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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Kia Forte SE with barely 12K miles. This past week, I noticed I have brown transmission fluid. To me and a few other "technicians" I know including the technician at Kia who initially checked it for me, this should not be and is a matter of concern. However, to the local Kia Dealership Service Manager, this is not a matter for concern and feels I have nothing to worry about, but was unwilling (perahps unable) to explain why it was not an issue needing immedate attention.

Has anyone experienced brown ATF with so few miles? Did you get it checked at Kia and if so what was the response and/or action? If not an issue, can you explain why?
 

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^^^^rofl:d:d upper decker!!!! NEWAYS..... I also went to the dealership because i saw shrapnel in my ATF. They said it was normal. So I went to a second dealership and they said the same.
 

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Sorry to see that you got some stupid replies- Your transmission might be overheating - that is a sign of brown transmission fluid. I would call Kia corporate if your dealer is not willing to do something about it.
 

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I have a Kia Forte SE with barely 12K miles. This past week, I noticed I have brown transmission fluid. To me and a few other "technicians" I know including the technician at Kia who initially checked it for me, this should not be and is a matter of concern. However, to the local Kia Dealership Service Manager, this is not a matter for concern and feels I have nothing to worry about, but was unwilling (perahps unable) to explain why it was not an issue needing immedate attention.

Has anyone experienced brown ATF with so few miles? Did you get it checked at Kia and if so what was the response and/or action? If not an issue, can you explain why?
Does the ATF fluid smell burnt? How brown is it? Any chance you can take an image of what the fluid looks like? Overheating can cause fluid to burn but browning can also be that the fluid is removing debris inside the transmission (dirt, metal, etc).

Is the transmission shifting any different? Usually really dirty fluid will cause the tranny to shift poorly and other performance issues as well.
 

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Which transmission is this the 5 or 4 speed?
 

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fecal matter
Thank you for your posts...your point has been taken...we're almost laughing too...

OP, there is a consensus that brown tranny fluid by itself is not bad...I have rebuilt several auto trannies myself and I have a problem with brown tranny fluid, however, my daughter's 06 Spectra had this from early on and we got the same reaction from the Kia service (that it was ok). It did not smell burnt so the dealer did not even recommend changing it -- since it was under warranty and they had documentation that we brought it in she just continued to drive it. We never did have the tranny replaced and it was still working fine when she traded it in on her '10 Koup EX -- it was like that for more than 4 years.

The point is that tranny is ok as long as the fluid doesn't smell burnt.
 

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I wonder if its some additive kia adds to there auto trans fluid?
not sure just a guess..

I know jeep used to use some special fluids for there 4wd quad trac system..
etc..
 

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Attention: Check your owners manual -- section 7 after the tranny information. There is a note that says the tranny fluid is red from the factory because they put a dye in it to identify it as tranny fluid and over time the fluid can turn brown -- this is normal it states! Check it for yourself!!!

So...again, unless it smells burnt it's probably ok...
 

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Attention: Check your owners manual -- section 7 after the tranny information. There is a note that says the tranny fluid is red from the factory because they put a dye in it to identify it as tranny fluid and over time the fluid can turn brown -- this is normal it states!
Least one person was smart enough to find the answer. Not all fluid is red. My old 2000 Elantra had brown tranny fluid, mechanic said that was the way it was supposed to be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Attention: Check your owners manual -- section 7 after the tranny information. There is a note that says the tranny fluid is red from the factory because they put a dye in it to identify it as tranny fluid and over time the fluid can turn brown -- this is normal it states! Check it for yourself!!!

So...again, unless it smells burnt it's probably ok...

Yes I read that, but the key there is that it does not comment on when it might turn brown, just that it will eventually turn brown. Must techs will certainly agree that it will eventually turn brown from use over an extended period of time. That is why most preventive maintenance minded techs will recommend changing ATF every 30K miles regardless and that is what the BG Protection Plan requires. But I have yet to come across a tech who finds brown ATF at 12K miles a good thing. And the Service Manager at Kia Autosport in Pensacola was unwilling or unable (I suspect the latter) to explain why he felt it was ok. I am going to do some additional research tomorrow and maybe I will find someone a little brighter who can explain why it is considered ok, if it is considered ok.
 

