How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid?

Ever wondered how often you should change your car’s transmission fluid?

If you are as curious as I am, you would have asked yourself that question several times.

Well, look no further. This article will explain the transmission fluid, its benefits, how often you should change it for your car, and the important signs to look out for your vehicle’s transmission.

What Exactly is Transmission Fluid?

Transmission fluid is simply the oil that lubricates the different components of a vehicle’s transmission for optimal and long-term efficiency.

The gears of your vehicle are made of metal and consistently create heat. The transmission fluid also serves as a coolant to prevent combustion when the gears are shifted.

Your car’s transmission type has a transmission fluid made for it, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. In vehicles with standard transmissions, the kind of transmission fluid to use is typically specified in the owner’s manual maintenance section. You can check it or search on the internet to choose the right type for your car,

The transmission in your car can be either manual, automatic, or even sealed.

What does Transmission Fluid do?

Some of the functions and benefits of transmission fluid are:

  • TF ensures all the different parts of your vehicle’s transmission are adequately lubricated. Your car’s transmission is made of metal. Metal grinding against metal equals friction. Friction reduces both the efficiency of the transmission and can also result in a fire outbreak.
  • Your transmission fluid makes sure that the temperature range and rotational speed are increased. The fluid helps your car to accelerate further when you step on the throttle.
  • This lubricate improves the cooling ability of the gears. Additionally, it reduces the amount of time your transmission spends working at high temperatures.
  • It makes sure the gaskets are well-conditioned. Remember that your car’s gasket is to seal between the engine block and the cylinder heads. The transmission fluid increases the gasket’s strength and resistance to unwanted fluids.
  • Transmission fluid protects the metal surfaces of your car’s transmission from wear and tear. Without the transmission fluid, your car’s transmission is made up of metal parts rubbing against each other. With time, friction leads to wear and tear.

There is an example for this: Your car’s transmission fluid can be almost likened to a bowl of soap for washing dishes. At some point, the bowl of soap needs to be discarded and renewed. As the transmission fluid keeps your car’s gears working optimally, metal shavings from the transmission’s gears will get deposited in the fluid over time. Over time, the transmission fluid will need to be changed.

How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid?

Changing your car’s transmission fluid should be a routine. It typically ranges from 30,000 miles to as much as 100,000 miles, or even less. Like the analogy of the bowl of soap, a car’s transmission fluid should be changed depending on certain factors.

A bowl of soap used to wash only spoons will last longer than a bowl of soap used to wash oily plates. How often you change your car’s transmission fluid is based on factors such as:

Transmission Type

Automatic Transmission

The automatic transmission shifts a vehicle’s forward gears automatically using a torque converter, a gear set, and clutches. In most cars with an automatic transmission, you can find P (park), R (reverse), N (neutral), and D (drive). Many automatic transmission manufacturers advise that you don’t need to change the transmission fluid until after 100,000 miles. However, suppose you do a lot of city driving, resulting in a lot of braking. In that case, it’s a good idea to change your automatic transmission fluid (ATF) more often. The recommended service interval is 30,000 to 100,000 miles or every 30 months.

Manual Transmission

Manual transmission allows you to manually select all gears by using a movable gear selector and a driver-operated clutch. This transmission type is commonly called a “Stick shift.” If you drive a manual car, you shift through gears a lot, especially if you live in a city. Shifting through gears results in faster wear and tear of transmission fluid. Manual car manufacturers advise that you change your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.

Sealed Transmission

Modern cars like SUVs and Sports cars mostly have sealed transmissions. A sealed transmission is unlike automatic and manual transmission. You cannot open a sealed transmission to inspect or refill the fluid. If you don’t see a transmission fluid dipstick, your car’s transmission is sealed.

A sealed transmission does not require regular oil changes. The transmission fluid is designed to last throughout the lifespan of the car. However, if you hear irregular sounds while switching gears, visit a professional auto tech for an oil change. Since no one can open a sealed transmission, don’t try to do it at home. A minor error may result in long-term consequences.

