Metal Shavings In Transmission Fluid – Should You Be Worried?

Metal Shavings In Transmission Fluid – Should You Be Worried?

August 12, 2021 0 By CarGuy

So, you have decided to take a look and inspect your transmission fluid. You pulled out the transmission fluid dipstick and you noticed metal shavings in transmission fluid? You are probably thinking that this might be some serious issue going on with your transmission. And let me tell you that if you don’t take care of it soon, it might become a serious issue that can damage your transmission.

Transmissions run on a special fluid called transmission fluid or ATF. Тhis fluid has to be always clean and serviced on time. If not, some problems may appear. These problems are most notable on transmissions that were poorly maintained.

One of the first symptoms that you may feel is the transmission shudder. This shudder is a very annoying symptom that plagues transmissions.

Another symptom is gear slippage. Instead of shifting your transmission will slip through the gears and your driving will be poor and you will be getting tired of your car. So, if you don’t want to do that better make sure that you take care of this problem before it gets serious.

In this article, we are going to cover everything when it comes to metal shavings in transmission fluid. We also going to discuss about the fluid most of the modern automatic transmissions use. How to replace it and how to check if your level is right. Then we are going to discuss the outcomes if you are running an old transmission fluid in your vehicle.

What Is A Transmission?

A transmission or better called a gearbox is a piece of equipment that is installed in your car and this transmission’s goal as its name implies is to transmit the energy that is produced by the engine in a right manner.

If you don’t have a transmission and you are powering the driveshaft with rotational energy directly from the crankshaft will cause the driveshaft to snap into thousand pieces.

Even if it doesn’t snap, it will make your car undrivable. Acceleration and deceleration will work in a different way than they are working with transmission and it’s going to be hard to drive a car like this.

So, that’s why there were invented transmissions and these transmissions allowed the engine to convert the rotational energy of the crankshaft into torque. The torque energy that is created is moving your vehicle from a standstill.

There are two types of transmissions. Manual and automatic. In manual transmissions, you go through the gears by yourself by engaging and disengaging the clutch.

In automatics everything is different. The transmission shifts by itself and changes the gears. All this is possible by the fluid pressure which is built inside of the transmission.

When you apply the gas pedal, there is a pressure buildup in the transmission lines. This helps the car to shift. That’s why the transmission fluid is essential in every automatic car. Manual cars also have transmission fluid but their fluid isn’t that sensitive.

If you don’t replace your transmission fluid on time, metal shavings in transmission fluid may start to appear and cause your transmission fluid to become dirty and start to shudder and slip gears.

Now, let’s discuss more about the transmission fluid and learn more about it.

What Is A Transmission Fluid?

Every transmission has to have transmission fluid in order to work properly. If you don’t have transmission fluid, your car will not be able to shift at all.

This transmission fluid is also called ATF or hydraulic fluid. The transmission fluid has a bright red color in order to be distinguishable from all the other fluids that are used in the automotive industry.

This fluid is also used in other applications, such as shocks, power steering. And that tells you a lot about the durability of the transmission fluid and its ability to withstand a huge amount of torture.

This fluid is non-stop moving inside of your transmission and makes all these gear shifts possible.

The fluid unfortunately has a lifetime like every other part of your vehicle. And that is usually 30,000 miles. If you delay this interval, some weird things may start to come up and you will start seeing metal shavings in transmission fluid. Gear slippage and transmission shudder may also be some of the symptoms that will plague your transmission.

If you are not taking care of your transmission, the transmission will start to show its downsides and you will end up in regret at the end. Because a new transmission may cost you thousands of dollars to buy.

So, in order to observe the transmission levels and the condition of the fluid you need to learn how to check the transmission fluid. And that is something that we are going to cover in the next chapter.

How To Check Transmission Fluid?

Checking your transmission fluid is a good practice. By doing this you are going to have an ideal input on the condition of your transmission fluid and you will be able to see if it’s clean or dirty if it has metal shavings in transmission fluid or not. All these things are important because they will give you a big input on your transmission’s health.

