Your car's automatic transmission uses fluid to maintain its proper temperature, control shifts, and lubricate vital internal parts. If your fluid becomes dirty or burnt, its ability to carry out these essential roles will become compromised. Replacing your fluid can help to ensure peak transmission performance, but it may not always be as simple as replacing your motor oil or coolant.
It's important to learn a few things about your car's transmission fluid before requesting a fluid change. These three tips will help you to make the right decision when it comes to scheduling a routine transmission fluid flush and replacement.
1. Check Your Manual
Your vehicle's manual should include a schedule of regular maintenance items. Not all manufacturers consider transmission fluid to be a routine maintenance item, so don't be surprised if it isn't listed. In most cases, however, manufacturers will at least provide the specifications for your car's factory fluid. These specifications can help you to choose an equivalent fluid replacement after a flush.
When possible, defer to your manufacturer's recommendations for any routine maintenance. Sticking to recommended fluid change intervals and fluid specifications will help to keep your transmission operating as it did from the factory.
2. Be Aware of Your Usage
How you use your vehicle can impact the longevity of its transmission fluid. Your manufacturer will usually base their recommended fluid change intervals on typical usage. If you use your car or truck for heavy-duty purposes, such as towing or hauling large loads, then the extra heat and stress can cause your fluid to wear out more quickly.
Check your user manual for a "severe" maintenance schedule and consider following these recommendations for heavy-duty usage. If an upgraded maintenance schedule isn't available, then changing your transmission fluid twice as often as recommended may be a prudent course of action.
3. Know What You're Getting
Shops that offer transmission services will change your transmission fluid and should always replace your filter and any other expendable items (such as gaskets or washers) that they remove during the process. Additionally, you should be aware of the difference between a fluid flush and a fluid change. Although a fluid flush will usually cost slightly more, this procedure will completely replace all of the fluid in your transmission.
In general, you should consider a complete flush procedure at least every other fluid replacement or as often as your owner's manual recommends. These more thorough fluid replacements will guarantee that your transmission remains free of old, burnt fluid and contaminants.