Transmission Fluid Color Chart: What Color Should It Be?

The color of your transmission fluid will tell you a lot about your transmission but only one color is good.

When you look at your transmission fluid, the best color to see is a light red that is translucent in nature. If you can’t see through it, then you need to make a change in the fluid. If you don’t, the fluid breakdown will cause damage to your transmission and those repairs can be costly.

To learn more about the color of transmission fluid and what it means, just continue to read our article. It explores the issue so you know what the different colors mean and what you should do when you see them.

Does Transmission Fluid Color Matter?


There is no other answer but Yes. Transmission fluid color is a great indicator if anything is wrong inside your transmission. There is no other way to see inside that vital part except if you tear it apart.

If you take that option, you may not get it back together properly again. There are a lot of parts involved and getting them in the right order can be tricky. That is why looking at the transmission dipstick to see the fluid's color is so important.

The color will tell you almost exactly what is happening inside your transmission. Once you read the upcoming chart, you will know what to look for and have a very good idea of what is wrong with your transmission.

This is just one duty the fluid has when it is put inside your transmission. The fluid is responsible for many things especially lubricating key parts so that they all function flawlessly.

Without that fluid in top condition, those bearings, clutch parts, and other metal parts would seize and you would not be able to go anywhere.

What Color Transmission Fluid Should Be?

When the fluid is new and good, you should see a very clear and transparent red color. Some people say translucent but they mean the same thing. If you can’t see through the fluid, then it is time to change it.

To check your transmission fluid just follow these three steps:

- Open your vehicle’s hood and locate the transmission dipstick- this is usually on the other side of where your oil dipstick is located. If you drive a manual or stick, then there will be no dipstick to check.

- Pull the dipstick out of the filler tube- just like you would if you were checking your oil

- Determine the fluid color- then like looking at the oil dipstick, check the color. The darker the color the dirtier the fluid. Just like oil.

It is not hard to check the transmission fluid and see these color changes. The key to all of this is not to confuse the oil dipstick with the transmission dipstick.

Sometimes it is easy to do but if you look at the color you should see your mistake before you do anything else.

Does Transmission Fluid Change Color?


Yes, it does. The changing color will tell you if the fluid is good, new, or contaminated. The darker the color the more contaminants or other issues you have inside the transmission.

You do want to keep a fairly close eye on this fluid. While it is not oil which needs to be checked regularly in most cases, the transmission fluid can go longer without checking it.

However, if you start getting an odor coming from the dipstick or from the transmission, then you should go to a mechanic and have them change the fluid. While the color is the most important sign you have, the odor will help you between the times you check the fluid.

You can use a paper towel or a clean white rag to determine the color of the fluid. Just be up on the different colors so you know exactly what is taking place inside your transmission.

You should be able to see the color accurately when you use the clean white rag or the paper towel options.

Transmission Fluid Color Meaning

The transmission fluid’s color has several meanings. But the main one is that it is indicating that you have either a problem inside the transmission, or everything is okay.

There is only one color that indicates that everything is okay as the upcoming image will tell you. There are at least 4 colors that tell a different story:


Most transmission websites only indicate or talk about 5 different colors. There is one problem with the color system. For those who are color-blind, this is going to present a very difficult challenge. You may not be able to tell the colors apart except that they are different shades.

Different shades may not be helpful at all. What this means is that you have to rely on your nose. Instead of looking at the dipstick color, you need to pull the dipstick and sniff.

There are different odors that are associated with transmission fluid and those odors will give you some indication something is wrong. The weakness of the smell test is that while transmission either doesn’t smell or has a sweet smell, it may have a third or fourth odor telling you everything is fine.

But if you smell something other than sweet or no.

Transmission Fluid Color Chart

Color Condition Action required
Red & transparent New or like new No action required
Light brown but semi-transparent Like new or good condition No action required
Dark brown and opaque Old & dirty Replace the fluid, change the filter
Very dark brown or black Old, dirty or oxidized Replace the fluid/filter do a flush as well.
Light pink Coolant or water mixed with the transmission fluid Rebuild or replace the transmission

The chart does not talk about burnt fluid color but that is because you will be able to smell that distinct odor very quickly. Most likely, the color of the burnt transmission fluid will be very dark brown or black.

When you spot a leak, you will see the fluid in one of these colors. It is red because the transmission fluid is red normally. When you see drops that means you have a leak somewhere.

However, if you check the dipstick and see that you are low on fluid but there is no sign of a leak, you still have a leak. It just may be too small to notice without the engine running.

What Does Yellow Transmission Fluid Mean?


Generally, the yellow color will show up more in other fluids like brake or coolant. But there will be times when the transmission fluid is a light or amber color. This is usually when the fluid is new.

Having a transparent nature can show that the fluid is yellow or amber. This is a good sign and means the same thing as a transparent red color. You have no problems until the fluid starts to get used.

After some time and lots of use, the color will change due to the many contaminants that enter the transmission. As it gets used, you may see the color turn to a maroon shade. This is still good and you should not have to worry at this point.