Driving Habits

Suppose you drive a truck that does many “pick up and deliver,” city driving or you carry heavy loads. In that case, the transmission’s working temperature will rise. The heat generated by such driving habits and behaviors can put additional pressure on your transmission fluid. If you fall under any of these categories, you need to check and change your vehicle’s transmission fluid more often.

Where You Live

If you stay in a suburban or rural area, you are less likely to hit the brakes because of traffic gridlock. Whereas, in a city, you are more likely to hit the brakes, change the gear, and accelerate severally in a short duration. Where you live matters in how often you change your vehicle’s transmission fluid. If you have to hit the brakes often and switch gears, then your transmission fluid is doing more work and needs to be changed regularly.

Signs That Your Car’s Transmission Fluid Needs to be Changed

Sometimes, you probably think it isn’t time to change your vehicle’s transmission fluid yet. Or, you are too busy to check the state of the fluid. So, your car’s transmission gives off some warning signs. It’s vital to pay attention to them and change the transmission fluid immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Transmission Slippage

The vehicle’s transmission fluid needs adequate and routine maintenance for optimal efficiency. So, if your transmission is slipping, it’s time to see a car mechanic. To know if your car’s transmission is “slipping,” you will hear the engine revving after a gear shift or an acceleration delay. It may sound like you’re driving on ice for a brief moment. It is often easy to dismiss because it may seem minor. However, if the problem isn’t addressed, it can worsen, and you will be dealing with even more severe transmission issues.

Burning Smell From the Transmission

Fresh transmission fluid has a sweet or sour aroma. If it changes to a burnt smell, the transmission fluid is degraded. The transmission is either overheating, increasing pressure, or displaying corrosive behavior in the engine. Often, the burning smell is also a result of low transmission fluid. Any burning odor emanating from your vehicle’s transmission should be taken seriously. If the problem is not fixed, it will ultimately destroy the transmission.

Transmission Leak

Your vehicle’s transmission fluid should never be visibly dripping. Any kind of leak indicates that something is wrong. If your transmission leaks, you will notice the transmission fluid dripping from under the vehicle’s center. A leak suggests a break in the transmission, worn gaskets, a loose transmission pan, a misaligned drive shaft, or even faulty bell housings.

The presence of leaked fluid is one of the most telling signals that it’s time for a transmission fluid upgrade. Although it can be difficult to tell the difference between some kind of leak and a transmission leak, a tip that works is to pay attention to the color of the leaking fluid. Your transmission’s fluid is primarily reddish and has a sweet smell. When you confirm that your car’s transmission is leaking its fluid, immediately fix it or take the vehicle to a mechanic.

Grinding Transmission

Your car’s gears are always at work – shifting. If you notice strange power surges or grinding noises during gear changes, it could indicate a problem with your transmission. If left unattended, a minor transmission issue will quickly escalate into a major breakdown. Whether it is running or idling, any noise or sound in your engine is a cause for concern. It should be taken to a mechanic for repair.

The Transmission Warning Light Comes On

Your car’s engine transmission light is attached to a sensor in the engine. It can sense noises and complications before you notice, hear or perceive them. If your car’s “check engine” light comes on, it signals that there’s a problem with your vehicle’s transmission. You should take your vehicle to see a mechanic for checking.

Gear Shifting Problem

Your car’s transmission is in charge of gear changes. When the car’s transmission fails, it can cause your gear shift to fall into neutral unintentionally, significantly limiting your ability to control acceleration and, more importantly, deceleration. Sometimes, the vehicle can not move or accelerate as quickly as it should be. If your gear fails to shift correctly, you should change the transmission fluid immediately.

Finally, What do You do?

Not changing your car’s transmission fluid will create several problems for your vehicle’s transmission. Meanwhile, to change your car’s transmission fluid, it is necessary to know the manufacturer’s recommended transmission fluid and your car’s transmission type. You can find these details in your car’s manual. If you don’t have your car’s manual any longer, you can simply check through here for your car’s type and buy or download your car’s manual.