Changing Transmission Fluid: A Key to Prolonging Your Vehicle's Transmission Life

Changing Transmission Fluid
Most car manufacturers recommend regular
transmission fluid changes as part of their routine maintenance schedules. This is a pretty straightforward maintenance item that a motivated and relatively handy car owner can perform at home. 

Frequency of Transmission Fluid Changes

For most cars, you'll need to consider a fluid change about every 30,000 to 40,000 miles, or every five years. However, if you do a lot of towing or hauling of heavy equipment, you may need to move that schedule up. The best way to know when to change the transmission fluid is to consult your car's maintenance schedule. 

Importance of Using the Correct Fluid

Once you establish that you are due for a transmission service, you'll want to select the right type of fluid. The kind you need should be stated in your car's manual. If not, stop in your local auto parts store and ask for assistance. Many bottles list compatible makes and models of cars right on the label.  The correct transmission fluid will have the correct viscosity for your car's operating pressure, corrosion inhibitors matched to your car's internal components, and appropriate friction modifiers to enable smooth gear engagement.

DIY vs. Professional Service

Pros and Cons of a Professional Transmission Fluid Change

Sometimes, it's easier to take your car in for service at a professional auto repair shop. One advantage to this is that the techs can diagnose issues like bad fuel filter symptoms while performing the requested service. However, you'll pay more for a professional job compared to doing it yourself. 
  • Pros: option for system flush and complete removal of old fluid, trained technicians
  • Cons: higher cost, inconvenience of taking the car to a repair shop

Pros and Cons of DIY Transmission Fluid Change

There are pros and cons to doing a car repair yourself, such as a lower cost. Be sure to consider them before making a decision. 
  • Pros: lower cost, ability to get a first-hand look at your car's transmission fluid, great opportunity to perform other maintenance
  • Cons: potential for a big mess or fluid spill, need to take used fluid in for recycling, investment in tools

Steps To Change Your Transmission Fluid

It's not for everyone, but if you decide to attempt a DIY transmission fluid change, you'll want to follow a few simple steps. 
  1. Place your vehicle on a lift to raise it up and make work easier.
  2. Locate the transmission pan and do a quick visual inspection.
  3. Drain the transmission fluid into a drip pan to take for recycling.
  4. Check the drain pan and clean it.
  5. Install a new filter and pan gasket, then replace the pan.
  6. Refill with the appropriate transmission fluid
Depending on the type of vehicle you have and its setup, this could be a very straightforward process, or it could be a long, messy undertaking. For example, if you have to drop the pan to drain it, be prepared to have fluid seeping out from the edges when you loosen it.  Before you take on a DIY car project, whether it's a transmission fluid change or replacing a bad brake caliper, shop online for the correct parts and supplies for the job. Check home delivery or use same-day pickup at checkout to ensure you have everything when you need it. 

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