Automatic transmission fluid is flammable and will catch fire when hot enough.
Nearly all fluids you find in the engine compartment will catch on fire under the right temperature and conditions.
As the saying goes, possible but not probable, for those who like stats.
Can Transmission Fluid Catch on Fire?
The flash point of transmission fluid is 381.2 fahrenheit.
When you look at CITGO SDS about automatic transmission fluid it states:
- Flashpoint ; Open cup: 194°C (381.2°F)
- Lower & Upper explosive flammable limits; Not available
When you read Chevron’s SDS on automatic transmission fluid it states:
- (Cleveland Open Cup) 178 °C (352 °F)
- Autoignition & Explosive Flammability : Not available
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has is at rating 1 for Flammability.
So, will automatic transmission fluid catch fire? Technically, Yes.
When is Transmission Fluid Flammable?
So the circumstances that have occurred in real life where transmission fluid has reached a flammable point, is when a transmission fluid leak leaks onto a very hot exhaust pipe.
Sorry Ford lovers, but this has most commonly occurred on Fords.
What temperature does transmission fluid ignite?
So the common test used on transmission fluid is the Cleveland Open Cup test to determine flashpoint.
Feel free to read more about how this test works to determine flashpoint (really cool stuff!).
From what the SDS of different brands of automatic transmission fluid have stated, it varies a bit per brand.
Auto-ignition and and explosive data always say no data, so you don’t need to stress about that.
Here is a chart with some of the brands and there flashpoint temperature:
General Car Fire Tips
If you are ever in a circumstance where you see smoke coming from your vehicle, here are general tip’s of what to do:
- Stop car away from people/buildings
- Get yourself and other passengers out and away
- Determine whether to solve the issue or call for help. (Read here for things to consider)