Transmission Fluid Basics for Car Owners

Transmission Fluid Basics for Car Owners

Want to be able to drive a car for years to come? Many car owners overlook the need for basic maintenance to ensure optimal gearbox performance. Get insights on what to know about transmission fluid and when to change it out.
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Is It Necessary to Change the Transmission Fluid?

Yes. However, an owner may accumulate 100,000 miles on their vehicle before this is required, according to service manuals. Owners planning to hold on to a vehicle or have purchased a used car will need to change out the fluid at some point. Leased car owners may never have to do so.

It is important to get this work done as not doing so can force an owner to have to replace the transmission itself. There is no reason to skimp on this relatively affordable service requirement. Replacing a transmission is much more expensive for a car owner.

When Does Transmission Fluid Need to Be Changed?

Service providers suggest reviewing the service intervals as recommended by the manufacturer. There is quite a range when it comes to intervals for changing transmission fluid. For some vehicles, fluid may need to be changed every 30,000 miles. There are new vehicles with automatic gearboxes wherein the fluid does not need to be changed at all. Owners should check the owner’s manual for more information and maintain records of any services performed.

Should Owners Have the Fluid Drained or Flushed?

Transmission fluid is required for cooling and lubrication in a vehicle. Owners can expect the fluid to become contaminated from minuscule particles from components in the transmission. Owners should allow a mechanic to remove this fluid from the vehicle to maintain a healthy transmission and reduce the potential for damage from the dirty fluid.

Draining a car or truck’s transmission is less likely to dislodge particles and sludge. On the other hand, power-flushing may result in such an issue in cars with high-mileage. The problem that can result is that clogs can form in a vehicle after the addition of clean fluid. It is best for car owners to learn more about their particular vehicle and when to flush or drain a transmission for the best results.

What Are Signs that It Is Time to Change Transmission Fluid?

Have a mechanic check the fluid in the transmission when it comes in for routine maintenance. It can be hard for a car owner to decipher when the fluid might be dirty or need to be replaced. A mechanic may need to examine the car on a lift. Dirty fluids may be in the transmission even though levels look good. Signs of bad transmission fluid include:

  • Brown or black transmission fluid as it darkens with age;
  • Dirt or particles in the fluid; and
  • A burned odor.

Those looking to DIY should expect it to be a more complicated process than changing engine oil. A lift, jack stands or ramps are generally required to access the transmission. Average car owners may find it easier to leave this task to their mechanic.

Work with Your Trusted Mechanic

Talk to a mechanic to learn more about when to change transmission fluid or to discuss potential signs. The reliability of a vehicle’s performance depends upon the state of its transmission.


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