Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (2024)

The matter of whether or not a transmission flush is truly necessary is quite controversial, and lately a matter open for debate. This being said, most car manufacturers and industry professionals are now in agreement that a transmission flush is not a necessary service, despite it being touted as sound practice in years past.

There are many misgivings surrounding transmission flush procedures, including their purpose, benefits/risks, and value. The following is intended to clear the air, by giving consumers the necessary information to make an informed decision regarding whether or not a transmission flush is a service worth paying for.

First, let’s get to the bottom of what a transmission flush is, and isn’t.

Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (1)

Table of Contents

What Is a Transmission Flush?

A transmission flush is a service that exchanges all old automatic transmission fluid (ATF), with new, fresh ATF. This fluid is exchanged under pressure, and is intended to remove deposits and other contaminants from your vehicle’s transmission.

In theory, all old transmission fluid will be removed during a flush, including that within the transmission’s torque converter.

Services of this type are generally completed at dealerships or quick-service establishments, with the use of a specialized machine. These services typically take 30-45 minutes and cost approximately $125-$250 to complete. Many service centers claim that a vehicle requires a transmission flush every 30,000-60,000 miles.

Theory vs Reality

Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (2)

While it is indeed true that virtually every automotive manufacturer specifies the need for periodic transmission “service”, the specifics of such service are often left to interpretation.

For years, the standard protocol has called for the draining and refilling of a vehicle’s transmission fluid, as well as the application of a new transmission filter. However, somewhere along the way, the practice of transmission flushing gained popularity.

Proponents of the transmission flush claim that a service of the like is required to remove all old transmission fluid in its entirety, making a standard drain/fill service inadequate. If this were true, then shouldn’t all engine oil be purged under pressure in a similar manner, to eliminate any remaining used motor oil?

The truth is, the idea of routine maintenance as a whole, is likely far more important than the chosen manner in which aging transmission fluid is discarded. While you can’t argue against the notion that a standard drain/fill service leaves some degree of used ATF behind, it’s reasonable to assume that these amounts are relatively nominal.

When transmission fluid is changed at regular intervals, little in the way of sludge or contamination is allowed to build, thereby negating many of the arguments surrounding the necessity of a transmission flush.

Simply put, the real benefit comes from regularly servicing your transmission, regardless of whether you choose a standard fluid change or a flush. Performing transmission maintenance at consistent intervals is what truly matters.

Related: Transmission Fluid Color Chart

Why, Then, Are Transmission Flush Services Offered?

Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (3)

There are many automotive services that have gained popularity throughout the years, due in large part to their ability to generate money. In many ways, transmission flush procedures fall into this category.

While most vehicle owners can easily drain and fill their own transmission fluid at home, as specified by most manufacturers, very few possess the ability to perform a “flush” based service.

This, in turn, is why most quick-service establishments push to upsell transmission flush services. While oil changes and tire rotations keep the lights on at such shops, upsell services with plenty of financial upsides achieve profits.

In many ways, this is no different than purchasing an electronic device through a retailer, only to be offered 3-4 elaborate extended warranty plans at checkout, all in the name of protection.

Transmission Flush: Potential Harm

Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (4)

To this point, there has been an emphasis placed on choosing between transmission flush services and standard transmission services, based largely on preference, rather than a perceived need. However, there are circ*mstances under which a transmission flush is absolutely not recommended.

The most pertinent of which is when dealing with a high-mileage vehicle that has received no transmission service in its lifetime.

If a vehicle has reached high mileage without its transmission being serviced, there is a rather good chance of the transmission’s ATF containing a significant amount of clutch media. In the most severe of cases, the presence of this clutch media laden fluid is often serving to assist with the engagement of otherwise worn-out clutches.

Under such circ*mstances, a transmission flush should be avoided, in a bid to prevent further slippage.

Read Also: Symptoms of a Burnt Transmission Fluid

The Verdict

The long and short of the matter is that a vehicle does not require a “transmission flush” unless specified by its manufacturer. Rather, periodic transmission services, wherein both fluid and filter are changed, are typically more than enough to sustain the life of a vehicle’s transmission.

Moreover, choosing to have a transmission flush conducted late in a vehicle’s life, following years of no meaningful maintenance, is of little value and is likely to do more harm than good.

After enough time without periodic transmission maintenance, the damage itself has already been done. Flushing a transmission under pressure is likely to expel any free-floating clutch material that might be helping to prevent slippage.

At the end of the day, a transmission flush should be looked at simply as a service that can be conducted in place of a standard drain/fill service. If this is the maintenance route that one wishes to take, they should continue this regimen throughout the life of their vehicle, whenever transmission service is specified per their vehicle’s manufacturer.

