Metal shavings in transmission: All That You Need to Know

Vehicle transmission is one of the components you need to pay attention to because it works in harmony with the engine to provide peak performance, torque, and speed. Without it, there will be no vehicle movement. And if it goes out, it will require an expensive fix. Hence, it requires regular inspection whenever you notice issues like hard shifting, colored transmission fluid, unresponsive or slipping gears.

If you look into your transmission crankcase and see metal flakes, grimes, fragments, or metal shavings, you should take it seriously. Metal shavings are an indication of friction, wear, or tears on the inner components. How do you know whether what you see is a result of normal wear?

Some metal shavings in transmission fluid are normal and harmless. Unlike metal shavings in engine oil, metal shavings in transmission can be seen with naked eyes and felt with hands. So, how much metal is too much in transmission fluid? You will find the answers as we progress.

What Does Metal Shavings in Transmission pan Mean?

aluminum shavings in transmission pan

Metal Shavings in transmission could be a result of normal components wear or accelerated components wear.

It is pretty common to find debris in transmission fluid when the engine and transmission are running optimally. The debris is still metal shavings, but it has no sharpness, no edges of any sort. If you take it with your two fingers and rub it, you won’t feel anything. It will look like you are rubbing light grease.

Now ask yourself, why is there a metallic magnet in a transmission crankcase? Auto manufacturers are pretty aware that there will be metal shavings in your transmission due to normal components wear. The purpose of the magnet is to collect those metals and keep them on the crankcase so they won’t go back to the gear set and bearings and cause damages.

So if the only metal shavings you see have no sharpness, no edges, and it looks smooth when rubbing with your two fingers, you don’t need to worry, they are harmless. It is normal to wear.

While metal shavings in the transmission crankcase are normal, metal particles in the form of fragments and chunks pose threads to your transmission system. Do not think this article is centered on automatic transmissions alone. Metal shavings in manual transmission fluid mean the same thing as their automatic counterpart.

What other materials pose dangers to your transmission? Gold-colored particles are indications of worms gear teeth. Once you notice such particles in your transmission pan, consider consulting your mechanic for inspection and fixes. Fragments and clutch material in the transmission pan indicate accelerated wear in the transmission. If you find chunks and fragments on the magnet in your transmission pan, do not wait to run a few hundred miles before getting it fixed. Contact your mechanic for a thorough inspection to know what is wrong with your transmission.

What Causes Metal Shavings In Transmission Fluid?

A delayed oil change on the transmission or no oil changes in a very long time can be detrimental to catastrophic damages in your drive train components, resulting in thick oil and sludge formation in the transmission. Accelerating your engine so quickly that the engine and transmission do not get enough oil to lubricate the inner components very well can cause accelerated wears on the system components.

Abusive gear shifting by rough drivers or inappropriate shifting of gears by learners can cause friction and, of course, abnormal wear on the gear sets.

Carrying out regularly scheduled oil changes and other maintenance services would help prolong your transmission lifespan. If you have a racing car, I recommend changing your transmission fluid 30 to 48 hours after a long race. Your drive train components are not bullets proof, including the transmission and differential. Keep this at the back of your mind while looking for causes or how to prolong your transmission lifespan.

What to do when you find metal shavings in your transmission

What do you do when you notice glitter in the transmission of the black stuff in the transmission pan? Well, glittering particles in transmission are pretty normal. However, if the glittering particles have sharp edges, that you can feel with your fingers, your transmission components are wearing out so quickly. So what should you do? – the answer is inspection.

Once you notice something is wrong with your transmission, you have to inspect your transmission to know where the black flakes in transmission fluid are coming from. Start with draining the transmission fluid. Next, loosen the transmission pan. Raise the car with a jack or car lift, so you gain access to drain the transmission fluid.

After removing the transmission crankcase, inspect it to have a closer feel or to know what type of shavings you have in it. There are different types of shavings found in the transmission crankcase. They are as follows;

Brass shavings: if you see brass-like shavings in the crankcase, it indicates one bushings or thrust washers are bad. These components are manufactured with brass, and they typically wear off as you cover hundreds of miles.

