Type a transmission fluid

Type a transmission fluid: This is a question that a customer who is interested in buying or working on a vintage car often asks one of our San Diego transmission experts. They may notice on the dipstick or owner’s manual that the car requires automatic transmission fluid, called Type A, which is no longer available.

This is because Type A transmission fluid was put into older vehicles produced since the 1950s to lubricate automatic transmissions in the car engine. But since Type A fluid contained whale oil, which typically breaks down at high temperatures, newer car models no longer contain it.

Beginning in the 1970s, manufacturers began building transmissions that required different versions of automatic transmission fluid that were more environmentally friendly in terms of reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency. These days, if you’re trying to restore a classic car, it’s pretty hard to find an older version of ATF, like Type A.

the modern version

If you find yourself in this position, ask one of our transmission experts what kind of transmission fluid you should use instead of the discontinued one. For example, the old Type A was found to be nearly identical to a 50/50 mix of Type F (Ford) and Dexron (GM).

If you’re unsure about the precise way to create this modern Type A transmission fluid, one of our expert technicians can help. Particularly if you’re working on an older car, the more attention you pay to details like this, the better.

Regular Transmission Maintenance

Our mechanics are qualified and trained to work on all transmissions, both automatic and manual, in almost all makes and models of automobiles. Whether you own a classic car or a newer one, the best thing you can do to extend the life of your engine is to ensure that you adhere to regular maintenance requirements.


Once the car’s combustion engine generates power, the transmission system transfers it to the wheels.

The power transmission process requires continuous friction between the moving metal parts of the transmission system. This causes the deterioration of its components and results in costly repairs. That is why using transmission oil is crucial.

The choice of transmission fluid depends on several factors, including the car manufacturer and the type of transmission. Here’s what you need to know about it.


Transmission oil (transmission fluid) lubricates the metal parts and bearings of your vehicle’s transmission. That way, you ensure these components work in harmony and keep them safe while on the move. Above all, it protects the gear system from overheating.


Vehicle transmissions can be manual or automatic. Each requires the application of the appropriate fluid.

Let us learn more about the difference between manual and automatic oil:


Manual transmission oil has been around since the evolution of the first vehicles. Today these fluids are used in older car models.

Manual transmission fluid should contain quality anti-wear and charging additives to enhance system protection.

Manual transmission oil is thicker than its automatic counterpart. As expected, we should not use it in vehicles with automatic transmissions. Even newer model cars with manual transmissions also use automatic fluid.

Manual transmission oils are usually brown to amber in color and have a stronger odor. Before you buy it, be sure to read the manufacturer’s manual.


Automatic transmission oils play a critical role in the lubrication of automatic transmissions and power supply systems. They also serve as torque converters.

Automatic transmission fluids are thinner than their manual counterparts and are red. However, the color of the lubricant can vary depending on the manufacturer.

The color coding system helps users easily differentiate transmission oils from motor oil and other fluids in the vehicle. The translucent red also makes it easy to identify transmission fluid leaks and contaminants.


A transmission system consists of a clutch, a gearbox, a drive shaft, a differential, and a live shaft. There is continuous metal-to-metal contact between these parts, which causes damage.

To maintain the efficiency of your car’s transmission system, you must lubricate it with a suitable oil. Valvoline has a wide range of lubricants for different automotive transmission types and components, such as:

 One Axle: Valvoline’s High Grade Valvoline Axle Oils

Automatic gearboxes: Valvoline ATF and Valvoline Gear Oils GL-4 oils

A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox: Valvoline CVT oils

A Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) gearbox: Valvoline DCT transmission oils

Modern gearboxes, transfer cases and differentials: Valvoline TDL Total Driveline Oils

DCT hybrid gearboxes and hybrid automatic gearboxes: Valvoline Hybrid DCT and Valvoline Hybrid ATF fluids

Automatic transmission fluids have multiple applications. In addition to passenger car transmission oils, you can also find agricultural, construction, heavy-duty, and hydrostatic transmission oil types.


