How Long Does an Automatic Transmission Last?

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Replacing a transmission, automatic or manual, is one of the most costly repairs a car owner may have to schedule. The transmission transfers power from the engine to the wheels to move the car in the desired direction. Automatic transmissions are intended to simplify driving itself by using a more-complex design. Automatic transmissions include intricate circuitry and complicated electronic functions. This leaves more room for malfunctions and failure points versus the simpler manual transmission, but simplicity can be a lifesaver in the busyness of today.

How Long Does an Automatic Transmission Last?

Time and mileage vary between car drivers and how they use or abuse their transmissions. Still, typical automatic transmissions last around 150,00 to 200,000 miles or approximately 7 years. Cases exist in both extremes; extreme longevity and early failure.

Many car owners unintentionally ignore their transmission health until it’s too late. Here are 5 practices to get the most life out of your automatic transmission:

1. Regularly Service Your Transmission

Either on your own, if you have automotive maintenance experience, or by hiring a mechanic, have your transmission’s oil and filter changed. As with an oil change, refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for exact service intervals. In general, change the oil and filter every 20,000 to 30,000 miles or every 18 months. Newer cars will also want to have their automatic transmission flushed of sediment and debris every 40,000 to 50,000 miles or every 2 years.

2. Regularly Check Your Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is designed to remove heat from the internal components of the transmission and take it away from moving parts. Low fluid levels can cause the transmission to overheat and cause irreversible damage. Depending on how much you drive, the automatic transmission should be checked every 2 to 4 weeks with the engine running.

3. Use Synthetic Transmission Fluid

Before switching, you should be using the type of transmission fluid recommended by your owner’s manual. However, heat eventually breaks down the organic compounds in regular automatic transmission fluid and makes it less effective. More heat-resistant, synthetic fluid will benefit your aging automatic transmission over time. It’s especially helpful to those who frequently drive with heavy loads, in heavy traffic, or through the mountains.

4. Invest in a Transmission Cooler

Heat is the enemy of the transmission. Damage builds up over time from extended heat exposure to seals, metal surfaces, and electronic parts. Whenever the temperature in the transmission goes over 200-degrees, each 20-degree notch decreases the service life by half. A transmission cooler can lower the operating temperature significantly and can more than double the time it takes to wear out.

5. Practice Good Driving

Smart driving techniques can enhance the longevity of your automatic transmission. Keep in mind the following 3 practices:

  1. Avoid aggressive driving. Aggressive driving from a stopped position can increase heat, as does continuous acceleration and deceleration. Driving more-relaxed can ease stress on the transmission and yourself.

  2. Don’t drive before your engine and transmission warm up. In cold weather, let the car idle until the engine’s RPM lowers before putting it in gear. The transmission fluid is thicker when it’s cold, and won’t move from the bottom to the top as effectively. Let it warm up to better do its job of preventing friction damage.

  3. Don’t shift gears while the vehicle is moving. Automatic transmissions still involve shifting between reverse and drive. Though it may be tempting to peal out of a parking spot or make a quick 3-point turn, let the car come to a complete stop before shifting to avoid damaging the internal gears.

Transmissions are designed to withstand a certain level of heat exposure. Following intentional driving practices can help extend the life of your transmission. Be sure to find a qualified mechanic to diagnose any suspected automatic transmission problems, particularly one knowledgable in your car model’s specific needs. The right mechanic for transmission repair can save you time and money in the long run.


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Torrieanto

11 years of experience
525 reviews
Torrieanto
11 years of experience
Volkswagen Jetta - Transmission Fluid Service - Saint Petersburg, Florida
Torrieanto was very polite and efficient. My fiance was home while Mr. Torrieanto was working on the car. He was very nice and did a great job. I'm so glad to have my car back working. I appreciate everything Mr. Torrieanto did for me. I will definitely be booking him for ANY and ALL further work to be completed on my car. He was very skilled with my Jetta. I'm glad I found this website and Mr. Torrieanto. I will suggest him to ANYONE and EVERYONE looking for work done on their car!
Buick Verano - Transmission Fluid Service - Largo, Florida
Excellent! Torrieanto is very personable and EXTREMELY knowledgeable! I thought I knew something about cars, but not like this guy! His work is very clean and efficient, and I will definitely ask for him when I next need work done.

Stephen

31 years of experience
29 reviews
Stephen
31 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Transmission Fluid Service - Broomfield, Colorado
Stephen arrived early for my appointment. He is very knowledgeable, professional, and personable. He went right to work on my car that was needing a transmission fluid change and was very thorough and careful about the process. He did an excellent job, cleaned up after he was finished. There wasn't one drop of transmission fluid on my garage floor when he was finished with the job. Stephen gave me a report about the inspection of my car and of what he found out about the health of the transmission. I will most certainly have Stephen back again when my vehicle needs to have a repair in the future. Great job!
Acura TL - Transmission Fluid Service - Denver, Colorado
Midas tried to say I needed the idle air control valve replaced after they put in my catalytic converter, although you just replaced it. Either way hopefully it will pass emissions.

Xavier

10 years of experience
23 reviews
Xavier
10 years of experience
Toyota Tundra - Transmission Fluid Service - Frisco, Texas
Xavier showed up on time, completed the work, and even noticed a small crack in a part and went to the store to get a replacement so it wouldn't cause trouble in the future.

Nicholas

10 years of experience
304 reviews
Nicholas
10 years of experience
Acura TL - Transmission Fluid Service - Raleigh, North Carolina
Excellent! He was very straightforward and very helpful. I’m really glad that I had him take a look at it. The car drove a bit better but I hope it lasts.

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