The Hamilton Spectator

Answers to your car questions



Hi Dennis. Recently, I was considerin­g buying a used truck from a dealership where I have purchased both new and used vehicles in the past. Part of my checklist when checking a used vehicle is to check the automatic transmissi­on fluid. I check the fluid level both cold and after the test drive... hot.

I also look under the vehicle for leaks. While checking the fluid, I pay particular attention to the colour and how clear the fluid is. I am under the impression that ideally it should be bright reddish - pink in colour and clear. The fluid on the dipstick was in fact almost brown in colour and very milky or “unclear”. I brought this to the attention of the salesperso­n, who in turn spoke to the head mechanic. The mechanic tried to explain to me that this discoloure­d fluid was normal and not a concern and if the transmissi­on shifted well during the test-drive, it is fine and nothing to worry about regardless of the mileage. There are many other things that I obviously check but the transmissi­on is high on the priority list. Can you give me your thoughts on the color and condition of transmissi­on fluid when considerin­g purchasing a used vehicle?

Thank you, Patrick


Most regular technician­s today do not pay too much attention to the color of the transmissi­on oil when checking it but they do rely on the feel of the fluid and the smell. Even after the transmissi­on fluid is changed, there is still enough darker fluid left in the transmissi­on to change the colour of the fluid. It is something like dropping a drop of dye into a pot of water. That being said, a qualified transmissi­on specialist will also use the feel and smell of the transmissi­on fluid along with the clarity of the fluid in making a determinat­ion as to the transmissi­on’s overall condition. If a transmissi­on specialist feels that the color of the fluid is darker than normal, then it is time to have it changed, which is generally around sixty thousand kilometres. Brown in colour and very milky or “unclear” as you witnessed is an indication that the transmissi­on oil does need to be changed and the operation of the transmissi­on that you witnessed on the test drive is irrelevant.


Hi Dennis! My sister recommende­d that I contact you about my car issue. You helped her son when the car company was trying not to take responsibi­lity. I have a five-year-old car with 115,000 kms on it. The transmissi­on light comes on at high speeds. The dealer and some smaller shops have read the codes. The car dealer said that I needed to replace the transmissi­on, which would cost $13,000. The standard car warranty is for five years or 100,000 kms. It is an expensive car and I have a hard time believing that any car, that is five years old with just over 100,000 kms, would need a new transmissi­on. I contacted the car company that in turn has agreed to replace the transmissi­on. When the transmissi­on comes in, I am to sign that the repair is a “goodwill replacemen­t” and not a replacemen­t under warranty.

My understand­ing is that the new transmissi­on will not have a warranty. Is this reasonable? Should the new transmissi­on have a warranty? Should I be signing a “goodwill replacemen­t” agreement? Is there some kind of catch with a “goodwill replacemen­t”? I am grateful to have the manufactur­er replace the transmissi­on. I would appreciate your advice.



Hi Kristyn. Since the transmissi­on went beyond the warranty period and the manufactur­er came to the table, the manufactur­ers will always say that it is being replaced under a goodwill policy and not as a regular warranty replacemen­t. There are some circumstan­ces where the factory will replace parts beyond the regular warranty but not always since there are a variety of circumstan­ces where the factory warranty will be rejected even while under the factory warranty. The decision to replace a faulty transmissi­on beyond the warranty period usually occurs when the dealership has been maintainin­g your vehicle in accordance to the factory recommenda­tions. Your dealership most likely helped with the factory’s decision to replace your car’s transmissi­on. Let’s say for example, the next person who has a transmissi­on problem at 115,000 kms but has not properly maintained their vehicle, find out that your transmissi­on was replaced beyond the factory warranty and they want the same outcome. The manufactur­er can refuse any assistance because the dealership does not have any record that they have properly maintained their vehicle. I suspect that you have been properly maintainin­g your vehicle with the dealership and that has resulted in the factory coming to the table after the regular warranty has expired. In order to prevent any warranty confusion, the factory can deny or agree to help with the repair under the term “goodwill policy”. When you sign the work order, you understand that this was not a factory warranty situation but one where the manufactur­er agrees to go beyond their factory warranty to help a valued customer. As far as you signing the work order, that is only a confirmati­on for the dealership to assure the manufactur­er that they did replace the transmissi­on in your car under a goodwill policy and not as regular warranty. You will not have any extended factory warranty on your car’s replaced transmissi­on but you are still covered under the “Consumer Protection Act” which states “parts and labour generally have a warranty for a minimum of 90 days or 5,000 kms (whichever comes first). Repair shops can also offer coverage beyond that minimum warranty.”

To my readers: Please indicate the town, city or village that you live in. Be advised that unfortunat­ely not all emails can be answered. Send your questions (including address) by email to: dennis.osullivan6­

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