Why Do I Need to Change My Transmission Fluid?

Transmissions are a vital part of your car’s mechanics. They’re also a potential source of massive repair cost, leaving many worrying about the best way to provide maintenance. Let’s take a look at some information about transmissions and transmission fluid.

What Does the Transmission DO in a Car?

Your mechanic can give you a detailed account of what your transmission does, but for those of us who aren’t mechanically inclined, try thinking of it this way: your transmission is kind of like the gear shift on a bike. Both parts are required to shift between different gears, and if something is going wrong shifting will become harder and harder until it stops happening at all. If your gear shift moves too slowly or incorrectly—or worse yet, it doesn’t move at all—your bike chain will get stuck in the wrong place or come off of the gear entirely. Either way, starting after a stop and accelerating how you need to will be much harder and eventually impossible if your gear shift (or transmission) isn’t working right.


Your transmission requires transmission fluid to make the necessary adjustments for shifting. Over time, this fluid breaks down and gets dirty or burned, just like your car’s engine oil. However, your transmission fluid lasts a lot longer than your engine oil. Many manufacturers encourage you to change it every 100,000 miles or more. If you do a lot of driving that involves stopping and starting often, such as in a city, you may need to attend to your transmission fluid more often.

Related: How Often Does Your Car Need an Oil Change?

The best way to determine how often your transmission needs a fluid change is to refer to your owner’s manual. Your manual will have all the details on how often your car needs maintenance for average driving. It’s also a good idea to talk to a few mechanics about when you’d need a change given your specific driving patterns. While you’re at it, check and see what options they have for this fluid change. If you can, you should avoid a flush that relies on forcing fluid backwards through the transmission, as this can damage valves and loosen or lodge debris in your transmission.

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