One such solution is Valvoline UNITRAC oil that lubricates hydraulic systems, hydrostatic transmissions, transmission systems, wet brake systems and power take-offs.


Motor oil and transmission oil are not the same. Here’s why you shouldn’t use motor oil in your transmission.


As their very name implies, these types of fluids are designed for different operating environments.

Motor oil is an essential part of the internal combustion engine. Its main task is to reduce friction between the moving parts of the engine. In addition to engine lubrication, it also improves sealing, prevents corrosion and mitigates the appearance of sludge.

Transmission oil, on the other hand, lubricates transmission parts. It lubricates its moving components, cools the transmission and improves the performance of hydraulic systems. It also has anti-corrosion additives and improves sealing.


Detergent ingredients in motor oil contain by-products of combustion. However, they can degrade over time, resulting in faster wear on your gear system. The use of motor oil also causes inadequate lubrication, overheating and even irreversible damage to the transmission.


Like any other type of oil, transmission oils are made up of base oil and additives. These additives increase its effectiveness and provide maximum protection to the transmission system. Here are some of its most essential features that you should consider:

  1. Low viscosity – transmission fluids can flow freely and lubricate different system components
  2. Viscosity stability: They maintain the desired thickness under various temperature conditions.
  3. Heat Resistance: Due to their low viscosity, transmission oils also have a lower boiling point. That is why they need to be enhanced with heat stabilizers. These high performance transmission fluids act as coolants, removing heat from the transmission system.
  4. Protection Against Deposit Buildup: Transmission fluids consist of detergent and dispersant additives. They reduce the buildup of deposits between system components that can compromise power transmission.
  5. Foam Prevention: Antifoam additives prevent air from entering the drive system and impairing its performance.

Keep your vehicles gears shifting smoothly with the right fluid

The transmission is one of the most important and complex systems in a vehicle. It is responsible for literally making a car move by receiving power from the engine, converting it into torque, and transmitting this rotational power to the wheels.

Transmission repairs are notoriously one of the most expensive and complicated repairs a vehicle owner can face. Therefore, keeping the transmission in good condition and using the correct transmission fluid is critical to the safe and efficient operation of any modern vehicle.

How does a transmission work?

The transmission uses a series of gear ratios to keep a vehicle’s engine spinning at an optimum rate (not too slow and not too fast), while also providing the wheels with the proper amount of power they need to start, move, and drive. stop the car.

The transmission acts as a power distribution panel for the car: it increases torque for acceleration away from a stop, keeps the engine from overworking at highway speeds, and disconnects engine power from the powertrain to allow the car to run at low speed. idle without moving.

There are 4 types of transmissions

Manual transmission

The simplest and oldest type of transmission is the trusty manual. The driver controls the gearbox using a foot controlled clutch to engage and disengage the motor from the wheels and a manual gear stick to change gears.

Automatic transmission

While manual transmissions are mechanically simpler, automatic transmissions are easier to use. Instead of the driver changing gears with a clutch and shifter, an automatic transmission uses a very complex torque converter and a series of computer-controlled sets of gears, clutches, and brakes to automatically shift up and down the gears. down. The complexity, number of moving parts, and the computer system required for automatic transmissions can lead to costly repairs if not properly maintained.

automated manual transmission

Like a manual transmission, an automated manual also employs a mechanical clutch. However, the clutch is automated by electronic, pneumatic or hydraulic controls. Sometimes referred to as a “Direct Shift Gearbox” (“DSG”) or “Sequential Manual Gearbox” (“SMG”), this transmission allows fully automatic forward gear changes or manual shifts via the gear selector or via through buttons or paddles. On the steering wheel. A dual-clutch transmission is an example of this type of transmission.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

The CVT is similar to an automatic transmission, but it works with a completely different mechanism. The CVT has no gears at all; instead, it uses a system of belts and pulleys to produce an infinite range of relationships. The car’s computer decides how to adjust the pulleys to create the optimum ratio for the particular driving situation.

What does transmission fluid do?

