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

16 years of experience
1344 reviews
Theodore
16 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Transmission Fluid Service - Seattle, Washington
Stand out honesty and professionalism. I have been "using" Theo as my mechanic for about 6-7 years now through YourMechanic - he is hands down the BEST! . This is the second car I have had he has worked on. He saved me a few times before with an older Jeep, now I have an older Camry. For me honesty is 100% most important thing about a mechanic - He is always super honest about what I need and don't need. It's refreshing to hear "your car is in excellent shape, as long as you keep up your maintenances, it will keep going for many years" even when it is 8 years old with 113,000 miles. Today I got tons of maintenance done in preparation for a cross country trip (transmission fluid change, oil change, air filter etc.). I didnt even know my headlight was out. He did all the services booked, then he found fuses blown that I didnt know about, replaced 1 that he had on hand, showed me exactly what I needed to get for a different part, where it was, how I could do it myself, and how to find everything in the car. He communicates very well - nothing is weird or hard to understand, he's totally honest and will tell you "I don't think you need that yet" or "you need to do this - it really is going to break". Before he leaves, he asks you to check everything and make sure everything is okay.. he's all around quality. I have had other mechanics who just wanted to get you our of their space ASAP, he is not like that at all. Easy thumbs up - I recommend him to anyone who asks me about a mechanic.
Toyota Sequoia - Transmission Fluid Service - Bothell, Washington
Theodore once again did not disappoint. We had scheduled a lot of services to be done on our Sequoia and he finished it all within the estimated time. I would highly recommend him.

Michael

4 years of experience
99 reviews
Michael
4 years of experience
BMW 750Li - Transmission Fluid Service - Carmel, Indiana
Excellent first experience with this service. Mike was great. I will be requesting him for any future work.
Ford E-350 Econoline - Transmission Fluid Service - Fishers, Indiana
Michael arrived on time, was professional and friendly, and did a thorough job. He is extremely knowledgeable and helpful when you ask questions. 10/10 highly recommended his services.

Patrick

33 years of experience
1248 reviews
Patrick
33 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 - Transmission Fluid Service - Pflugerville, Texas
Very personable and answered my questions without hesitation. Job done in a timely manner and no mess left on the ground (fluids). Good job!
Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Transmission Fluid Service - Austin, Texas
Again great service friendly professional knowledgeable it’s persons like Patrick that makes a great team. I will definitely recommend him to friends and family members.

William

34 years of experience
292 reviews
William
34 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Transmission Fluid Service - Sun City, Arizona
Showed up early and took the time to point out and explain different things. Would definitely recommend William.

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