Automatic transmission fluid
Automatic transmission fluid is one of the most important fluids in your vehicle. Without it, things come to a standstill – in the truest sense of the word. You can avoid costly transmission problems by changing the fluid regularly and following your car manufacturer’s instructions.
What is the best automatic transmission fluid?
Whether you own a vehicle with manual or automatic transmission, you need good transmission fluid to avoid problems when changing gears. Changing your vehicle’s transmission fluid is important to ensure that certain components function smoothly. If you want a great driving experience, you need to find the best transmission fluid available on the market.
Such products have important functions for vehicles, so you need to choose the right product. In this article, we have reviewed the best available products to help you make your choice. We have also provided you with a buying guide to help you determine which product is ideal for your own vehicle.
The challenge is knowing which of the dozens of products available is right for the job. How do you find the best automatic transmission fluid for your vehicle?
Everything you need to know about automatic transmission oils before the next change is due, just read on.
Automatic transmissions require a special lubricant with special properties called Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF). When automatic transmission was still a curiosity, only a few manufacturers supplied the entire market. Today, most car manufacturers make their own transmissions, and the best automatic transmission fluids can facilitate the operation of any transmission.
What is the fluid for automatic transmissions for?
ATF does a lot for your transmission. This includes tasks such as lubrication, fluid pressure, cooling, oxidation protection, seal conditioner, rust protection, and much more. However, lubrication, fluid pressure, and cooling are its main functions, because an automatic transmission relies on lubrication to keep the parts moving smoothly, fluid pressure to activate the transmission belts and clutch plates to change gears, and cooling capacity to prevent overheating of the transmission, which causes most transmission failures.
Although special oils are also used in manual transmissions (whether engine oil, transmission oil, or in some cases ATF), they do not require nearly as much care and attention as automatic transmissions. This is because, although the main problem with manual transmissions is fluid contamination over time, automatic transmission fluid fails under normal use (due to the higher operating temperature of the automatic transmission) and when contaminated. Therefore, as you might expect, it is important to choose the right fluid because it performs all these important functions every time you start your car.
How often should you change the transfer fluid?
The time required to change the transmission oil varies from one vehicle model to another. It is therefore important to know the car manufacturer’s recommendation on how often the vehicle needs to be serviced.
While other cars and trucks have different ranges when the transmission fluid should be changed, it usually ranges from 30,000 miles to more than 100,000 miles.
However, in newer vehicles, the transmission fluid is designed to last for the life of the vehicle.
In addition, harsher conditions under which you drive can affect the frequency with which you need to change the transmission fluid. These include longer journeys at high speed, driving in cold weather, and even towing trailers.
Best automatic transmission fluid
Top Rated Automatic Transmission Fluid
VALVOLINE Maxlife Transmission Fluid
- 4,8 Rating
- Dexron VI, Mercon V and Mercon LV compatible
- Works for most European cars
Castrol Transmax CVT Transmission Fluid
- 4, 9 Rating
- Improved wear protection for a longer service life of the gearbox
- Superior technology enables longer transmission life
Best ATF Transmission Oil
Best Automatic Transmission Fluid
1. ACDelco Dexron VI Automatic Transmission Fluid
2. Castrol Transmax ATF Black CVT Transmission Fluid
3. VALVOLINE VV324 Maxlife Full Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
4. Mopar ATF-4 automatic transmission fluid
5. Honda DW1 Automatic Transmission Fluid ATF
6. Valvoline DEXRON/MERCON Automatic Transmission Fluid
7. Genuine Ford Fluid XT-10-QLVC MERCON-LV Automatic Transmission Fluid
8. Honda DW-1 Automatic Transmission Fluid
9. Genuine Ford XT-5-QM MERCON-V Automatic Transmission Fluid
10. Red Line D4 Automatic Transmission Fluid
11. Mobil 1 Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
12. Genuine Nissan Fluid Nissan Matic-D Automatic Transmission Fluid
13. Toyota Genuine Fluid Dexron III Transmission Fluid
14. Mobil 1 Automatic Transmission Fluid
15. Lucas Oil Semi-Synthetic Multi-Vehicle Automatic Transmission Fluid
16. Royal Purple Max ATF Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
17. Idemitsu ATF Type HK (SP-III) Automatic Transmission Fluid for Hyundai/Kia
18. Idemitsu ATF Type J (Matic J) Automatic Transmission Fluid for Nissan/Infiniti
Best rated synthetic automatic transmission fluid
Best Dexron VI Transmission Fluid
Buy ACDelco Dexron VI Automatic Transmission Fluid
ACDelco automatic transmission fluid is backwards compatible with the former DEXRON ATF and can be used as a replacement fluid for older vehicles/transmissions. This is due to the later DEXRON, which offers improved friction resistance, foam control, oxidation resistance and more.
