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Transmission Fluid – What Kind Do I Need & How Much? Critical Facts & Tips

transmission fluid

All automatic transmissions require something called automatic transmission fluid (ATF). This fluid helps to lubricate, cool, and perform a number of other jobs on the transmission. Today, there are four main types of transmission fluids. It’s important that you select the right fluid based on your vehicle.

One issue you will run into is that not all transmission fluid is equal, and you won’t be able to use just any transmission fluid on your vehicle. You’ll have to determine what kind of transmission fluid you need and how much your vehicle calls for.

To learn what kind of transmission fluid you need and how much, keep reading.

car and road divider

The 4 Main Types of Transmission Fluid

Back in the day, there were only two types of fluid on the market: type A and type F. Today, there are four main types of transmission fluid. Here’s an overview of each type:

filling up car engine with new transmission fluid
Image Credit: Oteera, Shutterstock
  • Dexron III/Mercon: Dexron III/Mercon is the most common transmission fluid. Most General Motors and Ford vehicles use this type of fluid. Many imports use it as well. If your owner’s manual recommends any type of Dexron or Mercon, with the exception of Mercon V, this is the fluid you will want.
  • HFM-Style; HFM-style stands for highly friction modified. It provides different friction characteristics than the above-mentioned Dexron III/Mercon. Some manufacturers that use this style include Honda, Acura, Jeep, Eagle, Hyundai, Toyota, Alexis, Saturn, and Sterling. The one thing that’s difficult about HFM-style fluid is that it comes in many different names. Ideally, these different products should be able to be used interchangeably, but we recommend using the fluid that is recommended specifically by your manufacturer for the best results.
  • Type F: Type F transmission fluid was originally designed for Fords with bronze clutches. The last transmission that used bronze clutches was made back in the early 1970s. Unless you have a classic or antique car, your vehicle probably will not use type F transmission fluid.
  • Synthetic Fluids: Some manufacturers have begun using synthetic fluids. It is similar to the Dexron II/Mercon, but it has some improvements.

Which Transmission Fluid Is Right for Me?

After reviewing these four main types of transmission fluid, what type is right for you? Unfortunately, we cannot tell you the answer to this question without knowing your vehicle and transmission. The only way that you can select the right transmission fluid is to select fluid specifically made for your transmission.

The good news is that it’s super easy to find out which transmission fluid is right for your vehicle. Just go to your owner’s manual and follow whatever it says. Your owner’s manual will give you the correct information based on your vehicle and transmission.

Transmission Fluid
Image Credit: SURAKIT SAWANGCHIT, Shutterstock

How Much Do I Need?

How much transmission fluid you’ll need also differs based on your vehicle. Most passenger vehicles take between 4–17 quarts. You will be able to find out how much transmission fluid you need from your owner’s manual.

That being said, make sure not to overfill the transmission fluid. This can be dangerous for your vehicle and transmission.

What if I Don’t Know What Transmission Fluid My Vehicle Needs?

If you don’t know what kind of transmission fluid your vehicle needs or how much, pull out your owner’s manual. Your owner’s manual will contain all the information you need to know about maintaining your transmission, including the ideal transmission fluid type.

If you’ve lost your owner’s manual, you should be able to search it online. Most owner’s manuals are uploaded in digital form online. If you can’t find the owner’s manual online, you can call a dealer or mechanic. In some cases, it will actually be printed on the dipstick as well.

mechanic draining the old automatic transmission fluid
Image Credit: PongMoji, Shutterstock

car and road divider

Final Thoughts

It’s important to select the right transmission fluid based on your vehicle. However, we cannot tell you which transmission fluid is best for you. You will need to look at your owner’s manual to determine the ideal transmission for your vehicle and how much needs to be used.

As a rule of thumb: go to your owner’s manual when in doubt. If you don’t know where your manual is, look online or talk to a dealer. It should be pretty easy to find out which transmission fluid you need when talking to a professional.

Featured Image Credit: GracePhotos, Shutterstock


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