissions like gear lubrication, brake band friction, torque converter, and valve operation. ATF can also double up as a hydraulic fluid in some power-assisted steering system and as a lubricant in some 4WD transfer cases. You might have some questions lingering in your mind about ATF.
- What is the importance of ATF?
- What are the different types of ATF?
- What are the signs of low transmission fluid?
- Is it possible that changing the transmission fluid can cause damage?
You need not worry anymore. At the end of this article, we will have you covered on the important aspects you need to know about Automatic Transmission fluid.
Why Do You Need Automatic Transmission Fluid?
We have mentioned some of the functionality of ATF, primary being to lubricate various parts of the transmission and power up the performance of the automotive vehicle. Its use does not stop here.
It serves other purposes as well like:
- Increase temperature range and rotational speed to boost performance
- Conditioning the operations of gaskets
- Protect the metal surfaces from rough wear and tear
- Act as a coolant and reduce high operating temperatures
ATF is colour coded in either red or green to distinguish it from motor oils and other fluids in the vehicle. Red Line Synthetic Oil offers a variety of selection of ATF based on the correct combination of slipperiness and viscosity required by different vehicular types like jeep, truck, cars, etc.
This brings us to our next segment of knowing different types of transmission fluids. These fluids bring longevity to the machinery and boost elevated performance during high temperatures.
Different Transmission Oils You Should Know About
You will generally find Type F ATF in old, vintage cars which were prevalent in the 70s and 80s. Also, known as Ford-O-Matic, these ATFs were specific to some Ford transmissions. They do not have friction modifiers.
DEXRON is one of the most commonly used automatic transmission fluids and come with friction modifiers. This ATF has been introduced by the automotive giant General Motors. DEXRON is a well-known ATF that has the credibility of maintaining and protecting the internal surfaces of the transmission.
Close to the heels of DEXRON, MERCON also does an impressive job in conditioning the gaskets, increasing lubrication in the internal surfaces of the transmission as well as provides longevity to the machinery. This ATF has been introduced by Ford as Ford MERCON series.
They are high-performance fluids that can withstand high-temperature ranges. Drastic changes in temperatures bring about wear and tear, shearing and oxidation of the metal surfaces. Synthetic fluids have been designed to withstand such drastic changes and protect the internal transmission machine parts from friction, shearing, and oxidation. They are also costlier than MERCON and DEXRON.
These High Friction Modified fluids, as the name suggests are excellent in terms of protecting the transmission parts from frictional heat and shearing. Their constitution is similar to DEXRON and MERCON but HFM fluids come with better and high-quality friction modifiers.
Here is a list of some of the modern and latest automatic transmission fluids:
- MERCON series-
- MERCON ULV
- MERCON V
- MERCON LV
- DEXRON series-
- DEXRON ULV
- DEXRON HP
- DEXRON III
- DEXRON VI
- Toyota Series-
- Toyota ATF Type T-IV
- Toyota ATF WS
DEXRON ULV and MERCON ULV have been introduced in 2017 and are used for GM 10L90 10-Speed automatic transmissions and Ford 10R80 10-Speed automatic transmissions respectively.
Next, we are going to deal with the best time to change transmission fluid and how.
When is the Right Time to Change Automatic Transmission Fluids?
In this case, sometimes the clear instructions and guidelines are given by the manufacturer of the transmission itself. The recommended mileage interval is mentioned in the manual of the vehicle after which transmission fluid servicing is required. Typically the mileage intervals have a range between 30,000 miles to 60,000 miles.
If your vehicle is heavily used then your recommended mileage interval can reduce to 15,000 miles. Some manufactures might claim to provide you with a lifetime transmission fluid but if you dig deep, you will see that by the word ‘A lifetime’ it usually means a mileage interval range between 90,000 miles and 100,000 miles.
There might be some obvious questions that are hovering in your mind.
Can frequently changing automatic transmission fluid harm your vehicle?
The answer is no, however, there are certain facts that you need to keep in mind. Automatic transmission fluids burn out quicker than manual transmission fluids because they generate more heat. Also, the longevity of your transmission fluid depends on the amount of contaminants present. You need to drain them out to ensure that your internal parts of the transmission are safe. Hence, changing your ATF after every recommended mileage interval is essential to protect your vehicle.
Sometimes you get the indications that it is time to give your car its ATF fill. There are certain signs which will make you realize that your vehicle is low on transmission fluid.
What are the Signs that your Car Needs a Transmission Fluid Fill?
Surging Movement while Changing Gears
If the level of your transmission fluid has decreased considerably then chances are there that your vehicle will give jerking movements and will lurch forward during any gear change instead of easing backward in case of normal scenarios.
Shifting Gears can Prove to be Problematic
The gearbox has to be clean and have sufficient ATF for the smooth running of your vehicle. If the fluid is contaminated or low in quantity, the response of valves and gears will be very low. This makes it difficult to shift gears.
Delayed Response from Gears
We all know the importance of gears in a vehicle and there can be no compromise in the gear mechanism. Slow response from the gears can prove to be disastrous on the roads. If your ATF level is low then you might experience a delay in response of 2-3 seconds when you put a ‘A Reverse’ gear or a ‘A Drive’ gear.
Overheating of Transmission Parts
Automatic vehicles generate a lot of heat and increase the temperature of the engine. Automatic transmission fluid acts as an antifreeze to prevent engine overheating. Its job is to keep the engine within a normal temperature range. If the level of ATF is low in your vehicle, then gears will not get enough fluid for lubrication which will lead to overheating of valves and gear components. This heat will be generated due to excess friction which will cause wear and tear of the machinery.
Automatic transmission fluid is like a power booster that helps in maintaining and contributing to the long life of your vehicle. It is an all-in-one fluid which does the job of lubrication, acts like hydraulic fluid, maintain the normal temperature of the engine and helps in power steering. You need to keep a lookout for signs from time to time that your transmission oil is doing its job well. We hope this article has thrown some light on the importance of automatic transmission fluid and has highlighted the know-hows surrounding ATF. Do not forget to book an appointment with your service provider to do a health check-up of your vehicle and check the level of ATF.