This transmission fluid is fully approved and registered by GM and is recommended for all GM models from 2006 and later.
Overall, it is ideal for older vehicles and offers relatively good value for money, but not as cheap as the Castrol alternative. Nevertheless, it is by far one of the most popular automatic transmission fluids in the USA and offers a number of benefits that others cannot compete with.
- Backwards compatible with earlier DEXRON automatic transmission oils and can be used as a significantly improved replacement for older vehicles/transmissions originally fitted with earlier DEXRON fluids.
- Improved performance over previous DEXRON fluids in terms of: Friction resistance, viscosity stability, aeration and foam control and oxidation resistance
- Potential for improved fuel economy and longer transmission life
- Allows extended emptying intervals
- Price is slightly too high
Buy Castrol Transmax ATF Black CVT Transmission Fluid
Castrol Transmax CVT, formulated with Smooth Drive Technology and a high quality full synthetic base oil, is designed to suit most continuously variable transmissions. Its superior technology enables longer transmission life. It is suitable for use in most passenger cars equipped with push-belt transmissions. It ensures safety in a wide range of vehicles.
- Improved friction resistance for smoother drive and longer gear life
- Improved wear protection for a longer service life of the gearbox
- Superior high temperature protection to effectively resist oxidation
- Superior technology enables longer transmission life
- Enhanced friction durability for a “smoother for longer” driving experience
- Do not use this liquid if you are interested in maintaining your warranty, but if you no longer have a warranty, do not hesitate to use this liquid.
Buy VALVOLINE VV324 Maxlife Full Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
Valvoline uses Group III paraffinic oil as the basis for its synthetic ATF MaxLife. Its additive package is so refined that Valvoline MaxLife is suitable for virtually every modern automatic transmission application – except ATF+4 and CVTs. Because it is synthetic, MaxLife has an extended drain interval.
MaxLife’s additives are not only compatible with transmission seals, but also contain an agent that conditions the seals to prevent leakage. It also contains cleaning agents to remove deposits from friction-sensitive components, while the other additives also prevent deposits.
- Meets or exceeds more manufacturer specifications than any other on this list
- Dexron VI, Mercon V and Mercon LV compatible
- Works for most European cars, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Saab
- Fully synthetic base oils offer better thermal properties than conventional oils
- This fluid does not meet OEM specifications
Best atf+4 Transmission Oil
Buy Mopar ATF-4 automatic transmission fluid
This product is an approved automatic transmission oil for all vehicles that are filled with ATF+4 at the factory. Check dipstick for fluid identification. It is also a “Fill for life” quality fluid. Can also be used on the manual transaxle NV T350 and Quadra-Trac this is the perfect replacement transmission fluid if your service manual requires a change. Remember that the automatic transmission fluid can be considered the lifeblood of your vehicle and is used to transmit power in the torque converter and to provide pressure to the various clutches and belts of the transmission. It is also used to clean, lubricate and cool the transmission components.
- Genuine Mopar OEM products are the rigid replacement for your Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge.
