When to Change Transmission Fluid

Have you noticed unusual changes in your vehicle as you drive?  Is fluid leaking from it?  Does it shake when you change gears?  When was the last time you checked your vehicle for low transmission fluid?  These are a few signs that your car is in dire need of a transmission fluid change.   To prevent these problems in the future (and not wait until they exacerbate), adhere to these guidelines:

  • Check fluid level. Automobile transmissions are highly dependent on full levels of transmission fluid because the fluids cool and lubricate them.  Low transmission fluid will allow air to become trapped inside, causing damage.  It’s recommended that fluid level should be checked every 30,000 miles, though it can vary from car to car.
  • Measure fluid level accurately. Procedures to measure fluid level depend on the age of the car.  Before checking fluid levels, drive around in your car for about ten minutes to warm the fluid.  If your car is an older model, you would need to use a dipstick.  To obtain the correct fluid level reading on a dipstick, place it inside the transmission and take it back out.  Read both sides of the stick.  If you notice a gap in the reading, the lowest level is the correct one.  Do this twice while cleaning the dipstick between readings.  If you have a modern model, you wouldn’t need a dipstick.  Instead, you would have to look for a large plug, and remove the smaller one located in the center of it.  When the level is too low, the larger plug contains a small internal tube to prevent it from flowing out.
  • Pay attention to transmission fluid color. The color of the transmission fluid determines whether the transmission is okay or if there’s an issue.  Transmission fluids come in many colors, but the most common one is red.  They are dyed so that they wouldn’t be mistaken for other car liquids.  A bright to dark red transmission fluid color means that the fluid is healthy.  If it’s brown, that means that it needs to be changed as quickly as possible.  You shouldn’t let it get black or smell burnt; that means it’s in the danger zone.  You can try to save your car at this point, but it’s not certain that it can be saved.  If damage is beyond repair, you may have little choice but to buy a new car, a very costly option.  Do not let it get this bad!

Some car owners may consider performing a transmission fluid flush, even though it costs more than a trip at a repair shop.  That’s because unlike a transmission change, which leaves some old fluid behind, a transmission fluid flush removes all of the old liquid via a flush machine.  A transmission fluid flush also is performed less often than a fluid change (every 45,000 miles).  It’s more expensive, but a transmission fluid flush may be the best choice for you.

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