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Well... dunno if you call me 'brighter' or not, but I tend to kind of have a clue.

I'd like to see a picture of the 'brown' fluid. Brown is a pretty vague description, and yes, after 12,000 miles I would expect your fluid to have changed from the pretty bright red it is in the jug. Particles and smell are how I judge ATF since colour really has no bearing on the fluid's ability to do it's job.

When the fluid is dark with particles or has been burnt it's then not able to do it's job and that's a sign of trouble - although to be honest by the time the fluid is burnt the damage is already done inside and all the fluid condition does is help us to condemn the transmission.

@MatSim: That looks a little dark, but gear oil starts off a "honey/lime" colour, and doesn't take much to darken at all. Again, particles and smell are what you'll be looking for, here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well... dunno if you call me 'brighter' or not, but I tend to kind of have a clue.

I'd like to see a picture of the 'brown' fluid. Brown is a pretty vague description, and yes, after 12,000 miles I would expect your fluid to have changed from the pretty bright red it is in the jug. Particles and smell are how I judge ATF since colour really has no bearing on the fluid's ability to do it's job.

When the fluid is dark with particles or has been burnt it's then not able to do it's job and that's a sign of trouble - although to be honest by the time the fluid is burnt the damage is already done inside and all the fluid condition does is help us to condemn the transmission.

@MatSim: That looks a little dark, but gear oil starts off a "honey/lime" colour, and doesn't take much to darken at all. Again, particles and smell are what you'll be looking for, here.

Thanks for your input. Now if the service manager had said something along those lines with a little confidence in his voice I might have been more willing to listen. I will check tomorrow to see if there is a burnt smell. And are you talking particles as in something I can see/feel as I rub the fluid between my fingers or is there a means to test it for smaller micro-particles?
 

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^^^That's exactly what my daughter's '06 Spectra's tranny fluid looked like shortly after she bought it new. I had her take the car in and the technician AND service manager showed me the Kia information on brown tranny fluid. I wanted to have it changed but they talked me out of it -- it did not smell unusual, just looked brown. She traded it in this year on a '10 Koupe EX -- and the tranny was working fine -- as good as when she bought the car -- when she traded it in. The new owner hasn't had a problem either. It's just hard getting over something you've been used to for decades (red tranny fluid)!
 

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My '08 Rondo's trans fluid (4 spd auto) looked nasty brown & murky when I drained it at 40,000 miles. The drain plug magnet had a glob of particles also. I only added back the approx 4.2 qts to fill the trans. At 60,000 miles the fluid looked OK,but I drained/filled,drove 10 miles & drained/filled again for a pretty thourgh fluid renewal. Very little on magnet at 60K. The fluid looked good(red/not murky) at 100,000 miles,but I drain/refilled 1 time anyway. I THINK THE ORIG FLUID GETS NASTY LOOKING EARLY DUE TO MFG PROCESS/BREAKING-IN,& early fluid change AIN'T a bad idea. Hope the new SEALED 6-spd auto's fluid stays 'fresh'.
 

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To test for particles, I use a sheet of photocopy paper, and drip some fluid onto it from the dipstick. This gives a nice solid coloured and smooth background to tip the paper to the side and watch the fluid 'run' a little. If you've got a couple drops, then it'll only run for an inch or so, but it's enough. Then you can hold it up to the light and look 'through' the paper to see floaties, as well as looking 'into' the fluid to see if anything is there.

Now, something to be careful of is tiny air bubbles... they exist even in a transmission that has been stopped for hours, and can look like particles in the fluid... it's a natural thing and is expected. Be sure if you're going to jump up and down yelling about floaties in your fluid that they are actually there ;)

All this waving the paper around will give you a good sense of it's smell, too. Burnt fluid smells like exactly that - burnt rubber. Normal stuff has an almost sweet smell... it's hard to describe but if it's actually burnt then your eyes will almost water up and your nose hairs will want to fall out... there is a HUGE difference.
 

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Check your owners manual. Kia puts red dye in the trans fluid to differentiate it from other fluids. The dye is not permanent and the fluid will gradually change to a light brown. This is normal.
 
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