Fluids run throughout the vehicle to keep the components lubricated and running smoothly. However, the most important fluid type could be your transmission fluid. The question isn’t if you should change the fluid periodically because you should. The question is how often you should have this service performed. Of course, the answer varies based on the manufacturer of your vehicle and what your mechanic says.
Why You Need to Change It
Like almost all other vital automotive fluid, your transmission fluid can deteriorate over time. Hard usage, such as frequent stopping and going, trailer towing, or hauling heavy loads, can accelerate that deterioration. When you drive that way for extended periods, the transmission’s temperature of operation is raised. More heat is generated, which adds strain to the fluid and the transmission itself. While engine oil acts as a lubricant, the transmission fluid is both a hydraulic fluid and oil that cools the transmission, lubricates its moving parts, and promotes smooth gear shifting.
If you already know that you drive in high-stress conditions like the ones mentioned earlier, it is best to check the fluid level about twice a month. You should also visit your preferred repair shop and ask them to check the fluid’s condition. If you can’t or don’t want to make a special trip, ask them to check it whenever you get the oil changed.
You may also try checking the condition yourself. Transmission fluid is usually red, but it does come in other colors. Therefore, you can find out what color yours is and then check it periodically. You may notice that it is darker than usual, which indicates that it is deteriorating. It can also acquire a burnt smell, which indicates that the fluid should be changed or that there is a mechanical problem with the transmission itself.
You can also tell that the fluid needs to be changed if you notice debris and particles in the fluid. Most of the time, oil-change facilities can check the transmission fluid and may recommend that you get a fluid flush or change. However, even if the fluid seems darker, that doesn’t automatically indicate that you should get fresh fluid immediately. Make sure you check the owner’s manual for the maintenance schedule to see when it says you should change it. That way, you don’t do it too often and can shop around to find the best fluid-change price.
Flushing versus Changing
Most repair shops still use the flushing system, which forces the old fluid out while pumping new fluid in. While that sounds like a good idea, it’s better to let the old fluid drain out into an authorized container and pour new liquid in. Carmakers believe that the force of the flushing can shoot debris and particles into other areas of the transmission, which can immediately come back into the fluid or cause other damages to the system later.