There has always been some debate on the pros and cons of changing your transmission fluid on a routine basis, per your vehicle owner's manual recommendation. One of the many rumored suspicions is that doing so will open your car up to having dreaded transmission issues sooner. To debunk those conspiracy theories, let's get into the meat of the topic and explore, together, why it absolutely makes sense to change it regularly; and how not doing so could actually cause your car to run sluggishly - potentially costing you precious pennies in the long run!
1) Heat is the enemy
The number one reason that manufacturers recommend you change your transmission fluid regularly is because it degrades as it continually heats up during driving. There are exhaustive studies about the precise temperatures in which its effectiveness actually wanes. Suffice it to say that most owner's manuals duly recommend changing your fluid every 30,000 miles. There is one exception to this rule: newer vehicles using Dexron III ATF fluid can often go up to 100,000 miles before needing to be changed. As you drive, and the transmission heats up, the viscosity of your fluid changes; over time, this heat causes transmissions to burn up and this is the single-most cause of transmission repairs today - burned up transmissions.
2) Gunk and sludge
As your transmission continues to heat up and it continues to break down, your car's transmission components begin to get bogged down with gunk and sludge. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that gunk and sludge are going to clog up your transmission gears, causing unnatural wear and tear on your vehicle's transmission. If you want your transmission to continue to operate smoothly, it is vital to keep it clean.
3) Leaky seals and putrid odors
No, I'm not talking about a horror flick here. A well-maintained machine is one whose owner regularly checks the transmission fluid levels - yes, using the dipstick! You should ideally check your transmission fluid level when your engine is warm and idling. Transmission fluid should be bright red and should smell sweet, not putrid or rancid. It shouldn't be brown or black or even dark red. It should look like the tip of the spindle after Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger. If your transmission fluid level is low, or the color is not right, it's time to change your transmission fluid and check (or have checked by the mechanic) all of the seals around the transmission for leaks.
If you want your transmission to last throughout the life of the car, it is imperative that you change your transmission fluid regularly, following your owner's manual guidelines and a few common sense rules. In today's world of disposable everything - neglecting your transmission can be a rude awakening to your wallet. The potential costs associated with ignoring the routine maintenance guidelines on your transmission could total thousands of dollars that would be better spent on a nice, warm vacation to a sunny spot this summer.
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