Transmission fluid should be changed periodically. Your owner’s manual should give you the recommended intervals which could be anywhere from 15,000 miles to 100,000 miles. Most transmission experts recommend changing the fluid and filter every 25,000.
Few transmissions have drain plugs to drain the old fluid. In order to get the fluid out, the technician removes the transmission oil pan. This is quite a messy job and generally not recommended for the casual do-it-yourselfer. Even if the transmission has a drain plug, the only way to also change the transmission filter is to remove the pan. When the pan is down, the technician can check for metal shavings and other debris which are indicators of impending transmission problems.
In most cases during these transmission services, only about half the oil is able to be removed from the unit. This is because much of the oil is in the torque converter and cooler lines and cannot be drained without major disassembly. The fluid change intervals are based on the fact that some old fluid remains in the system.
When the transmission is serviced, make sure that the correct fluid is used to refill it. Each transmission manufacturer has their own recommendation for the proper fluid to use and the internal components are designed for that specific formula. For example, GM usually uses Dexron, Fords prior to 1983 use Type F while later models use Mercon. Late model Chrysler products use ATF +3 +4 (Not using the correct fluid for Chrysler transmissions is the most common reason for their transmission problems). Toyota sometimes uses Type T which is only available through Toyota and Lexus Parts departments. Honda also specs out their own formula which is available from Honda or Acura parts departments. A transmission will not work properly or may even slip or shudder with the incorrect fluid, so make sure that you double check. Your owner’s manual will tell you which fluid is required. Naturally, the owner’s manual will try to convince you to only use the manufacturer’s branded fluid, but they will also provide you with the specs for the oil. If the aftermarket product indicates on its container that they meet or exceed the specs for a particular type of transmission fluid, it is generally ok to use that product.
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