How Often Do I Need to Replace the Transmission Fluid?

The basic definition of a transmission is the part of a vehicle that transfers the power from the engine to the wheels. How a transmission works depends on whether or not the vehicle is an automatic or a manual.

Manual vs. automatic transmissions

A manual transmission has a set of gears that are lined up on a shaft. As the gearshift and clutch, located inside the car, are manipulated by the driver, the gears move into place. As the clutch is released, power from the engine is transmitted to the wheels. The amount of power, or torque, is dependent upon the gear that was chosen.

With an automatic transmission, the gears are lined up on the shaft, but the gears change by manipulation of the gas pedal inside the car. As the driver presses on the gas pedal, the gears shift up automatically depending on the current speed. If the pressure on the gas pedal is released, the gears cycle down, again depending on the current speed.

Transmission fluid lubricates the gears and makes it easier for them to move as the process of switching gears is completed.

How often do I need to replace the transmission fluid?

Again, this depends on if the vehicle is automatic or manual. In an automatic transmission, there is higher heat produced, which means that there’s going to be more carbon produced, which will contaminate the transmission fluid. Over time, these contaminants will cause the fluid to thicken and no longer do its job effectively. Manufacturer specifications for automatic transmission fluid vary considerably, from 30,000 miles to never. Even if the user’s manual says that the fluid will last the lifetime of the car, the fluid level should be checked periodically, in case a leak develops.

In a manual transmission, the recommendations can also vary widely, but for different reasons. Most manufacturers suggest 30,000 to 60,000 miles as the point at which you should change the transmission fluid in a manual transmission. However, vehicles with transmissions that are under ‘high stress’ should change the transmission fluid every 15,000 miles. ‘High stress’ for a manual transmission would be situations such as being driven on lots of short trips where gears are changed more often. If you live in a city and rarely put any highway miles on your vehicle, the transmission is under high stress. Other situations include lots of mountain driving, and any period when a new driver is learning how to use a manual transmission.

Signs you should check your transmission

Even if you haven’t reached the mileage threshold indicated by the vehicle’s user’s manual, the transmission should be checked if the following symptoms are noticed:

  • If a grinding sound is heard from underneath the vehicle while the engine is running, but the car is not moving.

  • If you have problems shifting gears.

  • If the vehicle slips out of gear, or if the vehicle doesn’t move when the gas pedal is pushed.

Occasionally, the transmission fluid can become contaminated to such a level that it needs to be flushed before the manufacturer specifies.

No matter the type of transmission, changing the transmission fluid is not a quick process that can be taken care of with a wrench and a nozzle. The vehicle will need to be supported, and the old fluid will need to be drained, and disposed of properly. Furthermore, the transmission fluid filter and gaskets will need to be inspected. This is the type of vehicle maintenance that needs to be left to licensed mechanics rather than attempted at home.


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Luke

17 years of experience
134 reviews
Luke
17 years of experience
Ford F-150 V8-5.4L - Transmission Fluid Service - Austin, Texas
Luke is very knowledgeable about automobiles and his professional, attitude, and personality are AAA+. Thanks for the great job Luke!
Ford Mustang - Transmission Fluid Service - Austin, Texas
Super friendly and helpful! Worked quickly and efficiently, and made sure that everything was solid before he left. Great mechanic!

Collins

12 years of experience
469 reviews
Collins
12 years of experience
Nissan Altima V6-3.5L - Transmission Fluid Service - Atlanta, Georgia
He was prompt and knowledgeable. Kept me informed throughout the process. Would highly recommend him again to anyone.
Buick Lucerne - Transmission Fluid Service - Atlanta, Georgia
Collins was great! He was very friendly and knowledgeable about the issues with my car. Thank you, Collins!

Jason

32 years of experience
500 reviews
Jason
32 years of experience
Subaru Legacy H4-2.5L - Transmission Fluid Service - Santa Clara, California
Jason is very knowledgeable & will fix your vehicle on what's needed...I will definitely have Jason work on my vehicle again. Thanks Jason for everything, including my non turbo look alike turbo?樂 Thanks!
Toyota Camry - Transmission Fluid Service - Santa Clara, California
Friendly, excellent and knowledgeable service! 2 thumbs up for Jason! He sure knows his stuff and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure car safety and even explained everything he did as he was doing it. Highly recommend him!

Jesse

16 years of experience
58 reviews
Jesse
16 years of experience
Nissan Altima L4-2.5L - Transmission Fluid Service - Daytona Beach, Florida
He was very knowledgeable. Told me what he would recommend and what can be held off. He did a great job on my car. Thank u Jesse
Dodge Stratus - Transmission Fluid Service - Daytona Beach, Florida
Jesse is an expert mechanic He arrived and started work right away. He performed his job in a professional manner, made repair recommendations that insures the upkeep of regular maintenance and safety. I appreciate his work very much.

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