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When Should You Change Your Transmission Fluid?
Transmission fluid is used in cars with automatic transmissions in order to keep the moving parts inside your transmission lubricated, prevent rust and corrosion and clean and maintain the metal surfaces of this very important system.
When to check levels?
Check the level of your transmission fluid while the engine is running, using the dipstick. On newer cars, the transmission fluid dipstick typically has a red handle to avoid confusion. Wipe the dipstick with a clean, white cloth and check both the levels and the color of the fluid. Transmission fluid should be red or green. If the fluid appears brown or black, the fluid is old and should be changed.
A routine maintenance schedule is also important. Most manufacturers recommend replacing transmission fluid every 30,000 to 100,000 miles.
Regardless of the mileage on your car, you should check the transmission fluid level every time you change the oil. Dark fluid, or low levels of fluid can also indicate a problem with the transmission, or a leak. The sooner you’re aware of potential issues, the lower your repair bill!
Immediately check your transmission fluid levels if you notice a leak, or notice that the car has difficulty shifting between gears.
The importance of changing transmission fluid
Since transmission fluid keeps your transmission well-lubricated, it’s important to change it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Transmission fluid breaks down with heat. Automatic transmissions generate heat, so over time, the fluid becomes less lubricating.
Fluid can also become contaminated over time when tiny bits of abrasive material become suspended in the fluid. These little bits of metal rub against the moving parts of your transmission and destroy it. However, in some newer models, manufacturers claim that the transmission fluid never needs to be changed. Refer to your owner’s manual, and take that advice with a grain of salt—it’s better to err on the side of caution where an expensive transmission is involved.
Use the right kind for your car
Different formulas of transmission fluid exist; refer to your manufacturer’s recommendations for the exact brand and type of fluid to use. Putting the wrong transmission fluid into your car can be disastrous.
What if my car has a standard transmission?
Refer to your the maintenance guide from your manufacturer for recommendations. Some standard transmissions can be lubricated with motor oil; some even use standard transmission fluid. Manual transmissions require lubrication every 30,000 to 60,000 miles; even more frequently for vehicles with heavy use.
Most cars with standard transmissions don’t have a dipstick for checking fluid levels; you’ll have to check the levels from underneath the car. Ask your mechanic to do this for you the next time you have the oil changed.