ATF fluid color and change observations

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Jul 30, 2003
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A few weeks ago our '16 Town and Country transmission started whining. Apparently the filter was clogged. Changing it stopped the noise (knock on wood).

During my subsequent pan drops (I'm on my 5th one) I noticed that the color on the stick can be very misleading. The fluid on the stick looks clean and pink. Draining it, it looks very dark, almost black in a clear plastic bottle and this is after 4 pan drops of 4 to 5 quart refills. It looks much cleaner as it's draining out of the transmission but is still very dark compared to new fluid. Hopefully it's not just eating itself up. Shifts fine so far though.

I wonder how many folks are driving around on bad looking ATF that looks clean on the dipstick.
 
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Oct 6, 2020
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A few weeks ago our '16 Town and Country transmission started whining. Apparently the filter was clogged. Changing it stopped the noise (knock on wood).

During my subsequent pan drops (I'm on my 5th one) I noticed that the color on the stick can be very misleading. The fluid on the stick looks clean and pink. Draining it, it looks very dark, almost black in a clear plastic bottle and this is after 4 pan drops of 4 to 5 quart refills. It looks much cleaner as it's draining out of the transmission but is still very dark compared to new fluid. Hopefully it's not just eating itself up. Shifts fine so far though.

I wonder how many folks are driving around on bad looking ATF that looks clean on the dipstick.
The same thing happens to me, but with oil. The oil dipstick on my lawn mower looks clean, but it comes out black.

I doubt many people bother to have their transmission fluid changed.
 
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You can get Chrysler aftermarket licensed ATF easily. Color can be misleading. Just change it often and you'll be set.
 
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I think it has more to do with light transmission through a liquid than the color itself. The more the fluid, the harder for light to get through and the darker it looks.

How many miles on he T&C? Seems like a lot of pan drops in 5 years and still having issues.
 
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wipe the trans fluid from dipstick to a clean white paper towel. the red translucent color will separate from scorched clutch and other particulates. Look on utoob for examples,
 
Joined
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Atlanta,GA
A few weeks ago our '16 Town and Country transmission started whining. Apparently the filter was clogged. Changing it stopped the noise (knock on wood).

During my subsequent pan drops (I'm on my 5th one) I noticed that the color on the stick can be very misleading. The fluid on the stick looks clean and pink. Draining it, it looks very dark, almost black in a clear plastic bottle and this is after 4 pan drops of 4 to 5 quart refills. It looks much cleaner as it's draining out of the transmission but is still very dark compared to new fluid. Hopefully it's not just eating itself up. Shifts fine so far though.

I wonder how many folks are driving around on bad looking ATF that looks clean on the dipstick.
This is why color is not indicative of the remaining service life of the fluid.
 

Silver

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Jul 30, 2003
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Here is what I'm wondering - how little dirty atf could make the new atf appear "dirty"?
Yeah that's what puzzles me. And again, I compared the two in a bottle and even after 4 pan drops and about 17 quarts, is still coming out very dark. This is after no more than several miles driven between drops. It doesn't seem to be material but I really don't know. The bad thing is if I can't get it clean then I can't monitor it for changes in color.

I wonder if it turns dark as it heats up, but that' doesn't make sense to me either.
 
Last edited:

Astro14

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For most of the transmissions I’ve owned, a pan drop gets less than half of the fluid out. You have serviced the transmission, but you’ve not exchanged anywhere near all the fluid.

If you’re concerned about fluid quality or contamination, I would do a pan drop followed by a cooler line exchange. You’ll be able to see the color change (not indicative of life, but indicative that the fluid has been completely exchanged) if, like me, you use a clear PVC line for the old fluid.
 
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