- Brand new, original Mopar part, as it best suits your vehicle
- Keep your vehicle in top shape with Mopar maintenance. By keeping track of your maintenance schedule and replacing parts as needed, your vehicle will go the extra mile for you.
- Most Mopar parts are covered for 24 months/unlimited miles.
Honda Automatic Transmission Fluid
Buy Honda DW1 Automatic Transmission Fluid ATF
This transmission oil meets all standard requirements for Honda vehicles. However, this does not mean that you cannot use it for other models. The Honda is exactly the OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer has good compatibility because you can use it for any vehicle. It offers a higher performance level compared to similar transmission oils within the same price range.
- It is compatible with all types of Honda models.
- It has a new and improved formulation that meets Honda’s high quality standards.
- It has reduced fluid friction and offers improved fuel economy.
- Some customers claim that they do not see the difference or improvement
Best Mercon ATF / Dextron ATF
Buy Valvoline DEXRON/MERCON Automatic Transmission Fluid
At half the price of other options, this Valvoline ATF is a very cheap buy. Its performance is considerable, with some great formulation-based qualities. If you live in a colder climate, you will love the easy flow formulation that allows for good cold start shifting. This property also minimizes sludge and paint deposits and keeps your transmission-performing better for longer.
As it is a mineral oil-based formulation, it will not quite match the performance of the synthetic version, but the lower price makes it a winner in terms of value. If you are looking for something synthetic, you may want to look at other Valvoline gear oils.
- Great formulation with easy flow to ensure good cold start displacement
- Minimizes sludge and paint deposits
- Works well in custom rigs
- Great price
- As a mineral-based formulation, it will not quite match the durability and performance of synthetics.
Ford Automatic Transmission Fluid
Buy Genuine Ford Fluid XT-10-QLVC MERCON-LV Automatic Transmission Fluid
Motorcraft MERCON LV is manufactured with high viscosity, high quality hydro processed base oils and specially developed performance additives that provide excellent shifting characteristics at high and low ambient temperatures and protect the transmission from vibration. This fluid has excellent heat, oxidation and shear stability and good low temperature flowability. It provides wear protection and inhibits the formation of rubber, sludge, paint and foam. It also prevents rust and corrosion. It is colored red to facilitate leak detection.
- MERCON LV is a high-quality automatic transmission oil
- Recommended by Ford Motor Company for use in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles requiring MERCON LV fluid
- OEM product
- This product also offers excellent performance in electronically controlled automatic transmissions.
- Price is too high
Honda DW-1 ATF Oil
Buy Honda DW-1 Automatic Transmission Fluid
Honda ATF DW-1 Fluid is a synthetic oil, which has high characteristics and properties. Transmission fluid is manufactured exclusively with the use of improved base oils and additives, which guarantees good soft shifting, excellent low-temperature resistance and viscosity resistance to high temperatures. Due to the use of this Honda gear oil the operating time of the transmission is increased. There is also a reduction of operating costs. The period of operation of seals increases, and longer intervals of change of technological service. Transmission components wear is minimized. The operating period of the synchronizers is extended, so that shifting becomes more efficient and smoother. When temperature changes, viscosity remains optimal. Transmission fluid is resistant to significant temperature and mechanical influences.
- Reduce vibration and gear noise
- Protection against wear and tear
- Heat dissipation through friction
Best Mercon V ATF
Buy Genuine Ford XT-5-QM MERCON-V Automatic Transmission Fluid
High quality original transmission fluid for automatic transmissions. Recommended for use in transmissions of Ford, Lincoln, Mercury cars. Ford Motorcraft Mercon V is designed to provide increased, compared to previous generations of fluids, anti-wear and anti-vibration protection of the transmission, as well as improved low-temperature properties to facilitate the operation of the gearbox in cold weather.
