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Many fluids run through your vehicle, powering it in their little way to ensure you enjoy or have a smooth driving experience. One of the most crucial of these fluids is the transmission fluid. Unfortunately, only a handful of car owners even know the primary role transmission fluids play and don’t even know that it must be changed from time to time.

This article highlights some vital information you need to know about the primary function of your car engine and the difference between manual, automatic, and continuously variable transmission fluids.

What is the Function of Transmission Fluids?

Before mentioning the different types of transmission fluids, it is essential to address the function of the transmission fluid in your vehicle.

The primary function of the transmission fluid is to lubricate every metal component and bearing within a vehicle’s manual gearbox. The fluid prevents these components from wearing out quickly as they move and friction occurs.

The transmission fluid in an automatic transmission also fulfills the same function. However, it also provides enough hydraulic pressure and friction to make the internal components function optimally. Transmission fluids also help the transmission cool in both manual and automatic versions.

Shifting gears in manual and automatic transmissions can be quite strenuous for a vehicle. But thanks to the transmission fluid, vehicles can shift effortlessly without wearing down their components.

Manual transmission fluid or oil has existed since the first automobiles were manufactured and were available in some form or shape. However, automatic transmissions only came into existence in the ’40s and played crucial roles in the overall functioning of vehicles.

The Types of Transmission Fluids You Should Know

There are generally two types of transmission fluids: manual transmission fluids and automatic transmission fluids. However, a third transmission fluid – i.e., the continuously variable transmission fluid – just joined the fray, thanks to the manufacture of high-tech automobiles in recent years.

Therefore, let’s look at each of these transmission fluids:


This is also sometimes known as manual transmission lube or oil and was common in older automobiles. These old vehicles are equipped with manual transmissions.

Automatic vehicles can never use manual transmission fluids – heavier/thicker 75W to 140W fluid with more pungent smells. However, later models of manual transmissions can utilize automatic fluids in their manual transmission.

The thick manual transmission fluids often made it challenging for car owners to smoothly shift in and out of gear, especially during winter. This is the primary reason many transmission systems use automatic transmission fluid.


These are made for vehicles that use automatic transmissions. However, a few modern cars with manual transmissions also use this fluid.

Automatic fluids help with the following functions:

  • Brake band friction
  • Gear lubrication
  • Clutch friction operation
  • Transmission cooling
  • Valve body operation
  • Torque converter operation

Automatic fluids are usually thinner – i.e., not as thick as manual transmission fluids. They are also colored, usually red or green. The color is there for two reasons; the first is to make it very easy to spot any leaks, and the second is to avoid using the wrong type of transmission fluid for your vehicle.

Some automatic fluids are available in purple, green/blue, or even amber depending on specific manufacturers. These colors also make it easy to differentiate transmission fluids from motor oil and other fluids running through vehicles.

Continuously Variable

More modern automobiles utilizing highly advanced technologies are hitting the market almost daily. These tech-advanced vehicles use continuously variable transmission fluid, or CVT fluid, in their transmissions.

The continuously variable transmission fluid is a highly advanced substance designed to work efficiently and effectively only in advanced SUVs, trucks, and cars. Therefore, using the wrong type of transmission fluid for this vehicle will result in severe problems. This implies that you should never use regular automatic transmission fluid when using the continuously variable transmission fluid or vice versa.

Your advanced automobile may run when the wrong transmission fluid is put in. But, unfortunately, you may not even notice anything has gone wrong until much later when the issues develop and rear an ugly head at the most inconvenient times.

Therefore, be careful when purchasing transmission fluids and filling up your engine.

Which Transmission Fluids Should I Use for My Vehicle?

Now that you know the significantly different types of transmission fluids, the next step is to determine which one is ideal for your vehicle.

Whether your vehicle comes with an automatic or manual transmission does not matter. Ensure the correct type of transmission fluid for your vehicle is used. Using the wrong type of transmission fluid for your vehicle will poorly affect your transmission.

Therefore, checking out your owner’s manual is the best way to find yours. The type of transmission fluid you should use for your vehicle should be outlined in black and white.

However, if you have misplaced your owner’s manual online in search of its digital version.

How Often Should I Change My Vehicle’s Fluids?

Most people know the importance of changing the motor oil, but only a few bother about changing their transmission fluid.

But the truth is that changing your transmission fluid should also be part of your vehicle maintenance procedures. Over time, manual and automatic transmission fluids break down and contaminate debris.

Although transmission fluids don’t frequently change as much as motor oils, keeping an eye on them and checking them from time to time is crucial.

If the level of your transmission fluid is low or it starts breaking down, you will notice a significant decrease in the overall performance of your engine whenever you shift or engage gears. In addition, if you continue driving your vehicle in this condition, you will increase the risk of severe damage to internal gears and components as they grind against one another due to insufficient lubrication.

This is why some car makers recommend changing your vehicle’s transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Find out the specifications or recommendations for your vehicle’s model.


Knowing the different types of fluids available is highly crucial. This prevents improper use, endangering all the components that make the gear system work.

Therefore, ensure you only use the correct transmission fluid for your vehicle.

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