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When and Why You Should Service Your Transmission
Your transmission is what gets power from your engine to your wheels, so it’s one of the most important parts on your car, and knowing when to change the transmission fluid can extend the car’s life.
There are two types of transmissions: manual and automatic. In an automatic transmission, the heat generated in the transmission causes the fluid to degrade. In manual transmissions, the problem is fluid contamination—bits of the surrounding metal parts end up in the fluid, and it doesn’t work as well as a lubricant.
Transmission fluid doesn’t need to be changed often, but staying on target with when the manufacturer suggests can save you a lot of money in the long run, since replacing a failed transmission isn’t cheap—depending on the labor rate, it will probably cost at least $3,000.
Since there are two different transmission types, there are different guidelines for when to service each one. For manual transmissions, the fluid should be changed every 30 to 50 thousand miles, and for cars that undergo heavy duty use, you might want to change the fluid more often.
Automatic transmissions are a bit trickier, since there’s less agreement on the length of time between changes. Some manufacturers boast a “fill for life” transmission that will last well over 100 thousand miles, but mechanics don’t trust this statement and still prefer to change automatic transmission fluid every 50 to 100 thousand miles.
The best way to know is to consult your owner’s manual and then ask a mechanic you trust, since the figures vary from car to car.