Even under these circ*mstances, choosing periodic transmission flushes over transmission drain/fill services is only likely to have minimal effects, in terms of extending a transmission’s longevity. At the end of the day, a transmission is still a mechanical component, and is prone to eventual failure, no matter how well it is taken care of.

Pros & Cons of Transmission Flush Services

Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (5)

Ultimately, without manufacturer specification, the decision to flush a transmission comes down to personal preference. Below are lists weighing the pros and cons of transmission flushes to help you determine if it’s the right service for you and your vehicle.

Pros

  • Completely eliminates old ATF from transmission/torque converter
  • Can be done rather quickly by trained technicians
  • Eliminates the need to remove drain plugs or drop the transmission pan

Cons

  • Typically quite costly to have performed
  • Requires a trip to an authorized service center
  • Is only slightly more effective at keeping transmission free of deposits and contamination than the standard drain/fill procedure.
  • Author
  • Recent Posts

Josh Boyd

Josh has worked as a full-time mechanic for over 12 years, with 6 ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications under his belt. He began his career as an automotive technician at local Toyota dealership and has since transitioned to specializing in diesel trucks and equipment.

Latest posts by Josh Boyd (see all)

  • What Happens if You Put Gasoline in a Diesel Engine? - Jul 2, 2024
  • Check Engine Light Is On, But Scanning Shows No Codes? (What It Means) - Jun 28, 2024
  • 4 Causes of Smoke Coming Out of Your Car Vents - Jun 20, 2024
Is a Transmission Flush Really Necessary? (Here's the Truth) (2024)

FAQs

Do you really need to flush transmission fluid? ›

Much like oil changes, transmission flushes should be performed every so often to maintain the transmission system, which you cannot drive without. If you bring your car in so our technicians can complete this service, your vehicle can stay running at its best.

Why do people say never change transmission fluid? ›

Automatic transmissions can slip from low fluid, wrong fluid, internal failure and more. On manual transmissions, they will slip as clutches become worn. Not all unmaintained transmissions will start to slip after having the fluid changed, however it's common enough that many mechanics warn against doing it.

Is transmission flush unnecessary? ›

Flushing may clean out more deposits than drain and fill, but may only be necessary if you have been using inferior transmission fluid, are well past your recommended drain interval, or have been using your truck for severe service duty (towing, hauling, high temps, etc.).

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.

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.

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.

Is it ever a bad idea to change transmission fluid? ›

That bad fluid may have a “sticky” quality to it or metal flecks that act to aid friction, and if it's changed, the new fluid might cause the transmission to start slipping.

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 transmission fluid really lifetime? ›

From our 30 years of hands-on automotive experience, there is no such thing as a truly "sealed for life" or "lifetime transmission fluid." Over time, all transmission fluids will eventually deteriorate, break down, and become contaminated and will need to be changed.

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.

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.

Why does my car run better after a transmission flush? ›

A transmission flush gives your mechanic the opportunity to inspect the transmission system and head off bigger problems by finding small ones early. Finally, the increased fuel efficiency and smoother shifting will make the vehicle feel like it's running better on the whole.

Is it better to do a transmission flush or change? ›

A transmission flush is better than a transmission fluid exchange. On average, a transmission fluid change drains less than half of the total fluid in your transmission. This is because your transmission has many nooks, crannies, and fluid lines where your transmission fluid can stay stagnant.

How do I know if I need 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.

Does Toyota recommend transmission flush or change? ›

Regularly changing your Toyota's transmission fluid is essential for ensuring optimal performance and extending the lifespan of your vehicle's transmission system. Over time, transmission fluid can break down and become contaminated with debris, leading to decreased efficiency and potential damage.

How do I know if my transmission fluid needs to be flushed? ›

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.

Is it bad 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!

Can I add transmission fluid without flushing? ›

While you may be able to get by with a simple transmission fluid change instead of a full flush when you need a quick fix, it won't protect your transmission for too long. Meaning it is not the best way to ensure the longevity of your vehicle. That is why you need a complete fluid flush and replacement.

Can you flush transmission at home? ›

Disconnect the transmission cooler line that enters the radiator with hot fluid. With a thin funnel in the dipstick tube, start the engine and begin pouring the clean fluid into the funnel. As it's going in, old fluid is being pumped out of the cooler line into your drain pan, flushing contaminants from the system.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dan Stracke

Last Updated:

Views: 5711

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dan Stracke

Birthday: 1992-08-25

Address: 2253 Brown Springs, East Alla, OH 38634-0309

Phone: +398735162064

Job: Investor Government Associate

Hobby: Shopping, LARPing, Scrapbooking, Surfing, Slacklining, Dance, Glassblowing

Introduction: My name is Dan Stracke, I am a homely, gleaming, glamorous, inquisitive, homely, gorgeous, light person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.