Do you really have to change your transmission fluid or is it just one of those things that you’re supposed to do. We hate to tell you, but, yes, you do have to change your transmission fluid at some point to ensure a properly functioning transmission.
Your transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission. Most Canadians drive automatic transmission vehicles, which require automatic transmission fluid to lubricate the components within the transmission and it also acts as a coolant. Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) also use transmission fluid. Manual transmissions vary. Some use transmission fluid, some use something called transmission oil, and some use standard motor oil. Automatic transmission fluid is optimized for automatic transmissions, but all these fluids provide lubrication.
Checking your transmission fluid every month gives you the best chance of catching small problems before they grow big. But what are you checking for? First, check your fluid levels. If your fluid isn’t at the line, top it up. If you have to top it up every month, you probably have a leak, and your transmission needs to be resealed. But also check the quality for your transmission fluid. It should be mostly clear with a reddish hue (or in some rare cases, greenish). If your fluid is opaque or if it smells bad, then this is indicative of a larger problem. Apart from whatever other repair is necessary, your transmission fluid will need to be changed.
If your transmission overheats, it can burn your transmission fluid. Burnt transmission fluid needs to be changed. To check your transmission, a tech might perform a pan examination, in which they will check your fluid for particulate matter. Some material in your fluid is normal, but there shouldn’t be a lot of it. Friction surfaces often wear down and, if left alone for too long, they’ll contaminate your fluid to levels that are too high. Then your fluid will have to be changed.
All these issues that require transmission fluid changes start somewhere else. But do you need to change your transmission fluid just as a precaution? Some manufacturers offer “fill-for-life” fluids and some transmissions are designed to be complete systems in which nothing goes in or out. But claiming something doesn’t make it true. No matter what kind of automatic transmission you drive, what kind of fluid you use, or where you drive, the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association recommends a transmission fluid change every 50,000 kms, or every two years.
To learn more about transmission fluid changes, please contact us.