Like coolant leaks, cars also experience transmission fluid leaks. However, in many cases, these leaks are noticeable even when the vehicle is parked on the leveled ground. Now there are situations where the transmission doesn’t leak on leveled ground but does when parked uphill. In this article, we walk you through reasons for transmission fluid leak when parked on incline.
Why does transmission fluid leak when parked on incline?
The following are reasons your car experiences transmission fluid leak when parked uphill.
Weak or leaky seals
Car transmission seals prevent the oil from leaking out from the transmission slot. However, they might get weak due to age or taking much abuse though they will still function.
For 2WD cars, the first seal to suspect causing the leaks when a car is parked uphill is the rear transmission seal.
When a vehicle is parked uphill, the oil runs backward, putting much pressure on the worn rear seals. Because the rear seals in those conditions can’t withstand the pressure, the oil forces its way out.
However, for 4WD cars, several gaskets might be the reason for leaking transmission fluid when parked uphill. These cars utilize several gaskets at the back of the transmission and transfer case. Slide under your vehicle and check the back of the transmission or the transfer case where the driveshaft connects. Due to worn seal, you may notice coolant in transmission oil.
Overfilled transmission oil
Transmission oil is supposed to be filled to a certain level; you can know with the help of your transmission dipstick. Check the highest fill line. If the oil in the transmission is more than it needs, it would build up pressure and look for ways to disperse the excess oil. Hence the leakage.
Residual fluid on transfer case
The transfer case is found in cars with 4WD or AWD and helps transfer power via the drive shafts from the transmission to the rear and front axles. If you have recently serviced the dual-clutch transmission, the mechanic may have left puddles of fluid on the transfer case.
This fluid will leak out whenever the car is parked on the driveway or uphill, leaving a puddle under your vehicle. If your car is experiencing a transmission fluid leak on driveway or uphill, chances are there were residual fluids left on the transfer case. Check the top of the transfer case to see if any fluid is left. More importantly, be sure the fluid is actually from the transmission.
Leaky transmission pan
The transmission pan is responsible for holding the transmission fluid. It also ensures the transmission fluid is free from contaminants and helps cool the oil before sending it to the transmission. However, over time, the pan can develop cracks due to age or abuse.
In other cases, the bolt securing the pan to the transmission is not tightened correctly. A leaking transmission pan or loosened bolt will leak out fluid visible on the ground. Hence, the presence of transmission fluid on the ground—whether the car is parked on level ground or uphill may point to the transmission pan or bolts.
Transfer case hole
The transfer case houses a shaft held by a securing clip. This shaft can, however, puncture the transfer case, causing a hole inside. Through this hole, transmission fluid leaks, running the transfer case dry quickly.
Loose transmission pan drain plug
The drain plug is attached to the oil pan and serves as a seal to keep the transmission fluid in the pan. It is also useful when draining oil from the pan. If it is loosed, it will cause transmission oil to leak out from the oil pan straight to the ground.
The leak is more apparent when the car is parked uphill because the plugs cannot withstand the pressure developed at this position. So if you notice transmission fluid leak on the ground, check the drain plugs.
Leaky dipstick tube
Another reason for transmission leaks when parked on an incline is a leaky dipstick tube. The dipstick tube is attached to the transmission via a hole in most cars. If it isn’t pushed in properly into the hole, it can cause transmission leaks.
Leaking kick-down cable
The transmission kick-down cable shifts the transmission gear to the highest gear. However, this shift is only possible with the help of a linkage like the O-ring or rubber seal found inside the cable. If these linkages are faulty, it can result in transmission leaks when parked on incline.
Faulty lead plate connector bushing
The lead plate connector bushing seats on top of the transmission. This bushing is found between the electrical connector and the lead plate and houses two O-rings. If these rings go bad, it can cause the transmission to leak fluid.
Signs of transmission oil leaking
The following are tell-tale signs of a leaking transmission fluid.
- Grinding gears due to inadequate lubrication.
- Slow acceleration due to delay in changing gears.
- The transmission fluid also helps cool the transmission, so leakages will result in overheating transmission.
- Puddle of transmission fluid on the ground where your car is parked.
- Strange noises due to metals grinding against each other because of inadequate lubrication.
How to fix a leaky transmission
Fixing transmission leak requires you first to know why it is leaking. However, you are likely to do some of the following after proper diagnosis. And if you can’t do them yourself, visit a credible repair shop.
- Change leaky, cracked, or worn transmission seals and gaskets.
- Ensure transmission oil doesn’t exceed the fill line on the dipstick. If it is, drain some out.
- Tighten the bolts holding the transmission pan to the transmission. For transmission case leaks, replace or fix the leaking transmission pan.
- Fix leaky transfer case. If, however, it has leaked for a long, the transfer case may have been damaged. In this case, you need to change the whole transfer case.
- Tighten the loose drain plug but don’t over-tighten it.
- Push the dipstick deeper into the hole with a large screwdriver or mallet. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace bad O-rings
- Replace damaged O-rings and rubber seals.
How long does it take to fix a transmission fluid leak?
Fixing a transmission leak can take a few hours and even days, depending on the cause of the leak. If the leak is caused by a component that can be fixed with sealants, it can take a few hours to fix.
But when it involves changing seals and removing, flushing or rebuilding the transmission, it can take the whole day or even days to finish. Moreover, fishing out the leading cause of the leaks takes time.
How much does it cost to fix a transmission fluid leak?
The cost to fix leaking transmission fluid lurks between $150 – $200 and more. However, the amount you spend depends on the number of elements causing the leaks and their severity.
For example, if you’re fixing items like gaskets, seals, drain plugs, fluid lines, etc., you may spend within the amount as mentioned above. However, if you’re dealing with a more complicated issue that requires removing the transmission, you may pay around $1000.
Many factors can cause transmission fluid leak when parked on incline, the most obvious being broken seals followed by a leaking transmission pan. It can also be caused by residual oil on the transfer case or a hole in it.
While knowing what causes a transmission leak is paramount, fixing it is more important. Else, it may lead to drivability issues and total transmission damage, invariably leading to expensive repairs.