Transmission Fluid: Smell - what does it tell? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Transmission Fluid: Smell - what does it tell?


June 28, 2004
Reaction score
City, State
Long Beach, CA
Year, Model & Trim Level
1x'91/2x'94/1x'98 V8 AWD
I have two Exploreres, both with a non-functional transmission. So I'm trying to get into the entire topic and find out what's wrong and how to fix them.

I've collected some repair manuals and work my way through all that literature, but there's one thing I came across where I can't find good info on. I'm talking about the smell of the tranny fluid.

I read about a burned smell as an indicator for mechanical malfunction and due to that to expensive repairs. So I tried and found out that the fluid actually smells burned.

Now I'd like to know what causes the fluid to smell that way... Hope you can help me here.

Greetings to you from Austria. I have been to Switz and Germany but I still want to go to Austria sometime!

The burned smell can mean that the fluid has been exposed to high temperatures over a long period of time, and it's protective qualities are probably almost null. Probably time to change it, if it smells burned.

What causes it to smell burned? I'm not sure..probably a combination of worn clutch material and other metal debris, and after all, transmission fluid *is* oil, so it's gonna smell oily...

Hi Rhett,
Next time you're visiting our "hood", bring your Explorer along. There aren't too many around but the owners of the few that can be found here are well organized and always like to meet others from around the world :)

Today I had a chance to work on my other Explorer which I bought from a Ford dealer who told me the tranny was completely non-functional. I filled in a Gallon of fluid and the car drives again...

The fluid of this Explorer didn't smell burned (wee, ther was a lot missing and so it's hard to tell how the remains were smelling). I'm getting more and more into thinking that it wasn't necessary to get the tranny of my first Explorer rebuilt although the fluid didn't smell well. I still think, just the speed governor stuck or maybe a problem with the vacuum system had occurred. However, I'll have to pay 2 Grands because my machanic already startet to rebuild the tranny...