How Often Do You Need to Change Transmission Fluid?

How often do you need to change transmission fluid? The frequency at which you can replace your transmission oil is determined by your vehicle and driving style. Transmission oil changes are recommended from every 30,000 miles (48,000 km) to never. Yes, you read that right: never!  Here are a few pointers for deciding how often you can replace your transmission oil.

How often do you need to change transmission fluid? Consult the owner’s manual!

OEM guidelines on how frequently to replace automatic transmission fluid span a broad mileage range, based on the model, make, and year. Furthermore, if the driving style is similar to those of the majority of motorists and falls into the “severe” category (hauling, towing, regular short trips of less than 10 miles, etc.), many original equipment manufacturers recommend replacing transmission oil more regularly.

It is important to follow the instructions of your owner’s manual. It will have servicing advice, usually in the form of a table in the back of the manual. Many original equipment manufacturers make digital owner’s manuals available online, so if you’ve misplaced yours, try a fast online search.

It is now time for a quick note on “filled-for-life” transmissions.

They’re getting more popular as OEMs look for ways to save drivers money on unnecessary maintenance. They seem to be all positive, but it is critical to replace the transmission oil in these units, particularly if you haul or tow.

They’re expected to last the life of the vehicle, but suppose that the transmission stops working after the warranty expires? This will surely result in quite a hefty bill.   Proactively replace the fluid at least once during your transmission’s lifespan.

How many of us faithfully obey the instructions in our owner’s manuals to the letter? Many drivers utterly disregard their transmission until it starts to turn harshly, shake, or pause. Isn’t it true that what’s out of sight, is out of mind?

This is not a good thing, particularly if you haul or tow.

Heat destroys transmissions

Transmission oil oxidizes over time (breaks down chemically). The process is accelerated by the high heat produced by hauling and towing. Transmission fluid breakdown can result in the formation of varnish and sludge, which clogs small oil passages and leads to clutch glazing. Your vehicle could soon begin to shift poorly.

Wouldn’t it be nice in these scenarios to use a transmission oil designed with backup heat control in case your busy schedule interferes with being able to follow the recommended maintenance?

Heat protection should be reserved

The built-in reserve security in AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid allows it to last twice as long as the original equipment manufacturer’s severe-service drain interval. That translates to you being certain that your transmission is safe, even if servicing has to be delayed.

Symptoms of transmission fluid depletion

Bad shifting is caused by more than just heat. Low transmission fluid can also cause a variety of issues, like…

  • Unreliable, jerky shifts
  • Pausing
  • Spikes
  • Higher transmission temperatures

Bad shifting = low fluid

Transmission fluid performs many important functions, one of which is to behave as a hydraulic oil to allow shifting. As the processor in the vehicle instructs the transmission to shift gears, hydraulic friction (provided by the oil) squeezes a set of plates together within a clutch pack to link the engine to the transmission output shaft and direct energy to the wheels.

Due to a lack of fluid, the transmission oil pump can draw air into its inlet. As fluid and air combine, foam is formed, which decreases hydraulic pressure and interferes with the smooth, steady shifts you want while driving.

Depleted transmission oil will also prevent the torque converter from fully loading, resulting in reduced torque transfer, delay, and wasted power. In extreme situations, the vehicle will not even move until the engine is revved up.

AMSOIL Signature Series Multi-Vehicle Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid.
AMSOIL Signature Series Multi-Vehicle Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid

How much transmission oil will I require?

The amount of transmission oil needed by your vehicle varies from 8-9 quarts for smaller passenger vehicles to more than 20 quarts for large trucks.

Check your user’s manual for transmission fluid capacity, just as you would for deciding how often to replace transmission fluid.

You may also consult the AMSOIL Product Guide, which details how much transmission fluid is needed for most models and makes.

OE Multi-Vehicle Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid.
OE Multi-Vehicle Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid

Depleted transmission oil levels can lead to wear

Transmission oil lubricates the clutch plates, seals, and gears. It creates a protective barrier between meshing gear teeth, preventing metal-to-metal interaction and reducing wear. It aids in the prevention of clutch plate wear, which causes major friction during gear shifts. The fluid also keeps seals pliable and lubricates them, preventing them from drying out and leaking. Following is an overview of all the tasks that transmissions must complete.

Low fluid levels can prevent the development of a solid, consistent lubricating film on parts, resulting in premature wear. When foam bubbles migrate between gear teeth, they may collapse, causing metal-to-metal contact and accelerating wear.

AMSOIL Signature Series Fuel-Efficient Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid.
AMSOIL Signature Series Fuel-Efficient Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid

Examine your transmission oil

Check the fluid level once a month to guarantee that the vehicle is operating – and shifting – at maximum efficiency. If the fluid level is regularly low, take it to a mechanic to figure out why and get it repaired.

Hopefully this blog post has helped you answer the question “how often do you need to change transmission fluid?” Happy shifting!

OE Fuel-Efficient Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid.
OE Fuel-Efficient Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid

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