- Recommended by Ford Motor Company for use in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles that require either MERCON V or MERCON fluid
- Do not use in applications where MERCON SP, MERCON LV, Continuously Variable Chain Transmission Oil, Motorcraft Premium Automatic Transmission Oil, FNR5 Automatic Transmission Oil or
- Motorcraft MERCON V is suitable for use as a hydraulic oil in a wide range of industrial applications requiring a hydraulic oil of viscosity class ISO 46 or SAE 20W.
Buy Red Line D4 Automatic Transmission Fluid
The Red Line 30504 D4 automatic transmission oil design offers improved thermal stability and superior shift performance even at low temperatures compared to petroleum ATFs. It has a special formulation that provides lower viscosity at low temperatures for faster shifting. It has balanced frictional properties that allow smooth, soft shifting.
The cold viscosity of this product is much lower, which enables the improved switching performance. Red Line 30504 D4 Automatic Transmission Fluid also offers improved stability. With this product, you can better protect your vehicle from varnishing while extending the life of your transmission. All these features combined with a reasonable price make it one of the best.
- Offers excellent sliding properties at low temperatures.
- Allows operation even at high temperatures by painting the couplings and valves.
- Offers lower viscosity.
- Your vehicle’s shifting operations will be smoother and more consistent after using this transmission fluid.
- The liquid quickly darkens in color
Best Synthetic ATF Fluid
Buy Mobil 1 Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF meets the requirements of various manufacturers, including GM’s Dexron III and Ford’s Mercon V. However, it does not meet the more recent requirements of GM’s Dexron VI.
As a full synthetic fluid, Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF has a remarkable cold-temperature flow and a high viscosity index of 176. It is also inherently stable at high temperatures, although it contributes to the overall cooler operation of the transmission.
- Excellent flow at colder temperatures
- Extremely stable base of group III with additives of group IV
- Promotes quiet shifting and cooler transmission temperatures
- Does not meet the requirements of Dexron VI
- One of the more expensive ATFs on this list
Nissan Automatic Transmission Fluid
Buy Genuine Nissan Fluid Nissan Matic-D Automatic Transmission Fluid
Nissan products are manufactured to the same high standards as your Nissan vehicle. They are developed through performance and durability testing by professionals.
Nissan ATF Matic D gear oil shows good antioxidative properties due to the content of oxidation inhibitors, prevents the formation of varnish deposits, prevents corrosion of the unit and helps to extend the life of automatic transmission due to its excellent anti-wear and anti-corrosion properties. It has excellent friction properties, which guarantee silent operation of the transmission.
- Exactly the original manufacturer’s fluid that came with your vehicle; use it where Nissan Matic-D fluids are required in Nissan, Infiniti and other brand vehicles.
- Smoother movement at low temperatures and maintain proper pressure in hot weather
- Changing the Nissan Matic-D transmission oil within the suggested maintenance period will improve the performance and durability of your Nissan vehicle
- The bottles are not supplied with a tin foil seal
Toyota Automatic Transmission Fluid
Buy Toyota Genuine Fluid Dexron III Transmission Fluid
Toyota Genuine Parts Transmission Fluid is exactly the fluid with which your vehicle was supplied by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM). When you choose an original OEM fluid, you can rely on the high quality and effectiveness of the product and brand without having to guess whether the product will work in sequence with your vehicle. Protecting your investment is important and choosing the right fluids can be a challenge. So do not risk another minute looking for and buying something that might work. Stick to what you know and choose genuine OEM fluid.
- Specially formulated by Toyota for Toyota vehicles
- Provides high quality motor efficiency
- Genuine Toyota fluids: The long-lasting, high-performance fluids
Buy Mobil 1 Automatic Transmission Fluid
Mobil ATF 3309 is an exceptionally high performance lubricant that meets OEM specifications for use in certain slip-controlled automatic lock-up transmissions. Mobil ATF 3309’s unique formulation is designed to provide excellent transmission lubrication in specified slip-controlled automatic transmissions. These outstanding performance features result in significant operational benefits, including excellent lubrication properties for quiet operation and smooth shifting in approved transmissions, controlled friction properties for smooth and efficient power transmission in all normal temperature ranges, helps control transmission shaking and ensures excellent vehicle drivability.
