Changing your transmission fluid can set you back anywhere from several tens of dollars to a few hundreds of dollars. This depends on whether you are going to replace the fluid yourself or get a mechanic to do it for you. This may seem very exorbitant for some but if you look at the cost of rebuilding your transmission, changing the transmission fluid is very cheap. Transmission rebuilds can run in the thousands of dollars. So, would you rather save a hundred bucks now only to have a much bigger headache in the future?
The Cost of Changing Transmission Fluid
When you change your transmission fluid, it is not only the fluid that gets replaced. The transmission fluid filter and other associated components also need replacement.
The cost of transmission fluid depends on the ATF that your vehicle manufacturer recommends. Most cars require an ATF that follows the DEXRON or MERCON technical specifications. There are also those that require other types of transmission fluids. Each of these can cost anywhere from $10 to $70 per liter or about 32 fluid ounces.
The price also differs from brand to brand. Different cars also require different amounts of transmission fluid. Cars with smaller engines may also have smaller gearboxes. They may only require about 3 to 4 quarts of transmission fluid. Bigger engines have bigger gearboxes that require more transmission fluid.
Suppose your car requires 5 liters of transmission fluid and you’re getting a brand that costs $15 per liter. This means you will be spending about $75 on the transmission fluid alone. You can then add the cost of transmission fluid filter, gaskets, and other parts that you may need to replace. Let’s say you will spend about $25 for these additional parts. This brings the overall cost of changing the transmission fluid to $100.
This is the cost of changing the fluid yourself. If you will have a mechanic to do it for you, you will also need to consider labor cost. If it is at a car service center, you can expect the prices of the fluid and other components to be a bit higher than those in the market.
Why Change the Transmission Fluid
The different fluids that run through your car are not resistant to deterioration. Transmission fluid, for instance, also deteriorates in quality over time. The rate of deterioration increases with hard use. Towing trailers, frequent stop-and-go traffic situations, and hauling heavy loads can make the transmission work harder. This also hastens the rate of transmission fluid deterioration.
Certain driving habits can put a strain on the gearbox. This increases the transmission’s operating temperature. The resulting heat gets transferred to the transmission fluid. We know that one of the crucial functions of vehicle fluids is to keep the temperatures of a certain component to within its optimal level. The transmission fluid is no different. Since there is more heat in the transmission that gets transferred to the fluid, the transmission fluid can no longer cool the gearbox.
An overheating gearbox can increase the likelihood of friction. This, in turn, can result in the loosening of particles and shavings which can contaminate the transmission fluid. If you don’t change your transmission fluid now, you are looking at a possible costly transmission repair in the future. Why? What is circulating in your transmission is not clean fluid. What you have is fluid that’s filled with particles and debris.
When Should You Change Your Transmission Fluid
The frequency of changing the transmission fluid is debatable. There are no clear-cut guidelines as to when you should change your transmission fluid. It is best to consult your manual to determine the recommended schedule. Some recommend changing it every 30,000 miles while others say every 60,000 miles is more appropriate. There are also those that recommend changing the transmission fluid every 100,000 miles for automatics.
Keep in mind that these figures reflect normal driving conditions. If you’re driving your car like a trucker or a drag racer, then you can expect transmission fluid changes to be more frequent.
How to Check If Your Transmission Fluid Needs Changing
First, let your car run for about 5 minutes or so. Pull out the transmission fluid dipstick and wipe it off using a clean rag. Put it back into the transmission before pulling it out again. Check the appearance of the transmission fluid on the dipstick. If it is very dark, this often means you need to change it. Try smelling it, too. If it smells burned, then you need to change the fluid.
However, if the fluid looks brand new or clear, then there is no need to change the fluid. Do check its level, though. If it is at the level of the “Low” mark, then it’s best to top it off with fresh transmission fluid. Remember to use only fluid recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
How to Change the Transmission Fluid Yourself
Jack up the front end of your vehicle so you can access the transmission pan underneath. Next, place your drain pan underneath the transmission. Remove the bolts that secure the transmission pan. You may also have to pry the seal open to remove the pan and drain the transmission fluid.
Always inspect any debris that you see. Wash it off using transmission fluid, not water. Inspect the gasket, too, if it needs replacement. Once you drain the transmission fluid, remove the filter and replace it with a brand new one.
Apply a leak-proof seal on the gasket and put it on the transmission pan. Put this back into its normal position and secure it with the bolts. Make sure you have a complete seal on the transmission pan.
Use a funnel to pour new transmission fluid into the transmission. Once completed, you can start your car’s engine and allow it to run for 5 minutes. Make sure to change the gears during this time before putting it back into Park. You can then check your transmission fluid dipstick. It should be at the correct level.
Changing the transmission fluid yourself can give you considerable savings. Not changing it can court more expensive repairs in the future.
- How to Change Transmission Fluid – HowStuffWorks
- How Often Do I Need to Replace the Transmission Fluid? – YourMechanic