Is a Transmission Flush Necessary for My Vehicle? | YourMechanic Advice (2024)

A transmission flush is necessary for an automatic transmission’s longevity. It also improves fuel economy and helps validate warranties.

byYM Staffon

January 28, 2019

Is a Transmission Flush Necessary for My Vehicle? | YourMechanic Advice (1)

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Routine maintenance is the key to longevity for any machine. This statement of fact is especially vital for cars, trucks, and SUVs that navigate the highways and byways across the United States daily. While most of us are pretty good about having our engine oil changed, radiators flushed, and tires rotated, one routine service often overlooked is the transmission flush. In fact, it’s common for many car owners to ask whether a transmission flush is necessary or just a good idea.

Having a transmission flushed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles is crucial, especially if you drive a car with an automatic transmission. Let’s take a look at the top 4 reasons why having your automatic transmission fluid flushed as recommended is indeed necessary.

How Automatic Transmission Fluid Works

There is often some confusion as to how an automatic transmission works. Simply put, an automatic transmission is a hydraulic system that relies on a consistent flow of transmission fluid levels to supply hydraulic pressure in order to operate. Transmission fluid is different than engine oil — it is designed with a specific viscosity and a combination of additives that help reduce expansion as the fluid is heated. This keeps the vehicle's transmission fluid consistent, which permits it to flow efficiently through each hydraulic line inside the transmission. Over time and with continued use, the additives will begin to wear out, which causes the fluid to thin and become more susceptible to expansion due to heat. Dirty transmission fluid needs to be replaced with new fluid for ideal performance.

Why is a Transmission Flush Required?

A transmission flush is similar to other car fluid changes. When you or a mechanic perform an oil change, it’s a rather simple process. They’ll remove the oil pan bolt, remove the oil filter, and let the old fluid drain until it stops flowing. However, it doesn’t fully remove all of the engine oil. Inside the engine block and cylinder heads are a series of galleys that keep a small portion of oil to lubricate moving parts until the new oil is circulated through the engine. An automatic transmission’s fluid is kept inside the hydraulic lines, so it needs to be ‘flushed’ or pushed through the lines to drain effectively. This also serves a secondary purpose. The transmission flush also pushes debris and other small particles that develop from the transmission filter’s worn out fibers.

Here are 4 reasons why this process is so important for those with automatic transmissions:

  1. It extends the transmission lifespan: If the transmission’s internal hydraulic lines are clogged, it can cause inner seals to break, which creates internal leaks and can lead to complete transmission failure. By having the fluid flushed and filters replaced every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, you significantly reduce the potential of damage and can extend its lifespan.

  2. It improves smooth shifting: When transmission fluid is replaced and the fluid is flushed, it improves the efficient flow of transmission fluid throughout the system. The end result is that the transmission will shift smoother.

  3. It is vital to protect warranties: Most new cars, trucks, and SUVs come with a powertrain warranty — which protects the engine, transmission and drive-system components. However, if those systems are not maintained as recommended, it can void most extended warranties and cost you a significant amount of money if you need to replace them.

  4. It can improve fuel economy: A smooth-shifting transmission is also critical for the efficient operation of your engine. If the transmission slips or shifts higher than the engine is set, it can and often will burn more fuel inside the engine than it should. A transmission fluid change can contribute to optimal fuel mileage.

You’ll notice in the information above that we haven’t mentioned transmission flushes for CVT or manual transmissions. These units operate differently and have their own recommended service intervals. The best way to clarify what you should have done for your vehicle is to contact a professional mechanic, your automotive dealership or investigate your owner’s manual for a transmission service maintenance schedule. This will tell you when all the recommended services are required and suggested to keep your vehicle running strong and protect those warranties.

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It was a pleasure having Mike work on my car. He went above and beyond to make sure I was completely satisfied. I would not hesitate to hire Mike to work on your car. He’s honest, knowledgeable, reliable, and very friendly. He’s everything you would want your mechanic to be. I highly recommend Mike. Thanks!

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Is a Transmission Flush Necessary for My Vehicle? | YourMechanic Advice (2024)

FAQs

Is a Transmission Flush Necessary for My Vehicle? | YourMechanic Advice? ›

It's generally recommended that you perform a transmission flush on your vehicle every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. This helps promote the smooth operation and longevity of your transmission while minimizing the likelihood of a mechanical breakdown.

