How to Check Your Transmission Fluid If There's No Dip Stick

by Josh Baum

Checking your vehicle's transmission fluid is an important part of routine car maintenance, as transmission fluid is the critical lubricant that protects and ensures smooth operation of all moving transmission parts. On many cars, checking the transmission fluid is just as easy as checking the engine oil. But if you open the hood and can't locate the transmission fluid dipstick, you may need to do a bit of research before you can determine the best way to proceed.

Check under the hood and look around carefully to confirm that there is no dipstick. The location of the transmission fluid dipstick varies greatly from one car model to the next, so it can be easy to miss if you're not fully familiar with the vehicle in question. Typically, the handle of this dipstick will be either ring-shaped or T-shaped, and it may have the word "trans" or "transmission" printed on it.

Consult the owner's manual for the car to determine whether or not your vehicle has a sealed transmission. A sealed transmission is a specific, high-end type of transmission that has no fluid dipstick and that is designed to be mostly or completely maintenance free. If you discover that your vehicle has a sealed transmission, you will need to take it to a mechanic with a hydraulic car lift or an underground oil change bay to check the fluid level. The reason for this is that the transmission fluid check valve on a sealed transmission is on the bottom of the car, but the vehicle must also be level to ensure an accurate reading. Therefore, you cannot lift one side of the car up using a standard garage jack; you must take it somewhere where you can access the underside of the car while keeping it level.

Continue browsing through your owner's manual to determine the location of the transmission fluid dipstick if you can verify that you do not have a sealed transmission. Once you know where the dipstick is located, go back to the car and try to find it. If you find where it should be but the stick isn't there, proceed to the next step.

Call the nearest dealer or certified service center for your model of vehicle and inquire about a replacement transmission dipstick. If you want a replacement dipstick that is yours to keep, you should be able to buy one directly from the dealer. If you do not necessarily want to buy a dipstick, but you still want to check your fluid, see if you can make arrangements to drive to the dealership and use one of theirs. If you make it clear that all you want to do is borrow it for a minute to check your fluid level in their parking lot, they may allow you to do so.

Make sure you understand whether or not a dipstick is designed to be left in place while driving your particular vehicle if you choose to buy a replacement dipstick. Some newer vehicles that do not have sealed transmissions also do not ship with transmission dipsticks as standard equipment. And on some of these same vehicles, the transmission is designed in such a way that it can be harmful to drive with a transmission dipstick inserted all the way into the appropriate tube. Until you can confirm that it is safe to drive with your new dipstick in the dipstick tube, don't do it.

Tip

  • check If you don't have an owner's manual for your car model, call the dealership for your auto brand. A mechanic at the dealership may be able to tell you whether or not you have a sealed transmission, as well as where the dipstick should be located.