How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid? (2023 Update)
Generally, you should change your transmission fluid about every 30,000 to 60,000 miles for manual transmissions. For automatic transmissions, the suggested time frame is between 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
How long it takes you to reach this milage depends on your driving habits. Those that commute an hour in each direction will need to change it more often than those that work from home. Generally, we recommend keeping an eye on your mileage and making an appointment when you began to get close to the recommendation.
Of course, sooner is always better. Therefore, aim to change your fluid near the beginning of this range—not the end.
With that said, this can differ from car to car. Younger cars will need their transmission fluid changed less often than older cars, for instance. Still, that doesn’t mean that you should put off transmission fluid changes for as long as possible. Aiming for a bit sooner than your car needs it is recommended.
Is It Really Necessary to Change Transmission Fluid?
You absolutely need to change your car’s transmission fluid regularly. While you probably don’t think much about your transmission fluid on a day-to-day basis, it does play a significant role in your car’s performance.
In many new vehicles, you can easily hit 100,000 miles before you need this to be done, though. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should wait until you are right up against that limit. In many cases, it is better to have it changed just before you hit 100,000 miles.
There are other factors to keep in mind, as well. The type of transmission does matter—we wouldn’t recommend waiting this long for a car with a manual transmission, for instance.
If you don’t own vehicles for very long, you may never need to get the transmission fluid changed. However, if you own a car for more than 100,000 miles or purchased used cars, transmission fluid changes are something you’ll have to think about.
What Happens if You Don’t Change the Transmission Fluid?
If you decide not to change your transmission fluid for one reason or another, your transmission is likely not going to have a good time. Without the proper fluid, your transmission can overheat. You may notice a burning smell, and your engine will likely lose power. Usually, this leads to serious damage that will cost thousands to repair—as opposed to the few hundred dollars to get the fluid changed.
When the transmission begins to lose pressure, you may notice a delay in shifting. A build-up of residue may also cause the transmission to have difficulty shifting. It may change gears too fast or too slow. Occasionally, you may notice unusually high RPMs as the gearbox has a hard time shifting.
Oftentimes, the transmission will start slipping gears. The friction material will not be able to hold the gears in place. Therefore, the gears can slip significantly.
Either way, the transmission simply begins acting weird. It will not act normally.
How Long Can You Go Without Changing Transmission Fluid?
It depends on the car and the age of the car. Newer cars can go a long time, as they will not have any fluid buildup or anything of that sort. Usually, most manufacturers will tell you to change your transmission fluid every 60,000 to 100,000 miles if you have an automatic transmission. If you have a manual transmission, you’ll need to change it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
With that said, we do not recommend that you wait until the very end of this range. It is always better to change it sooner, rather than later.
We highly recommend that you stick to your car’s recommended maintenance when determining when to change the transmission fluid. The schedule is set for a reason, and it is typically not a good idea to dismiss it.
Can Changing Transmission Fluid Cause Problems?
If you change them correctly, then changing the transmission fluid should not cause any problems. However, there are some reports that very old cars do not do well with new transmission fluid. While this may be a problem in some car models, it isn’t typical. If a car has problems with new transmission fluid, then there was likely something else wrong with the transmission.
Still, some people will recommend that you do not change your transmission fluid if you do not have problems with your transmission. This does go against the suggestion from most car manufacturers, though.
While it doesn’t need to be changed extremely often, most cars need their transmission fluid changed before they hit 100,000 miles. If they have a manual transmission, then they need their fluid to be changed more often. It all just depends on the particular car.
We do recommend defaulting to your car’s recommended maintenance schedule. Many cars will have suggestions in the owner manual. If you don’t have the manual for one reason or another, then we recommend that you look up a schedule or PDF copy of the manual, which is usually pretty easy to find online.
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