The transmission fluid in your car lubricates the moving parts, keeps the transmission at a safe operating temperature, provides hydraulic pressure, and adds friction to make the internal parts work.
Learn everything need to know including the difference between a change versus flush, how often it needs to be changed, how much that costs, and signs it’s time to replace it.
How Often Do You Need to Get Your Transmission Fluid Changed?
The transmission transfers power from the engine to the wheels using several gears.
The fluid lubricates and drives the system.
Over time, the transmission fluid gets old and dirty, requiring a full replacement.
Wear and tear naturally adds small particles to the fluid over time, which can cause your transmission to start slipping, get stuck in gear, or refuse to move.
If you reach the point you’re experiencing serious issues with the way your car drives, it may be necessary to replace or rebuild the entire transmission.
Important: Getting your transmission fluid changed regularly helps you avoid expensive repairs. If the transmission has fluid filters—some do and some don’t—those also should be replaced regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Don’t skip preventative service on your transmission.
During a transmission inspection, the mechanic can look out for metal particles and other debris that the indicate a big problem with your car.
If they’re present and detected early, you can fix that problem before it gets worse and damages bigger parts.
How often you should get your transmission fluid changed depends on a few factors.
Generally, manual transmissions should be changed between every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, whereas automatic transmissions only need to be changed every 100,000, or never.
Most transmissions in newer cars require less frequent intervals.
The best to way determine the right interval of care for your car is to check the owner’s manual.
You can never change it too much. It’s recommended you do it too often rather than not enough to prevent expensive transmission damage.
Signs of Bad Transmission Fluid
There are a few signs your car will give you when it may be time to change your transmission fluid. Look out for each of these:
- You notice your engine revving between gear changes (when you aren’t accelerating the vehicle).
- Your gears are not smoothly changing anymore.
- Your transmission is getting locked in one gear.
- Your transmission cannot be moved into a gear (commonly seen with reverse).
- Your transmission gets overheated.
Estimated Cost for a Transmission Fluid Change
The cost of changing transmission fluid will depend on where you take it to get serviced and what state you live in.
Generally, if you take your car to your local mechanic shop or dealer, you can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $250, including parts and service.
If you’re handy with cars and are willing to attempt the project yourself, you can typically get it finished or between $50 to $100.
Failing to keep up with the upkeep of changing your transmission fluid will cause you to have to eventually replace the entire transmission, which can cost between $1,500-$3,000.
Preventative services save you a ton of money in the long run.
How Long Will It Take?
An experienced mechanic can typically change the fluid in your transmission in an hour. However, of course, the total time to get the car back after taking it in will depend on how busy the service center is.
Transmission Fluid Change vs. Flush
You may see car shops offer a flush for your car’s transmission in addition to a change.
A transmission fluid flush is similar to a brake fluid flush—the service replaces almost all of the fluid, whereas changing it would only replace about 70% of it.
Transmissions are more complex than brakes and can be easily damaged by the pressure applied during a flush.
Important: it’s better to change the fluid than do a flush. Another downside of a flush is it doesn’t include replacing the filters within the transmission. When not replaced, dirty filters will cause problems even with clean fluid by making it dirty fast.
The flushing process takes more work than changing it and requires an expensive machine.
Because of this, auto repair shops will offer the service at high rates for high profits. Ultimately, it’s best to refer to your car’s manual to see the recommended intervals for transmission fluid changes or flushes.