When Should I Change My Transmission Fluid?

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While recommended changing times will vary between cars, you should usually flush and replace your transmission fluid between 30,000 and 100,000 miles—depending on whether your car is manual or automatic.
Your transmission fluid allows your car to shift smoothly from one gear to the next. It helps keep your engine cool and even helps build pressure and friction so your transmission can work optimally.
Replacing your transmission fluid is a core part of keeping your car in top shape. Don’t forget to find good car insurance to make sure it’s protected in any unexpected situation, too. 
Since the rules can be a little tricky, the car insurance comparison app Jerry has pulled together everything you need to know about changing your transmission fluid.

When to change your transmission fluid 

As a general rule, manual cars should have their transmission fluid changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles—while automatic cars should be changed every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
Additionally, each make and model will have a different recommendation for how often you should change the transmission fluid. The best way to find out what your car needs is to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.
It’s important to keep up with fluid changes in your car, so try working transmission fluid refills and flushes into your car maintenance schedule.

How to check your transmission fluid

One of the easiest ways to know when you should change your transmission fluid is to pop your hood and check the fluid levels.
Follow these steps to check your transmission fluid level:
  • Park on a level surface.
  • Let your engine cool.
  • Check your owner’s manual to see if you should turn the car off or on.
  • Find the transmission dipstick and wipe it off with a clean rag.
  • Dip it back into the transmission as far as it’ll go.
  • Pull it out and check to see if the fluid levels reached the recommended mark.
  • Refill your transmission fluid if it’s low.
Transmission fluid is supposed to be bright red. If the fluid looks black or dark brown, you may have a bigger problem that needs to be looked at as soon as possible.

How to change transmission fluid

Changing your transmission fluid can be a lengthy and messy process. If you’d rather not do it yourself, you can usually have a mechanic change your fluid for around $100
If you still want to do it yourself, start by gathering these essential supplies:
  • Socket wrench set
  • Drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Transmission fluid
  • Transmission gasket
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, follow these steps to change your transmission fluid: 
  • Pop the hood and take off the transmission fluid cap.
  • Slide under the car and locate the transmission fluid pan. 
  • Put your drain pan under the current fluid pan.
  • Unbolt the transmission fluid pan with your socket wrench.
  • Let the transmission fluid drain into the drain pan.
  • Replace the old pan gasket with your new one, and reattach the fluid pan.
  • Use the funnel to pour the recommended amount of transmission fluid into your car.
  • Put the cap back on your transmission fluid and close the hood.

Why do I need to change my transmission fluid?

Failing to change your transmission fluid could lead to difficulties shifting gears, slipping from one gear to another, or even sudden jolts forward or backward.
The longer you leave your transmission fluid unchanged, the higher risk you’ll be for gear-related damages, which can make driving dangerous. 

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FAQs

While it might seem a little excessive, changing your transmission fluid is a key part of maintaining a well-functioning car. Thankfully, with many automatic cars today, you can wait 60,000-100,000 miles before changing your transmission fluid.
Failing to change the transmission fluid could lead to mechanical problems like slipping or stuck gears. Those kinds of problems can be extremely dangerous on the road.
If you don’t want to go through all that work yourself, consider bringing your car to a mechanic and having them do it for you. In general, transmission fluid changes cost between $80 and $250 depending on your mechanic’s labor costs.
But if you shop around for a better deal, you’ll usually be able to find a fluid change for about $100.
Your transmission fluid is responsible for keeping various components lubricated, cooling your transmission, and preventing rust in your car. After a long time, it stops being able to perform those functions.
If you don’t change your transmission fluid, it’ll thicken until the gears become much harder to shift. Your transmission may start overheating, leading to damage in your clutch or transmission. On top of that, components in your transmission could start to rust!

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