Transmission fluid basics for car owners

Many car owners overlook the need for basic maintenance to ensure optimal gearbox performance. It’s important to understand transmission fluid and when to change it.

Is it necessary to change the transmission fluid?

It is necessary to change the transmission fluid, however, one may accumulate over 160,000 km on their vehicle before this is required, according to service manuals. Owners planning to hold on to a vehicle or have purchased a used car will need to change the fluid at some point.

It is important to get this work done as not doing so can force a car owner to have to replace the transmission itself. There is no reason to skimp on this relatively affordable service requirement. Replacing a transmission is much more expensive for a car owner.

When does transmission fluid need to be changed?

Service providers suggest reviewing the service intervals as recommended by the manufacturer. There is quite a range when it comes to intervals for changing transmission fluid. There are new age vehicles with automatic gearboxes wherein the fluid does not need to be changed at all. Car owners should check the owner’s manual for more information and maintain records of any services performed.

Should car owners have the fluid drained or flushed?

Transmission fluid is required for cooling and lubrication in a vehicle. Car owners can expect the fluid to become contaminated from miniscule particles from components in the transmission. Car owners should allow a mechanic to remove this fluid from the vehicle to maintain a healthy transmission and reduce the potential for damage from dirty fluid.

Draining a vehicle’s transmission is less likely to dislodge particles and sludge. On the other hand, power-flushing may result in such an issue in cars with high-mileage. The problem that can result is that clogs can form in a vehicle after the addition of clean fluid. It is best for car owners to learn more about their particular vehicle and when to flush or drain a transmission for best results.

Signs that it is time to change the transmission fluid

Have a mechanic check the fluid in the transmission during the routine service. It can be hard for a car owner to decipher when the fluid might be dirty or may need to be replaced. A mechanic may need to examine the car on a lift. Dirty fluids may be in the transmission even though levels look good. Signs of bad transmission fluid include:

  • Brown or black transmission fluid as it darkens with age;
  • Dirt or particles in the fluid; and
  • A burned odour

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