Driving without transmission fluid

I have a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I bought in 2007 with 100,000 miles on it. No less than 3 months later, it started having trouble shifting and I ended up having to replace the transmission. When I drove the car away from the dealership that did the work, there was a weird noise coming from the engine whenever I pressed on the brake. Without going in to too much detail, I was young, traveling for work, and super stressed out over other things, so since the car was otherwise running just fine, I ignored it. About 2 years ago, (and another 100,000 miles later), I started noticing that it felt like the car was going to stall whenever I stopped with the car in drive (but not in park or neutral). The check engine light also came on, so I took it in to see what was up. They said that there was an issue with the evap pipes that they fixed and it felt better for a few days, but then went back to the way it was before. The check engine light came back on, they told me the same thing, and I had problems again a few days later. This cycle continued for about two years. The problem was troubling, but I never had any problems shifting and the car never actually stalled. A few months ago, however, it started having shifting problems, it sometimes stalled when I stopped in traffic or at stop signs and red lights, and it was very jerky while driving, sometimes revving itself without my foot on the gas. I pretty much wrote it off and started researching a new car. But then my boyfriend suggested he check the transmission fluid, and we discovered that it was totally empty! We bought some and filled it up, and it was like I had a brand new car. No more stalling, no more self revving, no more shifting problems. So how long did I drive without transmission fluid? How did my car even run without it? How much damage did I do by being totally ignorant? Why didn’t I have any? I should probably have someone check for a leak, right?

Yep, have them check for a leak but they charge by the hour so be concise.

All in all, you have been pretty lucky. You should have the fluid changed in the transmission about every 30k miles, do not flush, have the pan dropped, the filter changed and then new fluid. Make sure that who ever does this uses the correct fluid, not a universal one with additives. Find a good independent mechanic for this, preferably one who doesn’t own a flush machine.

If you are in the habit of “topping off” the gas tank, getting every last drop in it, you need to stop that, that is what is messing up your “evap pipes”. Gas expands when it comes out of the ground so you need the head room in the gas tank to keep the gas from getting into your purge valve and charcoal canister.

Since you have not taken care of this vehicle very well, and you have a lot of miles on it, it would be a good idea to look out for a suitable replacement, but learn from this one and take better care of the next one. In the meantime, you should have all your fluids checked, coolant, brake fluid, differential gear oil etc.

I don’t top off my gas tank. I have read that a clogged fuel injector can cause jerkiness and revving, but the guy I was taking it to kind of ignored me. Should I ask about it again?

I have definitely learned that I do not know nearly enough about taking care of a vehicle. Live and learn, right?

If I read your post correctly it seems you have no issues now?
I don’t think you hurt the transmission, just take the car in for a full service now and again and pay attention to fluid levels.

This transmission might die tomorrow or it might last the rest of the time you keep the car. All you can really do at this point is to make sure you have fresh fluid in there, address any leaks, and keep your fingers crossed.

As you’ve probably learned by now, you need to do what the owner’s manual says if you want the best chance of avoiding expensive repairs.

" But then my boyfriend suggested he check the transmission fluid, and we discovered that it was totally empty! "

" So how long did I drive without transmission fluid? "

" How did my car even run without it? "

I don’t know how long it was low on fluid, but I do know it was not totally empty of fluid.
The car is driven by fluid. No fluid = no drive.
Low fluid, it will drive, but it will have “problems.”

How much fluid was added to fill it up ?


We put 3 quarts of fluid in; I think I read that it holds 5. When we first checked the dipstick there were like, two little drops on it, but that was it.

An automatic transmission holds more than 5 quarts and running the transmission even a couple of quarts low can damage it.
You can reasonably expect the transmission to give up at some point and if it were my Jeep I would certainly not be taking any long distance trips in it.

The pan holds 3 1/2 to 4 quarts. Total capacity is 10 quarts.
When the fluid level gets that low a “loss of prime” fault is often set in the Transmission control module. This may be one of the reasons the check engine light was on. It doesn’t take long to burn the clutches if the fluid is allowed to run low. How does the fluid smell now? Rancid?

i don’t think it was empty just very low ,if the dipstick is dry you will need at least 2 qts add 1 at a time and you need to have the jeep in the “N” and running when checking the fluid.