How Often Should You Be Changing Your Transmission Fluid?

  • June 1, 2023
Changing the transmission fluid in a car Changing the transmission fluid in a car

How Often Should You Be Changing Your Transmission Fluid?

A car transmission is a complicated piece of machinery that has a particularly important job for your vehicle. Made up of a series of gears and gear trains, it takes the rotational speed from the engine and converts it into the right road speed for the driving conditions. To keep an automatic transmission system working at its best, transmission fluid lubricates moving parts to prevent gear wear and works like a hydraulic fluid to engage the right gears at the right times. 

Just like with oil changes, regular transmission fluid changes can help extend the life of your vehicle. Then the question is, how often should you get your vehicle’s transmission serviced? Learn how to spot the signs of old fluid and how often you should get transmission fluid changed.

Where To Check Your Transmission Fluid

Checking your transmission fluid is often a fairly simple process. All you have to do is pop the hood and locate your vehicle’s transmission dipstick. For most vehicles this is near the rear of the engine and will be marked with a transmission symbol. If you have trouble finding this checkpoint for transmission fluid, you can always get help from a professional at your local auto repair shop. Some newer vehicles do not come from the factory with a dipstick for the automatic transmission. Other exceptions may require a special procedure and a scan tool to determine the fluid level.

3 Signs You Need A Transmission Fluid Change

If you are able to check your vehicle’s transmission fluid on your own, there are a few early indicators that can help tell you it’s time for a transmission fluid exchange:

1. Discolored Transmission Fluid

Depending on your transmission type, healthy transmission fluid will have a different appearance.

  • For automatic transmissions the fluid is typically red or translucent.
  • For manual transmissions the fluid can appear translucent, red, dark green, or even black

As transmission fluid ages it can oxidize. You can suspect if transmission fluid is oxidized by a change in its color. If your transmission fluid is a muddy brown and almost opaque, the fluid might be oxidized. If you see an emulsion of other liquid bubbles or metallic debris on your transmission dipstick, your transmission should be inspected by a technician.

2. Low Transmission Fluid Levels

If transmission fluid drops below recommended operating levels, it may be starving your transmission for lubrication. When you have low transmission fluid levels it is time to have your vehicle inspected and serviced by a professional.

3. Burnt Smelling Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid with a burnt odor could be a major red flag. This could be a sign that your transmission is overheating. To avoid further damage to your transmission system and engine, bring your vehicle in for an inspection and fluid change as soon as possible.

When To Get A Transmission Fluid Change

Changing transmission fluid is important, but it is not something that needs service as often as regular oil changes. The best way to decide when to get your next fluid exchange is to refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule unless something seems amiss. 

A healthy transmission plays an important role for the overall performance of your vehicle. Staying on schedule with preventative maintenance, like transmission fluid exchanges, can save you from most costly repairs down the road. Luckily, the expert assistance you need is a short trip away at Tires Plus. Whether you need transmission service or other repairs, visit your nearest Tires Plus for all your tire and auto care needs.

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