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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Theodore

17 years of experience
1794 reviews
Theodore
17 years of experience
Ford Fusion L4-1.6L Turbo - Transmission Fluid Service - Lynnwood, Washington
Once again. Theodore, fast, efficient, and effective. A professional mechanic with vast experience. I would recommend 10/10.
Mitsubishi Lancer - Transmission Fluid Service - Bellevue, Washington
He is quick, efficient! Reached well before appointment time. Completed my service for old change, transmission fluid change, brake fluid flush, tire rotation in 2 hours! Didn't talk alot, or oversell more services. I would highly recommend Theodore!

Greg

23 years of experience
624 reviews
Greg
23 years of experience
GMC Terrain V6-3.0L - Transmission Fluid Service - Mesa, Arizona
Great mechanic. Greg does good work and he explained everything in terms that I understood. Would definately recommend!
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Transmission Fluid Service - Laveen, Arizona
Omg I would give him a  if I wa able to! He is so thorough honest and very professional! I am so glad I chose you all to maintain my car. I have referred 3 of my friends! Greg is my Guy I will like to have each anytime I need repairs!! Thank You Greg for EVERYTHING!! I really appreciate all you done! And then some! Stay Safe!

Andrew

16 years of experience
657 reviews
Andrew
16 years of experience
Ford Mustang V6-3.8L - Transmission Fluid Service - Portland, Oregon
Andrew was on time, polite, knowledgeable and I had avery good experience all in all. He did beautiful work and I would definitely recommend him to friends and family.

Michael

22 years of experience
391 reviews
Michael
22 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 L4-2.5L - Transmission Fluid Service - Montclair, California
It was a pleasure having Mike work on my car. He went above and beyond to make sure I was completely satisfied. I would not hesitate to hire Mike to work on your car. He’s honest, knowledgeable, reliable, and very friendly. He’s everything you would want your mechanic to be. I highly recommend Mike. Thanks!

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