Is Transmission Fluid Flammable?

Have you ever wondered about the properties of transmission fluid? Whether you’re a car enthusiast or want to understand more about how vehicles work, it’s only natural to have questions about the substances that keep your car running smoothly.

In this blog, we will explore one such question that has piqued the curiosity of many: Is transmission fluid flammable?

Join us as we delve into automotive fluids and uncover the truth behind this intriguing query.

Transmission Fluid

What Is Transmission Fluid?

Transmission fluid is a lubricating fluid that is used in automatic and manual transmissions of vehicles. It serves multiple purposes in the transmission system, including lubrication, heat dissipation, and hydraulic pressure generation.

The primary function of transmission fluid is to lubricate the various components of the transmission, such as gears, bearings, and shafts.

This lubrication helps reduce friction and wear between these moving parts, ensuring smooth operation and extending the transmission’s lifespan.

Is Transmission Fluid Flammable?

In general, transmission fluids are not highly flammable. The base oils used in their formulation have high flash points, requiring significant heat to ignite. This makes them relatively safe to handle and store.

However, it’s important to note that transmission fluid can still catch fire under certain circumstances.

One such circumstance is if the transmission fluid comes into contact with an ignition source, such as an open flame.

In this situation, the fluid can ignite and result in a fire. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise caution when working around open flames and avoid any spills or leaks that may come into contact with the transmission fluid.

Another factor to consider is the presence of oxygen. Like most flammable substances, transmission fluid requires oxygen to burn.

In a sealed transmission system with a limited oxygen supply, the risk of ignition and fire is significantly reduced.

However, if there is a leak or a breach in the system, allowing oxygen to enter, the flammability of the transmission fluid increases.

Can A Transmission Catch On Fire?

A transmission can catch on fire, although it is relatively rare. Transmission fires can occur for various reasons, including mechanical failures, fluid leaks, and electrical issues. Here are some potential causes:

Overheating: If the transmission fluid overheats due to excessive use, towing heavy loads, or a malfunctioning cooling system, it can ignite and cause a fire.

Fluid leaks: If a transmission fluid system leaks and comes into contact with hot components, such as an exhaust manifold or a catalytic converter, it can ignite and lead to a fire.

Friction and heat: If there is a mechanical failure within the transmission, such as a bearing seizure or a clutch malfunction, it can generate excessive friction and heat, which can eventually lead to a fire.

Electrical issues: Electrical malfunctions, such as short circuits, can cause sparks or arcing, which may ignite flammable materials in the transmission area.

What Happens When Transmission Fluid Burns?

When transmission fluid burns, it undergoes a chemical reaction that can have several consequences. Here are some of the effects when transmission fluid burns:

Smoke and odor: Burning transmission fluid emits smoke and a distinct odor. The smell is often described as a burnt or acrid odor, which can be easily noticed if a fire occurs.

Fire and damage: If the transmission fluid ignites, it can lead to a fire in the transmission area. The fire can cause damage to surrounding components, wiring, and other parts of the vehicle. It may also spread to other areas if not extinguished promptly.

Fluid degradation: The burning process alters the chemical composition of the transmission fluid, breaking down its lubricating properties. As a result, the fluid loses its ability to effectively lubricate the transmission components, leading to increased friction and wear.

Loss of fluid: If the fire is significant, it can consume the transmission fluid rapidly, leading to a loss of fluid from the transmission system. Insufficient fluid levels can cause the transmission to malfunction or fail.

Contamination: The byproducts of burned transmission fluid, such as ash and residue, can contaminate the transmission system. These contaminants can further contribute to increased friction, clogging of passages, and damage to internal components.

Is Transmission Fluid Hazardous

Transmission fluid can be considered hazardous if it is not handled or disposed of properly. Here are some reasons why transmission fluid is classified as hazardous:

Toxicity: Transmission fluid typically contains various chemicals and additives that can be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or exposed to the skin. Some components, such as certain heavy metals or organic compounds, can pose health risks.

Flammability: Transmission fluid is combustible and can ignite if exposed to an open flame, sparks, or high temperatures. This flammability makes it important to handle and store transmission fluid safely to prevent fires.

Environmental impact: If transmission fluid is released into the environment, it can contaminate soil, water sources, and ecosystems. The chemicals and additives in the fluid can harm plants, animals, and aquatic life.

Transmission Fluid Flash Point

The flash point of transmission fluid can vary depending on the formulation and brand. Flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which a substance gives off enough vapor to ignite when exposed to an ignition source.

While I don’t have access to specific flash point values for all types of transmission fluid, I can provide you with a general range.

Most conventional automatic transmission fluids (ATFs) have flash points ranging from approximately 150 to 190 degrees Celsius (300 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, it is important to note that this range can vary depending on the specific ATF formulation and its additives.

Does Transmission Fluid Burn Skin

Transmission fluid is a specialized lubricant that helps to cool and lubricate the moving parts of your vehicle’s transmission system. It is typically red or pink and has a distinct odor.

While transmission fluid is not designed to harm your skin, it can still irritate if it comes into contact with it.

The primary reason transmission fluid can cause skin irritation is due to its chemical composition. Transmission fluid contains various additives and detergents that can be irritating to the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin or any existing skin conditions.

Additionally, the high temperatures reached by the transmission system can make the fluid hot, which can potentially cause burns if it contacts your skin.

Is Transmission Fluid Corrosive

Transmission fluid is not generally considered corrosive. However, it can still cause damage or corrosion under certain conditions or if it comes into contact with incompatible materials.

Transmission fluid typically contains additives and detergents that help protect the internal components of the transmission system.

These additives are designed to prevent corrosion and provide lubrication. If the transmission fluid remains within the intended system and is not contaminated, it should not cause corrosion.

Can I Put Transmission Fluid In A Hot Car?

Adding transmission fluid to a hot car is generally not recommended, as it can pose certain risks. Here’s why:

Safety concerns: Adding transmission fluid to a hot car can be dangerous due to the potential for burns. The components under the hood, including the transmission, can become extremely hot during operation, and attempting to handle or access these components while still hot increases the risk of burns.

Inaccurate fluid level measurement: Transmission fluid level should ideally be checked when the car is at operating temperature.

Adding fluid to a hot transmission can make it difficult to accurately measure the fluid level, as the heat can affect the expansion of the fluid and result in an incorrect reading. It’s best to allow the transmission to cool down before checking and adding fluid.

Fluid expansion: When transmission fluid heats up during normal operation, it expands. If you add fluid to an already hot transmission, the fluid may expand further, potentially causing overfilling.

Overfilling can lead to problems such as foaming, reduced lubrication, and increased pressure within the transmission.


Transmission fluid is flammable. It can ignite when exposed to an open flame, sparks, or high temperatures. The flammability of transmission fluid makes it important to handle and store it with caution to prevent fires and related hazards.

Proper handling, storage, and disposal procedures should be followed to minimize the risk of ignition and potential accidents.

Additionally, it’s crucial to address any signs of transmission problems promptly to prevent fluid leaks or overheating, which could increase the risk of a fire.