In order for your transmission to work properly, none of its metal parts can rub against each other. Like motor oil, transmission fluid acts as a lubricant between the moving parts of the transmission to facilitate smooth operation and keep the transmission lubricated, clean, cool, sealed, and most importantly, power transferred. .

Transmission fluid should typically be changed every 30k-100k miles depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations. It will need to be changed more frequently in cars that are driven under high stress conditions, such as frequent stop-and-go city driving, towing heavy loads, or regularly going up and down hills.

How to choose the right transmission fluid

Since the transmission is one of the most complex systems in a vehicle, choosing the correct fluid is critical to preventing damage and ensuring the best performance and fuel economy. Today’s modern transmission fluids are often blended with synthetic base oils to offer better performance, with increased resistance to heat, cold, oxidation, friction, and shear. Here are the most common types of transmission fluids and what makes them different:

Dexron VI (GM) / Mercon V (Ford) / ATF+4 (Chrysler)

GM, Ford, and FCA (formerly Chrysler) offer the three most common ATF products on the market. They are exclusively licensed to these three car manufacturers and are specifically formulated for the new transmission technology. These fluids can often be used in new import vehicles as well, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Dexron VI/Mercon LV

Dexron VI is GM’s newest ATF. It is a synthetic blend, formulated specifically for the new six-speed automatic transmission because it meets the requirements for tighter internal tolerances and increased shear strength. Mercon LV is the low viscosity specification for Ford vehicles with six-speed automatic transmissions.

Mercón V

Mercon V is similar to Dexron III and is the most common Ford ATF on late model Fords. Mercon V should never be used in a transmission that requires Ford Type F.

Chrysler ATF+4

Chrysler ATF+4 is another synthetic blend that was introduced to the market in 1998. It can be used in most Chrysler vehicles with conventional automatic transmissions built in 1998 or earlier, with the exception of minivans built before 2000. It is not compatible with Dexron or Mercon fluids. ATF+4 is backwards compatible with ATF+3 fluids, another synthetic blend made in 1997, and can be used in vehicles today with the exception of unconventional transmissions.

Kendall® VersaTrans® LV ATF is a low viscosity, fully synthetic ATF approved for use in passenger car and light truck automatic transmissions requiring a Ford MERCON LV or GM DEXRON-VI fluid. It is also recommended for use in Toyota vehicles where a type WS fluid is specified and in many newer import vehicles. Kendall Classic ATF® can also be used in domestic and import vehicles no longer under warranty where the OEM previously specified a GM DEXRON®-III H or Ford MERCON® fluid.

Synthetic Transmission Fluid for Multiple Vehicles


Multi-vehicle transmission fluids are designed for use in a variety of types of automatic transmissions and have grown in popularity in recent years. They are formulated with the latest additive technologies and often incorporate synthetic base oils. Transmission fluids for various vehicles are not licensed by any specific auto manufacturer.


Kendall VersaTrans ATF is a partially synthetic transmission fluid specially designed for automatic transmissions and can be used in most passenger cars and light trucks. It has been extensively field tested for use in most North American vehicles and a wide variety of European and Japanese vehicles. Kendall VersaTrans ULV ATF can also be used in most passenger cars and light trucks except that it is a fully synthetic Ultra Low Viscosity (ULV) product.


Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) fluid


It is becoming more common for automakers to use continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) due to their fuel economy benefits. CVTs are similar to an automatic transmission, but they use a system of belts and pulleys instead of gears. Because of this, CVTs have very different fluid requirements than a typical stepped gear transmission. Most CVT transmission fluids also use synthetic base oils.


Kendall CVT FLUID is designed for use in most Honda, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Nissan (except Altima Hybrid) and Suzuki vehicles with CVT transmissions. Not recommended for eCVT or most chain-driven CVT transmissions, or any non-CVT transmission. Kendall VersaTrans CVT Plus Fluid is designed for a wide range of out-of-warranty vehicles that require CVT step or fluid, helping shops reduce inventory and minimize the risk of misapplication.

If you find this post about the Type a transmission fluid helpful to you and you want to know more about car fluid knowledge, please check more on our website Auto Oil And Fluid. Thank you for your interest!



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