So, how do you check a transmission fluid? Transmission fluid is checked only when the transmission is warmed up. This might confuse you because all the other fluids are checked when the transmission is cold. So, how come the transmission fluid is checked when the vehicle is driven and the transmission is up to temperature?

Well, the answer is simple. If you check the transmission fluid when the transmission is cold you will not get a good reading.

This is the case because most of the fluid is inside of your torque converter and if you check your transmission fluid when cold you will get an inaccurate reading.

In order to get a good reading, you need the transmission fluid to get disbursed throughout the whole transmission and this will give you good input on your transmission level status.

Crank up your car and take it for a spin around the block. Then return home and open up your hood.

Pull up the dipstick and see the level. If the level is low you need to add some extra transmission fluid. And also, if you have low transmission fluid it is a good idea to see for leaks under the car. Because this indicates a leak issue.

Also, check the condition of the fluid, the color should be bright red. If its brownish or there is dirt, inspect for metal shavings in transmission fluid. See if there are any metal particles that are possibly there. If there are metal shavings in transmission fluid, we are going to tell you what you can do next in the next chapter.

Metal Shavings In Transmission Fluid

Metal shavings in transmission fluid are probably one of the worst things that can happen to you as a driver. These metal shavings in transmission fluid mean that your transmission fluid is contaminated with metal particles that are created from the worn transmission components.

The increase in wear is caused by the low lubricity of the transmission fluid. This low lubricity is caused by overdue transmission fluid changes and can cause problems in your shifting.

If your fluid becomes over contaminated will going to affect your shifts and your driving quality. Transmission may jerk, shudder and slip gears.

This in the long run can damage your transmission and its parts. If this is the case you may end up replacing the transmission with a new one or you will have to rebuild it.

A rebuild is a cheaper solution where the damaged parts are being replaced with new ones. But rebuilt transmissions do not last for a very long time especially if the rebuild is not performed by an experienced mechanic.

A new transmission on the other hand is a safer option and a permanent fix for this problem. A new transmission will run perfectly fine and your shifts will be snappy.

But, if you want to maintain the health of the transmission, replacing the transmission fluid is the best way to maintain its health. Do a regular transmission fluid flush if you want to avoid major hurdles and problems like metal shavings in transmission fluid. How you can perform this work we are going to explain in the next chapter.

How To Do A Transmission Fluid Flush DIY?

So, if you are a car guy like I’m. You probably want to know how you can perform a transmission fluid flush on your vehicle? If that’s the case, this tutorial is going to help you a lot in terms of how you can perform the transmission flush job.

This job is not difficult, but it requires a proper working environment because you need to access your car from underneath. So, in order to do so, you have to jack your car in the air. This will require a lift or some jack stands. You will also going to need a new transmission fluid and new transmission filter and a transmission oil pan gasket. So, how this job is performed?

Step 1

In the first step, you need to jack up the car in the air. This will require adding some jack stands or lifting the car using a lift. Or if you have a tunnel that is another option.

Step 2

Now it’s time to flush the fluid. In order to flush the fluid, you have to unbolt the bolts that are holding the oil pan on the transmission. Prepare yourself because there is a lot of fluid inside the pan. Make sure that you have a big bucket in which will go the transmission fluid.

Step 3

After flushing the transmission fluid and removing the pan. Make sure that you clean off the pan completely with some paper towels and brake clean. Make sure that there is nothing left on the pan.

Step 4

Clean off the gasket material from the transmission pan and also the gasket material on the transmission. Make sure that you don’t add some contaminants inside of the transmission.

Step 5

Now it’s time to replace the transmission fluid filter. This filter has to be replaced in order for you to have a nice and clean transmission fluid.

Step 6

Now it’s time to reassemble everything. Make sure that you mount the gasket properly and also the pan. Add the bolts but not overtight them, you don’t want to damage the new gasket. Torque them in a criss-cross pattern.

