Most of us know that it’s necessary to occasionally change our transmission fluid, but when we should change it—and just why—is a mystery to many.
If you drive an automatic transmission vehicle, the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association recommends a transmission fluid change every 50,000 kms, or every two years. It’s important to note, however, that these are minimum figures. You may need to change your transmission fluid before you hit that two-year or 50,000-kms mark. There are various signs you might notice that suggest there’s something amiss with your transmission that requires a change of fluid.
Persistent overheating of your transmission is perhaps the most common sign that you need a transmission fluid change. Grinding and resistance when you change gears is another. Basically, any problem you notice with a transmission could be caused, or at least worsened, by not having enough good transmission fluid. So, if you notice any problem signs, check your transmission fluid. Even when you don’t notice any problems, it’s wise to check your transmission fluid every month if possible.
Checking your transmission fluid monthly gives you a great chance of catching small problems before they become big problems. You’re checking both the level and the quality of your fluid. If your transmission fluid isn’t at the indicated line, top it up. If you find yourself having to top up your fluid every month, you likely have a leak, and your transmission needs to be resealed.
As for the quality, good fluid is largely clear with a reddish hue (or in some rare cases, greenish or blue). If your fluid is opaque or if it smells foul or burnt, then it’s degraded. This can happen if you’ve been using it for too long, or it can be a sign of a transmission problem. If your fluid is degraded, it’s wise to bring your transmission in for an inspection.
Some manufacturers offer “fill-for-life” fluids, and there are transmissions which are intended to be complete systems that allow nothing to get in or out. More often than not, however, these claims are specious. If you think you have an automatic transmission that does not ever require a fluid change, it’s still prudent to bring it in for an assessment from an expert who can verify these claims.
Manual transmissions are different, however. Some manual transmissions also use automatic transmission fluid, some use transmission oil, heavyweight hypoid gear oil, or regular motor oil. Check your manufacturer’s owner manual to see what they recommend.
To learn more about transmission fluid changes, please contact us