Don’t Forget About Your Transmission Fluid
You probably get your engine oil changed every 5000 km or so but what about your automatic transmission fluid (ATF)? Do you go to a quicky lube place and then dismiss the lube tech when they tell you that you should get your transmission oil changed and they show you that little tray with a sample of your ATF and it’s a funny brown colour?
It’s easy to forget that your transmission also contains fluid that’s vital for its continued operation. ATF not only keeps the thousands of parts in your transmission meshing smoothly, it also helps to keep your transmission running cooler, particularly important when you’re towing a heavy trailer or you operate your vehicle under what are called severe conditions.
How Often Should Transmission Fluid be Replaced?
So, how often should you get your transmission fluid changed? Some people say that you should never get your ATF replaced, arguing that it can knock gunk loose that could end up damaging your transmission. In fact, some new vehicles have a fill-for-life transmission as evidenced by the lack of a transmission dip stick. In theory, the fluid in the transmission never has to be replaced or topped up. As with most things automotive, you should always follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual since the intervals can vary between different makes. The Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA) recommends that you replace your transmission fluid every two years, or 50,000 km. Changing the ATF more frequently than that will cost you more money than necessary. It also increases that chances that an absent minded mechanic might put the wrong ATF in, strip the transmission drain plug, or install a filter or gasket incorrectly, resulting in a transmission repair that could cost you thousands of dollars.
Severe Service Requires more Frequent Changes
The operating life of transmission fluid is dependent on operating conditions. Pulling a heavy trailer and frequent start and stop driving will cause the transmission to work harder and hotter, and will shorten the life of the ATF, requiring more frequent replacement. While transmissions are designed to operate at high temperatures, consistent overheating can cause ATF to break down and lose its lubricating properties. Once the viscosity starts to break down, the friction clutch plates inside the transmission start to slip. Then, the transmission starts to get really hot. Before long you’ll notice that your transmission isn’t shifting as smoothly as it used to. Then it stops working completely.
Get into the habit of checking our transmission fluid when you check your engine oil. You’ll know if it’s running low, and you can also see the colour on the dipstick. It should be bright red and not look dirty or smell burned. If your ATF looks dirty or smells funny, it’s probably a good idea to have it changed as soon as possible.
While it’s possible to change your ATF yourself, it’s a little more messy and involved than changing your engine oil. You may have to remove the transmission oil pan completely, clean or replace the gasket, replace the filter, and put it all back together without allowing any gunk to get into the transmission. Plus, you have to be certain that you put the right ATF for your transmission back in (the wrong one can damage your transmission).
We Don’t Just Sell Cars
If it’s time to replace your ATF and you don’t want to deal with the mess yourself, bring it in to Kelowna Infiniti Nissan. We service all vehicle makes and models and you can be secure in the knowledge that licensed mechanics are taking care of one of your vehicle’s most expensive vital components.