Metal Shavings: Metal-like shavings indicate worn gear set teeth. Clean off these casting flakes on the transmission pan upon inspection.

Black pieces: Black particles or dust indicate band or clutch frictional wear.

Note: It is quite normal to see any of these shavings in the crankcase in powder or dust form –with no sharp particles of any sort.

I like keeping records. Take pictures of metal shavings in transmission fluid. You may have to show your mechanic if the particles keep coming after the first fix.

Loosen and wash the metal in the transmission filter. Clean the metal or aluminum shavings in the transmission pan along with the magnet. You need fuel, a washing brush, a spray can, and a washing pan or bowl to do the cleaning.

When you are done with the cleaning, allow the components to dry. Reinstall them using the reverse process. Remove the support on your vehicle and lower it. Get a recommend transmission fluid for your car and refill it. Make sure you do not over gauge it.

In any case, if you see sharp particles in the transmission pan, whether it is metal, aluminum, or brass, you need to clean the transmission filter, pan, and magnet. Then, put the vehicle in order and take it to a mechanic. And if the sharp particles are much, consider calling a mechanic to take the car to their garage.


Q: Are metal sharping in transmission normal?

If your transmission is performing as it should, the system components such as clutch and bands will chip off some metal shavings. These metal shavings should be in the form of dust or powder. If it is the only shavings in your transmission pan, do not worry nor stress yourself. This is completely normal.

Q: What does it mean if the transmission fluid is brown?

New or healthy transmission fluid should have a clear pink color. If the transmission fluid has a wine color or is brown, you have an old transmission fluid that may be causing damages to the inner system components. But if the fluid is dark brown, you have a burnt transmission fluid possibly resulting from system overheat. This entails you have system damages that need to be fixed.

You should regularly check your transmission fluid level and color. Failure from doing so, you will not know when something is going wrong in your transmission at an earlier stage, which could result in severe damages. This is why regular transmission maintenance is beneficial to your vehicle’s performance and longevity.

Q: What type of metal is a transmission?

Transmission housing and components are built with several materials. More recent model vehicles are equipped with aluminum transmissions. Whereas its older counterpart is made with iron cast material. Most aluminum transmissions are known for having contaminants or debris in the crankcase. And it is very uncommon to see one that has fewer metal shavings or contaminants like the iron cast transmission.

Transmission components are usually built with cast iron, aluminum, copper, or brass. Do not be confused; transmission housing is manufactured with two types of material – aluminum and cast iron.

Q: Is transmission fluid corrosive to metal?

Yes, transmission fluid is corrosive. A tiny leak of transmission fluid on other vehicle components, especially metal components, can erode it.

Final word:

At this juncture, you have known what Metal Shavings In-Transmission means, Causes, and what to do when you notice Sharp flakes or particles in the transmission.

If you notice Sharp flakes in your transmission pan, the best thing to do is consult your mechanic for proper inspection and fixes. Unless you are a DIY fellow, a car enthusiast, or a petrol-head with the right tools, you need to seek professional assistance.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

2 thoughts on “Metal shavings in transmission: All That You Need to Know

  1. Hey Christiana,

    So sorry you had to experience this.

    Before giving you any advice or suggestions, I’d like to ask you a few questions:

    What is the current state of the car?
    Is the steering still lock and the car feeling jerky/jumpy?
    Is the steering is free now, what did you do to free it?
    Is the car parked since then?

  2. hello im from illinois and i have a 2014 honda civic and one day i was driving to go get my oil changed and prior to driving to a valvoline my car did this little jerky/jumpy move and as it did that i started to lose my accleration and my car was still running and my steering had locked up and at first me and my cousin thought it was my cv axle that broke but it wasnt so now we are looking at it as the transmission filter screen is clogged or the inner axle that connects to the cv axles are broke or is it that my transmission is just shot i was just wondering if you could kinda give me some insight of help in a way because im already going through so much regarding my car.. thank you for your time and god bless.

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