In fact, once it turns to the maroon color, which is after only a few thousand miles or so, you still do not have to worry. This will be the color it remains unless something is wrong with the transmission.

If your car has a newer transmission model, you shouldn’t have to change it for at least 100,000 miles depending on the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.

Transmission Fluid Color Brown

This is the color where you start to worry. But you have to wait for the right shade of brown before you begin to think anything is wrong with the fluid. A light brownish color can look like maroon and will still be transparent.

If that is what you get when you look on the dipstick, then you are okay and do not need to take any action. But if the shade of brown turns darker and you can’t see through it, then the fluid is old, it may have been burnt a little, and it is dirty.

Changing the filter and the fluid is a good idea at this stage. However, there is one more brown shade you need to be concerned about. If it is very dark brown or black looking, then the fluid has been burnt severely, and it is very dirty.

You will have to replace the fluid and filter at this point as well as do a transmission flush. The color you really have to worry about is when the fluid turns pink. Then the repair is going to be costly. You may end up needing a new transmission.

Light Brown Transmission Fluid


This is an okay color. It may look like a maroon shade of red and no matter which color you associate it with, this is good news. Light brown still means that the transmission fluid is still good.

Unless you are doing something terrible to your transmission, once you see this color, you won’t have to worry about it until you smell something or reach that 100,000-mile mark.

When you see this color, check with your owner’s manual, if you still have it, and see what the manufacturer says about when to change the fluid. Unless the fluid has been burnt, you won’t have to change it until that recommended time.

If you do not have your owner’s manual, then make sure to get the make. Model and year of your vehicle and talk to a mechanic or the dealer. They will be able to help you out when it is time to change the fluid.

One thing to be wary of is that just because you can go 100,000 miles with the same transmission fluid does not mean you should never check it. You never know when you tow too much, have too heavy of a load, etc., that overworks and overheats your transmission or fluid.

Keeping an eye on the color of your fluid will be good preventive maintenance. It may also save you on some high repair or replacement bills.

Transmission Fluid Color Green

Either you are using the wrong fluid in your transmission or you have a coolant leak somewhere. We checked many websites on transmissions and not one says anything about it being green.

But since there are many manufacturers that make this fluid, from outside the country, it is possible to find this product in the green color. We just do not know which brand that would be as generally, even Honda has red transmission fluid when it is new.

While there are different fluids for vehicles, they all seem to have their own distinct color. Green is usually reserved for coolant. But you can find that brake fluid and power steering fluid to be green as well.

This color may be from some models not all and they may be older vehicles. For some reason, if the green coolant mixes with the red or brown transmission fluid, you get a pinkish color.

Not everything makes sense when it comes to cars, trucks, or even RVs.

Transmission Fluid Color Burnt


Maybe the word burnt should go at the beginning of this sub-section title. Burnt transmission fluid color sounds better and it brings you right to the point without any confusion.

But people put words and phrases in their browser’s search box in a variety of orders. The burnt color is dark brown or black. But you may not have to pull the dipstick to know that the fluid has been burnt.

There will be a variety of burnt odors slight to severe warning you that you have a problem. Your nose will tell you if your transmission or the fluid is overheating. That is one of the main causes of burnt transmission fluid.

If you see the dark brown or black color, you may have to rebuild the transmission which can be costly depending on the amount of damage inside the transmission.

How To Check Transmission Fluid Color

The easiest method and answer is to pull the dipstick and look. The transmission is usually a closed system with very little opportunity for fluid to leak out. The best way to see the color is to look at the dipstick.

Just like oil, the color change will be very clear. But if you have an older dipstick, you can pull it and then put a drop or two on a clean white rag or a paper towel.

The color should show up very well on those surfaces. Just like oil, the darker the color the more chances are that you have to change the fluid. But this is not a good system if you are color-blind.

When it comes time to check the transmission fluid, make sure to have a friend help you or use your nose. The odor will give you a big clue as to the condition of the fluid.

Transmission Fluid Color On Paper Towel


As long as the paper towel is not dark in color or dirty, this is a good way to check the color of your transmission fluid. It is safe, simple, and easy to do. There should be no confusion when you look at the fluid on the paper towel.

The fluid’s colors are fairly distinct and if you can see the paper towel through the fluid, then you are still okay. As long as the fluid is transparent, you have nothing to worry about.

When you have to worry is when the fluid is getting darker and changing from red to brown. But do not confuse maroon with brown as maroon is still a safe color.

If you spot a leak, the color of the leak will be the color inside the transmission. The color will look red and clear if the fluid is good, dark brown or black if it got burnt. When you see the color, you know what needs to be done., The fluid needs to change.

Some Final Words

While transmission fluid lasts a long time, it is still a good idea to keep your eye on it. You may not notice the smell as you drive and the darker the fluid the worse it gets for your transmission.

When it gets to a dark brown or black color, the fluid is not doing your transmission any good. Replace it quickly and hope nothing was damaged inside your transmission.

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