- Excellent lubricating properties for quiet operation and smooth shifting in approved gearboxes
- Controlled friction characteristics for smooth and efficient power transmission over all normal temperature ranges
- Helps to control transmission shakes and provides excellent vehicle drivability
- Helps extend gear life based on excellent wear control
- Long fluid life based on excellent oxidation resistance
Buy Lucas Oil Semi-Synthetic Multi-Vehicle Automatic Transmission Fluid
The Lucas Oil Multi-Vehicle ATF provides today’s transmission with excellent oxidation stability, foam resistance, rust and corrosion inhibition, wear protection and heat resistance while providing smooth shifting and eliminating rattling.
- Enables smooth shifting
- Excellent heat resistance
- Excellent seal conditioning
- Recommended for use in new and older vehicles
- Suitable for Japanese and European transmissions
- Compatible with synthetic and conventional fluids
Best synthetic automatic transmission fluid
Buy Royal Purple Max ATF Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid
Replacing a factory-filled, semi-synthetic ATF with a full synthetic replacement can lead to dramatic results. Royal Purple claims that its ATF reduces operating temperatures by up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which can double the life of gearbox components.
As a synthetic liquid, Royal Purple Max ATF has a low coefficient of friction at higher temperatures and shows high shear stability. It is compatible with the transmissions of most modern vehicles.
- Maintains viscosity up to the upper extremes of transmission temperatures
- Compatible with most modern transmissions
- Meets the specifications of Dexron III, Mercon V, ATF+4, Allison C-4, Honda ATF-Z1, Mazda ATF-MZ and M III, Toyota T-III and T-IV and many other manufacturers.
- Works in most ZF transmissions
- Does not meet Dexron VI specifications
- The most expensive liquid on this list
Buy Idemitsu ATF Type HK (SP-III) Automatic Transmission Fluid for Hyundai/Kia
Formulated to meet the specific requirements of Hyundai and KIA vehicles with conventional (non-VVT) transmissions up to model year 2010.
Recommended for service filling in all Hyundai and KIA automatic transmissions where ATF SP-III is specified. This fluid can also be used in older Mitsubishi, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles where ATF SP-III is specified
Fuel consumption requirements and more sophisticated electronic control systems have made automatic transmissions not only more complex but also unique to each vehicle manufacturer. Idemitsu is the factory-filled supplier of Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) for most Asian imports. Idemitsu’s application specific ATF products are designed to match the friction materials and performance requirements of the various vehicle models for which they are manufactured.
- Improved transmission protection
- Extended service interval coverage
- Increased fuel savings
- Improved driving performance
Buy Idemitsu ATF Type J (Matic J) Automatic Transmission Fluid for Nissan/Infiniti
Idemitsu’s ATF formulations are exclusively designed to meet the needs of speciﬁc Asian automotive transmission applications. Each formula is uniquely different in terms of viscosity, oxidation prevention, friction resistance, ventilation control and wear protection. Since an ATF touches every component of a transmission, internal material compatibility is critical and Idemitsu provides the assurance that each ATF formulation has been tested and approved by Idemitsu for acceptable material compatibility.
Idemitsu ATF and CVT transmission fluids are factory filled quality products that meet the most stringent requirements of all Japanese brands.
- Precisely designed frictional properties ensure smooth shifting and excellent anti-shock performance
- Excellent resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdown provide long fluid life and enhanced protection
- Provides excellent cleanliness and keeps the transfer free from sludge and paint deposits
- Advanced anti-wear technology provides maximum protection for gears and bearings
- Excellent seal compatibility and conditioning reduces the risk of fluid leaks due to shrinkage, curling, and cracking of the seal
- It maybe slightly slippery in cold weather
What makes the modern ATF so special?
The best automatic transmission fluid must not only defeat oxidation but also not foam and must not deform the seals in the transmission or react with the various metals in the housing. It must also allow the friction surfaces of the clutch to engage without undue slippage.