Do you really need transmission flush? ›

Depending on what the manufacturer recommends, you may need to get a transmission flush every 30,000 miles or two years. In some cases, your owner's manual may suggest waiting until your car reaches 100,000 miles. Your best bet is to check your manual and consult with our technicians.

What happens if I don't flush my transmission fluid? ›

Without clean fluid, the inconsistent flow will prevent gears and moving parts from shifting cleanly and correctly. Gear Trouble: If your gears are slipping or you are struggling when shifting gears, your transmission fluid might be the culprit.

Why do mechanics say not to change transmission fluid? ›

If you've neglected an automatic transmission oil and filter changes, then leave it alone. The reasoning for this is transmissions develop a varnish inside of them, from the oil film. By changing the oil and filter, you're placing a new corrosive oil that's designed to keep the oil galleys clean.

How do I know if my car needs a transmission flush? ›

Signs You Need A Transmission Flush

Other than the obvious check engine light, if you observe slipping gears, transmission whine, delayed shifting, or poor acceleration, then you might want to consider having the transmission fluid changed or perhaps even flushed.

Do car manufacturers recommend transmission flush? ›

Many auto manufacturers suggest having an automatic transmission flushed once every 30,000 to 100,000 miles. For a manual transmission, it usually ranges from 30,000 to 60,000 miles. It's worth noting that some manufacturers don't recommend a flush at all, at least for certain models.

How much should a transmission flush cost? ›

Drivers can expect to pay $125 to $250 for a transmission fluid flush service. This is approximately twice as much as a transmission fluid change. This is due in large part to the additional fluid required. A flush will take 12 to 22 quarts, while a fluid change requires 5 to 7 quarts.

Can a transmission flush ruin your car? ›

Despite some potential advantages, a transmission flush also carries certain hazards which, if not properly managed, can potentially worsen existing transmission problems or create new ones. Power flushing, for instance, utilises force to expel old fluid and contaminants.

Is it bad to change transmission fluid if it's never been changed? ›

If your fluid has never been changed before, replacing it with new fluid can cause the transmission to start slipping, even if it wasn't slipping before. This is because the old fluid will contain clutch material from being in there over time and can actually be helping the transmission to still shift gears.

Why do transmissions fail after flush? ›

Many transmissions fail after a transmission flush, not because of the flush, but because the transmission was already at the threshold of failure. A transmission flush is not intended to fix transmission problems, it is meant to help maintain the transmission.

Should I flush my transmission after 100k miles? ›

In the past, the factory-recommended interval for changing the automatic transmission fluid was typically between 30,000 and 100,000 miles, but some newer vehicles have what's referred to as “lifetime fluid.” However, there's some question as to whether never changing the transmission fluid may shorten that “lifetime.” ...

How long can a transmission last without changing fluid? ›

If you drive manual, most manufacturers will recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you have automatic, you can typically boost that range up to 60,000 to 100,000 miles. There's no harm in changing your fluid early.

Is it safe to change transmission fluid on high mileage? ›

Changing the fluid on a regularly driven vehicle can only help revitalize the clutch material. If the fluid has never been changed on a regularly driven car, at 170,000 miles, you damn well need to completely flush the system!

Why is transmission flush not recommended? ›

And some people warn against performing a flush on a transmission using old, dirty fluid. The flushing procedure may cause some fluid to move in the opposite direction of normal flow due to eddy currents, which may increase the risk of dislodging debris and causing it to settle somewhere it shouldn't.

Does your car run better after a transmission flush? ›

After a transmission fluid flush, you may notice that your vehicle shifts smoother, and that your transmission operates better than before.

Does a transmission flush take long? ›

A trained mechanic can perform a simple transmission flush in three to four hours using a commercial flushing machine or pump inlet. A transmission fluid change takes just about 30 minutes.

Are transmission flushes a waste of money? ›

Performed properly, a transmission flush will not damage a transmission. Are transmission flushes a waste of money? No! Transmission fluid flushes remove contaminants that could hurt your transmission, much the same way that engine oil is changed to clean the engine.

Does a transmission flush do more harm than good? ›

If you decide to have a system flush performed on your transmission, it is important to hire a trained professional. If not performed properly, more harm than good can be done to the components of the transmission.

Should you change transmission fluid if it's never been changed? ›

If your fluid has never been changed before, replacing it with new fluid can cause the transmission to start slipping, even if it wasn't slipping before. This is because the old fluid will contain clutch material from being in there over time and can actually be helping the transmission to still shift gears.

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