When to Change Transmission Fluid of Vehicle and How?
Transmission fluid is among the most vital automotive fuels for your vehicle and just like all other essential automotive fluids, transmission fluid has a time limit up to which it stays operational. Thus, it is very important to know when to change transmission fluid of your car as fuel tends to deteriorate over time. Catalysts like frequent stop-and-go urban driving, carrying heavy loads, trailer towing make this deterioration process go faster.
Driving in such condition raise the occurrences of transmission wear as well as thermal distortion to your transmission system. In a sentence, your car's transmission system is damaged, and the overall efficiency degrades. So, knowing when and how to change your car's transmission fluid is a must to know and you need to choose the best transmission fluid if you're determined to bring out the best of your vehicle. And, in that’s where we come in. Here we have added a detailed walk through on when to change transmission fluid & how?
So, without further delay, let us get started.
When to Change Transmission Fluid
Here are the things to keep in mind to know precisely when to change your transmission fluid -
1. Experts’ Recommendation
- According to the recommendation by most of the vehicle manufactures, manual transmission fluid should be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. But, if your vehicle is more used to heavy-duty uses or trailer towing, manufacturers recommend changing transmission fluid every 15,000 miles.
- However, A good number of mechanics suggests that it should be changed at least every 50,000 miles.
2. Type of Your Transmission: Manual vs Automatic
- Note that if you have a manual transmissions, that will be on a different maintenance schedule and also require more conventional gear oil rather than traditional ATF. If you have any confusion regarding the schedule, then it’s wise to take help from the owner’s instruction manual.
- On the contrary, automatic transmission tend to require less frequent changing of transmission fluids. In some cases, many manufactures suggest that you never need to change to transmission fluid anyway. However, the standard for service interval is 60,000 to 100,000 miles depending on the type of your vehicle as well as the transmission system type but changing it earlier is not likely to cause any harm to your vehicle.
3. Vehicle Usage
- People tend to use their vehicles very differently for a variety of purposes. Some are just happy with regular drives where some are into heavy load carrying. How you use your vehicle affects your vehicle transmission significantly as a more stressed-out car runs out of sufficient transmission fluid in a much faster rate than a regular vehicle. Hence, it needs earlier and more frequent change of transmission fluid.
- So, if you're more into heavy load carrying or maybe trailer towing, you'll need to change the transmission fluids more frequently, and that's completely normal.Keeping that in mind, keep an eye on the transmission level more often. If you can’t sort it out yourself,take help from a repair shop, check the condition of the transmission fluid.
4. Fluid Color
- One useful trick to verify the fluid status is to check the fluid colour. For troubleshooting purposes, most of the manufacturers make their transmission fluid red, but they are also available in other colours. No matter the color, as the fluid deteriorates, the color turns darker and darker. If you find your fluid color to be changing into a darker tone, that would mean that you need to change the transmission fluid with a new one.
5. Fluid Odor
- As the transmission fluid deteriorates, the odor also turns to be more of a burnt stench and is easily distinguishable.
6. Particles in the Fluid
- Another way of fluid verification is to look for particles or debris into your transmission fluid. I found, that is as well, a reminder that you may need to change the transmission fluid. Take your car to a routine service to verify if you find it confusing.
Transmission Fluid: How to Change
Now that you know when to change the transmission fluid of your vehicle if any of the above conditions applies to your vehicle, you know very well that you need to change the transmission fluid. But how to change transmission fluid?
The entire procedure can be divided into two halves that are –
A. Draining the existing transmission fluid
B. Replacing the fluid with a new one
Here we have broken them down into some easy steps for your ease of understanding. Follow them accordingly, and you'll most likely succeed in changing the transmission fluid of your vehicle –
A. Draining the existing transmission fluid
Start with draining the existing fluid so that the new fluid can be stored in. To do that, follow these steps –
1. Place a collector vessel under the drain hole
- Nobody wants a draining fluid massacre when changing transmission fluids. To prevent the falling transmission fluid, place a collector vessel under the drain hole of your vehicle. It is better to use a oil drain pan to make it work. However, make sure that it can contain the drained fluid so that it doesn't get spilt over.
2. Drain the existing transmission fluid
- To drain out the existing fluid, start by unscrewing the drain bolt, and that should make the fluid start draining immediately. Make sure that you have placed a container vessel below to avoid a messy spillage.
- In many vehicles, the transmission pan has a drain plug. In that case, you'll have to remove the plug to drain the fluid out into a container.
- In some cases, you’ll need to remove the entire transmission fluid pan. To do that, first, unscrew the two upper-most bolts halfway and the other bolts all the way. After the last bolt is unscrewed correctly, the fluid pan should descend a bit lower, allowing the fluid to begin to drain out.
3. Inspect the drained-out transmission fluid
- If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, it should have a magnet inside the transmission pan to collect metal shavings that the worn moving parts produce over time. In that case, you have to remove these shavings as well as the remaining fluid in the fluid pan.
- Note that, these metal shavings are very usual. All the gears go through the typical wear that in terms, produce shavings. However, uneven or large odd-shaped shavings would suggest that your transmission system is probably damaged due to transmission wear or any other reason. In that case, you may have to repair the system immediately.
- Bear that in mind, the draining of existing transmission fluid is not completed in one go and about 50% of the fluid remains in the system even when you drain it. To remove the entire transmission, including the transmission fluid that is present in the torque converter, you’ll have no choice but to flush the transmission system wholly and duly.
B. Replacing the fluid with a new one
1. Reattach the transmission fluid pan
- After draining out the existing fluid, reattach the drain the plug and the fluid pan assembly. Tighten them with a torque wrench to meet the specific torque requirement. Avoid stripping bolts by not over tighten the bolts. That’ll save both of your time and money.
2. Add new fluid
- After you have reassembled the fluid pan assembly, you can start to replace the transmission fluid with a new one. Always choose the best transmission fluid for your vehicle. Double-check the new fluid's compatibility with your car as otherwise, it may damage your transmission. If you're confused about after-market fluids use and OEM one that the car manufacturer recommends. Go through your owner's manual to be sure.
- In case of most the vehicles, you'll have to add the new transmission fluid through the dipstick containing port that you removed. In most cases, the new transmission fluid should reach directly into this spout. It’s better to use a funnel to pour the fluid in to avoid waste. Make sure to find out the proper fluid level required from your owner's manual so that you don’t either under-fill or overfill it by any chance
3. Dispose of the old fluid correctly
- Sometimes, you’re not just done even though it might seem so. The transmission fluid used in vehicles is not green and is extremely harmful for the environment as well as for many species, especially aquatic ones. Hence, be responsible by not draining or dumbing the old fluid at random places.
- The fluid is also harmful for your skin. That’s why using gloves is a wise choice when changing transmission fluids. Always wash your hands properly after changing automotive fluids.
- Most auto parts stores and body shops will have fluid recycling programs that allow you to drop off your motor oils, transmission fluids, and other vehicle fluids that you collect when maintaining your vehicle. Find a drop-off site in your area.
The overall performance of your vehicle depends significantly on the transmission system. Hence, maintaining a good transmission health has an importance that can’t be described in mere words and to make sure of that, knowing when to change transmission fluid and how is something that you can’t just skip.