REPAIRING MY CAR > Essential Advice on Maintaining Your Transmission

Essential Advice on Maintaining Your Transmission

2013-12-02 13.39.15Do I Need to Have My Transmission Fluid Changed?

Before I dive into the subject of transmission care, I want to remind everyone that I’m not a car mechanic. I am just a car fanatic. I provide common sense advice on car repairs.

The first step in transmission care is to periodically check the fluid level. Yes, it can be a little bit greasy, so wear some gloves. There’s a dip stick for the tranmission  just like the engine oil. The need to change an automatic transmissions fluid is debatable. The best thing to do is refer to the owner’s manual for your car. You can also call your vehicle’s dealership and ask what is recommended by the factory. Intervals vary by manufacturer. Some call for intervals of 50,000 to 100,000 miles. Some can even go 150,000 miles between fluid changes. However, I have also seen some shops suggesting it be done every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.

One place that often recommends this service before it is necessary is quick lube shops. Before you let some shop sell you on this service, make sure you know the factory requirements. This also gives you time to shop around for the best price. One thing to remember is that the fluid does break down over time – but how fast can depend on how the car is used.

How Transmission Fluid is Changed

Some shops will recommend a rather simple way to change the fluid. They simply pull the drain plug, remove the transmissions oil pan, replace the filter screen if required or equipped, and refill with fresh fluid. The only drawback to this method is that it only drains about half the fluid out. Some of it is retained inside the unit. My preferred method is to do a power flush. A machine is used to pump out and replace all of the old fluid. One word of caution: Be wary of a shop that suggests a solvent flush. Putting a solvent into a transmission can lead to the breakdown of the transmission seals and gaskets. This method can lead to premature wear, leaking, and damage to moving parts.

Recommended Service Intervals

As I mentioned, the first place I go to check on servicing my automatic transmission is my owner’s manual. Here you will find what the factory recommends. Since service needs vary by manufacturer, it is best to get an idea of what they recommend. Once again, the thing to keep in mind is that transmission fluid does break down over time. How much depends on how you use the vehicle. If you regularly commute in heavy traffic or use the car as a tow vehicle, you should check the condition of the fluid more often.

Most transmission fluid is red. As it breaks down it can turn brown. The best way to gauge the needs of a car’s transmission is to regularly check the fluid level and color. I like to do this every time I get my oil changed. I have to fight my OCD nature to check it every two weeks – it must be a car nut thing.

So there you have it – my thoughts on transmission service. I regularly check my fluid levels and its condition. I opt for a power flush when service is recommended. Knowledge is key here. No one wants to get ripped off on a car repair.

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