What Metal Shavings in Transmission Fluid Mean

If you checked your transmission pan and found what looks like metal shavings or fragments, you’re probably concerned about your transmission. After all, metal shavings can be a sign of grinding and strain beyond normal wear and tear. How can you tell whether you should be concerned about what you’ve found?

While metal shavings in transmission fluid can certainly be a bad sign, normal wear and tear will produce some harmless shavings. There are a few indicators of whether or not the situation requires immediate transmission work. Here’s what you need to know about keeping metallic remnants out of your transmission fluid.

Metal shavings in transmission fluid can either be a result of normal wear and tear or a sign of deeper issues. Learn the differences and how to distinguish them here. #CopelandInternational

What’s Normal to Find in Transmission Fluid?

If your engine and transmission are running normally, you will find some metal powder in your transmission pan. The key term here is “powder”. The entire pan and especially the built-in magnet might be coated in a metallic powder that results from typical wear in your transmission. If this powder is the only sign of metal shavings you find in the transmission pan, don’t worry! This is completely normal. Your transmission is working just fine.

Pro Tip: Check the magnet in your transmission drip pan every so often. If it’s coated in fine, “fuzzy” metallic fragments, that’s normal. However, chunks and shavings indicate a problem.

What Indicates a Problem with Your Transmission?

While a fine powder is normal, chunks and fragments are not. How big are the metal shavings in the transmission pan? If they’re small enough they look like fuzz, nothing’s wrong. But if the fragments are large enough you can pick them up and feel their sharp edges, you have a problem. Stop using that vehicle until you’re able to get the transmission serviced or rebuilt entirely.

What Causes Metal Shavings in Transmission Fluid?

Your transmission needs as much maintenance and preventive care as the rest of your engine. If you forget to replace the transmission fluid or don’t do it often enough, the gears will begin to grind together and shave fragments from each other. The strain will wear out your transmission that much faster and, worse, the fragments can lodge themselves into hard-to-reach places and damage your vehicle even further. Your drip pan magnet can only catch so much. When you notice sharp metal shavings accumulating in your transmission fluid pan, it’s time to get your vehicle serviced as soon as possible.

Keep Your Transmission Working

Finding metal shavings in transmission fluid might seem like an emergency to handle immediately. While this isn’t always the case, if the normal powder starts turning into fragments and actual shavings of metal, something’s gone very wrong. And sometimes it’s hard to tell if what you’re seeing in the pan is normal. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Call an expert to verify if your vehicle needs attention.

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