I just looked at a 2002 Dodge Ram conversion van for sale, with a V-8 engine and 110k miles on the clock. I was not able to drive it on the road because it had no plates, but I was able to drive it around the parking lot, and it seemed to drive fine in first gear and reverse.
The one thing I saw that concerned me was brown transmission fluid. I pulled the dipstick, and the fluid on the stick was brown, just like motor oil. If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed the stick was the engine oil dipstick based on the look of the fluid. Not black, just light brown. I smelled it, and it smelled pretty much like engine oil, too. Not particularly burnt, just a hint of sulfur as though smelling normally used engine oil.
Now, I’m not an expert, but as far as I know, transmission fluid is supposed to be red, not brown. Does brown fluid mean the transmission is (a) definitely toasted, (b) maybe toasted, but OK if a highway road test proves that it shifts normally, or © some other condition?
This is a nice van and I would buy it if it weren’t for the brown transmission fluid. If I took it to a local mechanic before buying, is there any way he could determine whether or not the transmission is damaged? Or would he tell me to forget about buying the van?