To meet these requirements, manufacturers use chemical additives that make each ATF formulation unique. The additive package also includes viscosity modifiers to prevent fluid thinning at high temperatures and friction modifiers to facilitate shifting.
To complicate matters, manufacturers require that ATF must not dissolve and change its properties beyond 100,000 miles or more. Of course, operating conditions will affect the life of ATF.
The cooler operating temperatures offered by synthetic ATFs can make a big difference in component life. The best automatic transmission fluids usually claim to improve the mileage of the vehicle fuel, but fluid renewal will usually do so.
Types of fluids for automatic transmissions
There are two basic types of automatic transmission oils. Conventional (or normal) automatic transmission oils are made from natural oils combined with antioxidants and corrosion inhibitors. Synthetic automatic transmission oils are artificially produced chemical polymers that perform the same functions.
Synthetic ATFs are more durable and resistant to the harmful effects of heat in modern transmissions. Since almost all synthetic ATFs are compatible with traditional ATFs (you can mix both as long as the synthetic ATF is of the same quality), synthetic ATFs are beginning to dominate. However, there are a large number of older vehicles still on the road and there are special fluids that are suitable for them.
What is the difference between the ATF formulations?
There are many different types of ATF, and each car company has its own requirements. The manufacturers do not make ATFs, but license the names of their specifications to oil companies. The oil companies are generally free to develop additive packages to meet the requirements.
The major American car companies each have their own licensed ATFs. General Motors is currently working on its Dexron VI specification, while the modern Ford specification is Mercon V. Chrysler uses ATF+4 and the difference between these fluids is mainly in their friction modifiers.
Mercon ATF used to allow more component friction at lower speeds, while Dexron’s modifiers allowed more friction at higher speeds. Otherwise, there is little difference between the two, and the best automatic transmission fluids meet the requirements of both specifications.
European and Asian car companies usually have their own specifications, but there is a large overlap in these markets. However, car owners should never assume that an ATF is right for their vehicle. Due diligence may be required, including a review of manufacturers’ and oil companies’ literature.
Prices for fluids for automatic transmission
Automatic transmission fluids are generally supplied in quarts or gallon bottles. Quarts are often supplied in a six-pack. Both sizes are not necessarily cheaper, but a Quarter bottle is easier to handle if you just refill.
For both traditional and synthetic automatic transmission fluids, you pay between $20 and $30 per gallon.
Changing a transmission costs thousands of dollars. Buy the automatic transmission fluid your vehicle needs. A small investment provides long-term reliability.
What is the best automatic transmission fluid to use?
Okay, okay, so what is the best automatic transmission fluid for your car? The answer may be a little obvious, but it should be the ATF recommended by your car manufacturer (you can find this information in your car’s owner’s manual). This is because the ATF recommended by the manufacturer provides all the features your transmission needs for the make and model of your particular vehicle.
ATF manufacturers add different additives to their fluid depending on the specific transmission model it is intended for. Of course, this can be more difficult to find if you have had the transmission replaced. You must find the gearbox model and contact the manufacturer to find the most suitable ATF.
- Check the level of your transmission fluid regularly. If it is low, do not forget to top it up with the recommended type of fluid up to the indicated mark so that everything runs smoothly.
- To check the fluid level of your gearbox correctly, make sure that the engine is warm, as this type of fluid expands when heated. Adding a little liquid at a time will prevent overflow.
- Changing the gear oil in a do-it-yourself installation can be uncomfortable. Make sure that you have a large enough collection tray to keep the dirt away from the garage floor.
- Approximately 4 to 6 liters of new gear oil are required for a proper change. If you make the change yourself, make sure you know how to properly drain and clean all necessary components to prevent damage to the transmission.
- Remember that each time you change the transmission oil, you should carry a new filter and pan gasket or RTV seal, depending on the make and model. This will ensure that all components will function smoothly again.