Step 7

After bolting on the oil pan, now it’s time to add the new transmission fluid. In order to do this, you have to remove a bolt that is located on the side of the transmission. Remove the bold and pump some transmission fluid inside of the transmission with a pump.

Add fluid until the fluid starts leaking from the hole. Then you can torque the bolt and make sure that is nice and tight. Check for leaks and take the car for a spin. Make sure that it shifts properly and the fluid level is all good. After this step, you are good to go.

Metal Shavings In Transmission Fluid Repair Cost

Metal shavings in transmission fluid can cost you a lot if you don’t take care of them on time and repair the problem.

Soon after you notice metal shavings in transmission you have to do a transmission flush. This is a number one priority. A transmission flush will make sure that you have good transmission fluid. The cost for a transmission flush is not that expensive, if you do it at home it will probably not going to cost you more than $70, but if you are doing this job at a shop, it may cost you $150.

If a transmission fluid flush doesn’t fix the issue and you have problems with shifting gears, the next step is to check the torque converter and see its condition. If the torque converter is good, your transmission is probably ready for a rebuild or replacement.

A replacement is going to cost you a lot of money, to be honest. In some cases, even thousands.

What Will happen If I Continue Driving Like This?

If you continue driving like this, you probably going to worsen the situation than it actually is. The transmission will work with contaminated fluid. This contaminated fluid will damage your transmission components quicker.

The transmission will jerk and will slip through gears. Basically, the driving experience is going to be terrible. In the end, the transmission will completely fail and you will end up throwing thousands of dollars in order to get it repaired.


In this article, we learned a lot about automatic transmissions and the problem with metal shavings in transmission fluid. We also learned how to check transmission fluid levels. This is important because transmission fluid is usually checked when the fluid is hot.

Also, we learned how you can change your transmission fluid DIY. This is also important because it is good to know how you can perform this work at home. And lastly, we have covered the cost when it comes to fixing metal shavings in transmission fluid. A simple flush will probably gonna do the job in most cases. While in some more extreme cases the transmission is going to require a rebuild.

If you want to continue reading we can recommend you a few articles. If you are into the market for a used mk4 Supra you can check out our article on Toyota Supra mk4 reliability, also if you are experiencing a seized brake caliper you can check out our article and learn more about the symptoms of a seized caliper. And lastly if you are experiencing some knocking under the hood you can take a look on our article on bent rods.




What Do Shiny Metallic Particles In The Transmission Oil Indicate

These shiny particles are telling you that the transmission fluid has to be flushed. This is normal wear and tear in transmissions that happen. Metallic particles end up in the transmission fluid. And driving with dirty transmission fluid for a prolonged period of time could make things worse and increase the wear inside of the transmission.

How Does Metal Get In Transmission

The transmission is made from metal. These particles that you can find in the fluid are shavings from internal components of the transmission. These metal shavings indicate wear in the transmission. Having some is normal if the fluid was not flushed recently. But having an excessive amount of metal particles can indicate a need for transmission rebuild or replacement.

What Are The Black Flakes In My Transmission Fluid

The black flakes indicate wear of the clutch material. Your automatic transmission has a clutch pack and this clutch pack have black friction material. When this material wears down, there will be black flakes in the transmission fluid.

Is It Bad To Drive With Dirty Transmission Fluid

Yes, it is very bad to drive like this. The main reason for this is that these particles prevent the fluid from flowing correctly. So, they can increase the wear and tear in the transmission. This is why it is recommended that you flush the fluid if you notice that it’s dirty.

What Does A Bad Transmission Oil Look Like

A change in color can indicate bad transmission fluid. Good transmission fluid should be pink in color. But if the fluid is worn out, the color will turn in dark brown. In addition to this, there could also be an increase in metal shavings in the transmission fluid.

How Many Miles Does Transmission Oil Last

This really depends on the service interval for your specific transmission. Some transmissions require more frequent fluid changes, some require this less often. But in general, transmission fluid should last at least 30,000 to 60,000 miles.