How Often Do You Need To Change Your Transmission Fluid

You get in your car, turn the key and step on the gas. You shift into gear but nothing happens. Then, you re-shift only to hear a whirring sound. Then, you release the clutch and find that there is no tension on it. What’s wrong? It is time to change your transmission fluid.

Transmissions are what make vehicles move from point A to point B. They transfer the power produced by the engine through different gears. The gears allow drivers to go faster or slower depending on road conditions and driver input.

It takes hydraulic pressure provided by transmission fluid to activate clutches and bands used for gear changes. Without the proper level of transmission fluid, your car will not be able to function properly.

So, how often do you need to change your transmission fluid? Read on to find more as I go into detail.

How Often Do You Need To Change Your Transmission Fluid

How Often Do You Need To Change Your Transmission Fluid

How often do you need to change your transmission fluid? Many automakers recommend changing the automatic transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. For those who drive mostly in city traffic, every 20,000 miles. This may seem excessive but there are many factors working against the fluid staying clean and your transmission running smoothly: heat from friction, chemicals in brake pads and gas that eat away at seals and gaskets, and leaks from worn parts.

Transmission problems are the second most common reason for a car to be towed to a mechanic. So, check your transmission fluidOpens in a new tab.

One thing that will never need less attention is your transmission. Whether you have a manual or automatic, it’s going to burn through the fluid. The only way to be sure you have enough is to check it regularly.

By the time your automatic transmissionOpens in a new tab.

Not all transmissions function exactly the same way. Most use some sort of friction modifier designed to be burned away during normal operation.

Once this critical fluid is gone, metal grinds against metal, and gears slip. Bigger problems will follow if you don’t get your auto repaired soon enough.

The good news is that you can prevent these problems by changing the old fluid when it becomes dark and dirty.

If your car isn’t shifting as smoothly as it should or has trouble accelerating or climbing hills then it’s probably time for an automatic transmission service. Just because the light hasn’t come on yet doesn’t mean that there isn’t something wrong.

What is Transmission Fluid

How Often Do You Need To Change Your Transmission Fluid

When most people hear the term ‘transmission fluid’, they think of a red oil that is used in older cars.

Transmission fluid has been replaced by specialized transmission fluids, gums, and pastes. They have been engineered to work better with today’s modern automatic transmissions.

These liquids are meant to add more protection from wear and tear on your vehicle while making sure that everything works the way it is supposed to.

Transmission fluid history

The first car was invented in 1886. But, it wasn’t until a few years later when Karl Benz patented his three-wheeled motorwagen. It was later known as the Mercedes – which had a Daimler engine.

In fact, it was the first internal combustion engine mounted in the frame of a car. It was this invention that marked the beginning of the modern self-propelled automobile. With it came an increase in demand for transmission fluid.

The concept of automatic transmissions began soon after when Gottlieb Daimler designed the “manual marine gearbox” in 1897.

This fluid would be used to lubricate all different types of gears that were used by early cars, like manual transmissions or landline machines like steam turbines or water pumps.

Transmission fluids today

Today’s automatic transmissions are completely electronic and have no link to anything mechanical inside your car. So, changing them is usually unnecessary if you drive relatively little.

Even if your car is leaking transmission fluid from somewhere, it might be from a hose or gasket. It doesn’t mean that it is the actual transmission.

Can I drive my car if the transmission fluid is low?

Yes, if you are low on transmission fluid it can be very dangerous to drive your car. If you need to add transmission fluidOpens in a new tab.

The transmission has many different components inside it, such as gears that convert power from gasoline into movement and torque for your wheels.

The most important job of these gears is transferring power through them and then out of them by turning the wheels once they reach their maximum rotational velocity (i.e., vehicle speed).

Why is it dangerous to drive if the transmission fluid is low?

Transmission fluid transfers heat from different areas of the engine and transmission to others where they are needed, as well as lubricating all of the transmission components.

It is dangerous to drive with low transmission fluid because if there isn’t enough transmission fluid, the components of the transmission could overheat and break down. You don’t want to find yourself stuck without enough transmission fluid when you’re on a long drive.

Can Transmission Fluid Evaporate?

Can transmission fluid evaporate? Yes, it can. Transmission fluid does not have a very long shelf life, even though it is usually good for a couple of years. Evaporation happens by the motion of transmission as well as heat from friction which could be caused as a result of hard shifting and driving under harsh conditions.

In addition, heat from the outside environment could also cause evaporation. If you keep your car running in high temperatures then it will only make the problem worse.

One way to help reduce this from happening is by keeping your vehicle’s air conditioning system on. It has a place where the hot air goes through to cool things down.

However, if you do not have an AC system or if yours does not work properly, there is a simple way to check if your transmission fluid has been evaporating.

All you need to do is touch the fluid to determine its viscosity. If it feels watery then that means that the level of transmission fluid in the differential has gone down and needs to be refilled.

You could also add enough diluted automatic transmission fluid or ATF in order for the rising level in the rear axle difference not to overfill when adding new fluid.

However, make sure you use a new ATF instead of a used one in order not to introduce impurities into your system. The longer you wait to replace evaporated transmission fluid, there will be more damage to the other components within the powertrain.

Igor Iwanowski

I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018. I specialize in Brake systems, dashboard warning lights, EGRs, general engine problems, EVAP and Emissions issues.

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