What Color is Transmission Fluid?

A transmission system is one of the essential parts of a vehicle. It transmits the right amount of engine power to the wheels to get the desired speed.  It is also the most expensive and complex unit to replace and repair in a vehicle. However, for the system to work properly, it needs transmission fluid. For maximum performance, you should always use the right transmission fluid. The transmission fluid color is the easiest and quickest way to know the health of your transmission system.

Transmission fluids perform a variety of tasks. They protect the planetary gear sets from corrosion, lubricate the bearing and gear systems, and also maintain the right frictional properties for smooth clutch engagement. It is, therefore, important to keep on checking the color of the transmission fluids. The color of the transmission fluid gives you a warning when something in the transmission system needs attention. What do the various transmission fluid colors mean? Just read ahead.

what color is transmission fluid

Transmission Fluid Color

Vehicle fluids went through a dying process to get easily identified. As for transmission, it is also dyed accordingly, and the translucent dark red transmission fluid is also the result of dying. But the color changes over time and turns even darker with use.

The color of the transmission fluid keeps on changing as it ages collects contaminants such as debris and dirt and is subjected to friction. The transmission fluid color chart directs you on what a specific color of your fluid means and that action is required. The color of the transmission fluid depends on how much it is contaminated and what has contaminated it. Failure to maintain this fluid may lead to overheating, leaks, and other transmission faults, which later need repair or replacement.

To check the color of the transmission fluid, begin by locating the transmission dipstick. Remove the dipstick and wipe with a paper towel. The color left on the rag indicates the overall health of the transmission system. It will direct you to the action that you need to take. Let us learn what the various colors of transmission fluids mean to the system:

transmission fluid color Chart

Red Transmission Fluid

New transmission fluid should be red and transparent. When the transmission fluid has not aged or not contaminated, it is red. With this color and the right amount, your transmission system will not have any serious problems. The recommended action when your fluid is color red is to keep checking it regularly.

Light Brown Semi-Transparent Fluid

The red color of the transmission fluid changes to light brown after a while of usage. When you check the transmission fluid and find it light brown in color, it means that it is still in good condition. This color and the right amount of fluid will keep the transmission system safe. Keep checking the fluid regularly for any color change or quantity.

Dark Brown Opaque Fluid

Dark brown transmission fluid means it is dirty, contaminated, and old. The transmission fluid in this color does not offer the system enough lubrication. Poor lubrication causes damage and excessive wear to internal parts. It also increases heat in the transmission system, which may lead to transmission failure.

When you note the transmission fluid in this color, you need to take action before it causes damage. The recommended action is to change the transmission fluid and filter or complete the flush of the transmission.

Very Dark Brown Black

This color indicates that the condition of your transmission fluid is poor.  It is a sign that the fluid is very dirty, old, and contaminated. When this color pairs with a burnt toast smell, it is a result of oxidation.

In this case, you need to take action immediately. The transmission fluid could have already caused some internal damage. If the transmission system is working well, then you require flushing or doing a fluid and filtering change immediately. If the damage has been done, then you will need to do some repairs before changing the transmission fluid.

Light Pink Fluid

When the transmission fluid is light pink, the condition is severe. It means that either coolant or water has got in the transmission system. This destroys seals, and friction clutches fall apart.

Water gets in the transmission through a leaking or damaged transmission oil cooler line. This may lead to complete failure of the transmission. In this condition, it is unfortunate that you will be required to replace or rebuild your transmission.

Read Also: Should I Check Transmission Fluid Hot or Cold and [How to Check]

What Color Is Transmission Fluid Supposed to Be?

As is made clear already, clean transmission fluid is supposed to be dark red or red translucent color. Transmission fluids are dyed to help in identification. The color will enable you to tell when the fluid is aging and when it needs replacement. When transmission fluid is new, it can be yellow and blue but the majority are red. There are many types of transmission fluids from different manufacturers, and you should be careful about what you use.

Transmission fluid becomes darker as it ages and when contaminated with dirt. The color could also change in case of contaminants like coolant or water get in through an improperly functioning filter. Another reason that could change the normal color of the transmission fluid is oxidation. You can confirm if it is oxidation when the color comes along with a burnt odor.

When should a person change the transmission fluid? It depends on the manufacturer’s manual. Most experts advise on changing after every two years or between 30,000 and 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Heavy-duty vehicles, however, need frequent servicing since their transmission generates more heat due to carrying cargo. Just keep on checking the transmission fluid and change it when it changes to dark brown.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What Color is CVT Transmission Fluid?

Normal CVT fluid is color red. When it is clean, it can be semi-transparent or dark red. Transmission fluids are dyed to help car owners to differentiate them from other car fluids.  CVT fluid is a crucial part of the vehicles’ Continuously Variable Transmission. Remember that the quality of transmission fluid is not based on color. Check the owner’s manual for the ideal transmission fluid for your vehicle.

Q. What Color is Transmission Fluid When It Leaks?

The transmission fluid color leak is usually red. This is because the color of the transmission fluid is red. However, if the fluid is contaminated, it will be dark brown. It is crucial to note that other car fluids are red such as windshield wiper and anti-freeze fluid. To confirm if it is transmission fluid, also check the consistency and smell. Transmission fluid is slippery and has an oily smell. When it is aged, it has a brownish color and burnt odor. This is an indicator that it needs servicing.

Q. What does it Mean When Your Transmission Fluid is Brown?

Transmission fluid color brown means that it is dirty, contaminated, and old. This color indicates that the transmission fluid needs to be changed. Transmission fluid can also be brownish due to oxidation. In this case, however, the brownish color is accompanied by a burnt smell. Brownish transmission oil requires you to take action immediately. It is advisable to either fluid flush or do a filter or fluid change.

Q. Is Transmission Fluid Yellow?

Different manufacturers may dye their transmission fluids differently. There are some yellow transmission fluids. Others are red and a few are blue. Some of the transmission fluids are blue or yellow. However, the majority of them are red. These fluids are colored that way to distinguish them from other car fluids.

Q. What Happens When Your Transmission Fluid is Black?

Black transmission fluid means that it is aged, contaminated, and very dirty and/or oxidized if it has a burnt smell. In this case, it needs a fluid flush or filter and fluid change immediately. By this time, the transmission could have been damaged and need repair or rebuild. But if it does not have damages yet, action requires to be taken immediately. Leaving the black fluid in your transmission will cause serious problems like leaking and overheating in the transmission.

Q. What Does Old Transmission Fluid Look Like?

Old transmission fluid is dark brown opaque.  This color is an indicator that you need to replace the transmission fluid with a new one or do a fluid flush. The fluid turns brown due to the contamination of dirt or oxidation. When it is very old, it becomes black. At this time, the transmission system is at risk and needs serious servicing.

Q. What Color is Honda Transmission Fluid?

Just like other transmission oils, Honda transmission oil is red to distinguish it from other motor oils. When the Honda oil gets old, contaminated, or oxidized, it turns to dark brown and then to black. To confirm if the oil is oxidized, smell if it has a burnt odor.

Final Words

Transmission fluid color is one way that can tell you about the health of your vehicle. Other factors to consider are its consistency and smell. Most of the transmission oils are red, but you can get some in blue or yellow. Manufacturers dye them red to distinguish them from other vehicle fluids. As the fluid ages, it changes to light brown, dark brown, and then to black. You should consider changing the transmission oil when you note a dark brown color. Protecting your transmission through maintenance does not only enable it to last longer but also prevents expensive replacements and rebuilds. Ensure that you use the best transmission fluid for your vehicle for maximum performance.

Read More:


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts