How Often to Change Transmission Fluid: Important Signs You Need a Transmission Fluid Change

June 28th, 2021 by

Sometimes it can seem as though managing all of your vehicle maintenance tasks is overwhelming. However, if you stick to your vehicle’s recommended schedule, you may find a good rhythm that will allow you to stay on top of these tasks and keep your vehicle as healthy as it can be.

One important vehicle maintenance task that sometimes goes overlooked is taking your car in for transmission fluid changes. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about this task, including how often you need to change your transmission fluid and how to tell when your vehicle is due for a refresh.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette transmission cutaway. 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission

What Is Transmission Fluid?

Just like engine oil makes sure that your engine is well lubricated, transmission fluid helps ensure the moving parts of your transmission are lubricated. Without transmission fluid, your transmission’s bearings and metal parts would grind against each other, creating heat and breaking themselves down. Transmission fluid also creates the hydraulic pressure that allows your automatic transmissions to do their jobs. Both manual and automatic transmission require transmission fluid.

How Often Should I Change Transmission Fluid?

You might find several recommendations for how often you should have your transmission fluid change once you start looking. Odds are, your mechanic’s recommendation is shorter than the average recommendation you find on the internet.

Every vehicle has its own manufacturer’s recommendation for how often you should change its transmission fluid. Check your owner’s manual to see what your car’s manufacturer suggests for your model and transmission type.

Manual transmissions generally need transmission fluid changes more frequently than automatic transmissions. The average recommended interval for manual transmissions is around 30,000 to 60,000 miles. For automatic transmissions, the recommended interval is around 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Again, this largely depends on your transmission type, the age of your vehicle, how much your drive, and a few more factors. So, defer to the owner’s manual. Changing your transmission fluid more often than the recommended interval will help ensure your transmission stays healthy, but it may be unnecessary.

How To Tell When I Need To Change Transmission Fluid

The best way to tell if your vehicle is due for a visit to the service center is by checking your transmission fluid. Your transmission fluid has a dipstick you can check under your hood, similar to your oil dipstick. Be advised that not all vehicles have transmission fluid dipsticks.

If your vehicle does have a dipstick, you should check it while your vehicle is running. Make sure your emergency brake is engaged and that you’re parked on a flat surface before checking your transmission fluid. While wearing gloves, raise the dipstick from its chamber and wipe it off with a clean lint-free cloth. Insert it back into its chamber and pull it out.

There should be a mark on the dipstick that shows you at what level your transmission fluid should be. If it’s below that mark, it’s probably time to get your transmission fluid changed.

If at any point in this process you notice the color of your transmission fluid is dark or has particles on it, you’re overdue for a transmission fluid change. If you find particles, some manufacturers recommended that you have your transmission flushed before filling it up with clean fluid. The fluid should be either pink or clear if it’s still good.

Signs You Need a Transmission Fluid Change

Sometimes your vehicle will give you signs that it needs to have its transmission fluid changed. As with any other new sound, smell, or symptom, you should be on the lookout for the following signs to prevent a small problem from turning into a big and expensive one:

Visual Signs

Aside from discoloration in your transmission fluid, there are a few visual signs you should look out for. One of the most commons signs of transmission fluid trouble is puddles under your car. Though these leaks can also be a sign of other issues, they are all saying the same thing: take your car into the shop.

Your vehicle might have a warning light on the driver information cluster that tells you when something is wrong with your transmission. If your vehicle displays this light, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with the service center. Your “check engine” light activating might also be a sign you’re having transmission troubles.

Audible Signs

If you begin to notice your vehicle making new and interesting sounds, you may have a problem with your transmission or have low transmission fluid. Listen for roaring sounds as your accelerate. If you have low transmission fluid, your vehicle might make whining sounds.

Tactile Signs

Be in tune with changes in how your vehicle drives. Some tactile signs are more obvious than others, but if your vehicle begins to slightly change in the way it handles, you may be able to address an issue before it becomes larger. If your transmission starts to show signs of struggle when you shift, or if it slips entirely, you should have it checked. You should also watch for rumbling or chattering as you accelerate from a parked position.

Where Should I Get a Transmission Fluid Change?

Just like with oil changes, you should take your vehicle to a dealership service center instead of a general mechanic to get its transmission fluid changed. The reason for this is that dealership service centers — if they specialize in your manufacturer — will more likely have the training and tools specifically created to treat your vehicle. General mechanics have more of a jack-of-all-trades approach to your vehicle’s care since they have to learn a little about a lot of different cars.

A dealership service technician should be trained to know your vehicle inside and out. Though changing transmission fluids may be a simple enough job, they will be able to look out for other issues with your model. These service centers may also take meticulous notes about your vehicle to help you know when your car is due for another maintenance visit.

Whether you need to give your Chevy the care and attention it needs or you’re ready to shop for your next favorite vehicle, visit our team at Sweeney Chevrolet in Youngstown, Ohio, to find what you’re looking for. Remember that your Chevy can only continue taking care of you if you take care of it first.

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