Skip to main content

DIY Transmission Fluid Change

Brian knows a lot about less-than-perfect cars and how to care for them.

Automatic transmission, arrangement of gears, brakes, clutches, a fluid drive, and governing devices that automatically changes the speed ratio between the engine and the wheels of an automobile.

Automatic transmission, arrangement of gears, brakes, clutches, a fluid drive, and governing devices that automatically changes the speed ratio between the engine and the wheels of an automobile.

A car is considered a necessity these days as a mode of transportation that provides convenience for traveling from one place to another. Anyone can own a car and drive it around, but not everyone pays much attention to the aspect of its maintenance. Many of us, including myself, are heavily reliant on our mechanic to tell us what is wrong when something happens to the car or find out only when it breakdowns.

Owning a car is not as simple as filling gas and going for the occasional car wash. In fact, car owners are expected to perform regular maintenance and checks to make sure the car is in good condition, which is also crucial for the safety of the driver and passengers.

A new car will, of course, be in tip-top condition, but as time passes, its performance may deteriorate. The condition of the car depends a lot on how well the car was taken care of, in terms of usage and maintenance. A car is made up of numerous parts that function together to ensure the car is able to perform on the road.

Most of us know that the engine is the core component of a car and it functions very much like a ‘brain’ of the car; without it, the car is basically like an empty shell with a body frame on wheels. However, it is not only the engine that gives the car its ability to function. Instead, there are numerous other parts that are necessary as well to facilitate the functioning of a car.

Apart from the engine, one particularly important feature of a car would be its gearbox, which is quite undermined by many. Regardless of whether your car is an automatic or manual transmission, it has a gearbox that functions to alter torque and speed of the automobile. The gearbox is a delicate component of a car that houses the gear - a tooth element that is mounted on a wheel which rotates to transmit motion.

Understanding how the gearbox works and being aware of its proper care and maintenance can prolong its lifespan, which will ultimately save you some bucks in repairs. On average, a basic repair may cost between $200 - $500 but the price range may vary depending on the make and model. The cost for extensive transmission repairs or replacements is also known to hit up to $1000 - $5000, in the case whereby the transmission requires a complete overhaul or replacement.

You can personally take control of the care and maintenance of your gearbox to avoid irreversible damage. You do not need to be a mechanic or an expert in vehicle maintenance, but basic functioning knowledge and useful tips can go a long way. First and foremost, you must ensure that your gears are sufficiently lubricated in order to function smoothly and reduce the impact of harsh friction.

Doing regular checks will also help you to identify any irregularities or abnormalities with the gearbox, which will affect the performance of your car. It is basically a simple task to replace the transmission fluid of your car. Read on to find out how you can do so.

Introduction to transmission fluid

The main role of transmission fluid is that it lubricates the components in the gearbox to enable optimum performance of the gears. There are numerous types of transmission fluids and it is important to make sure you choose the right one for your car. You may refer to your owner’s manual under the maintenance section to get this information.

It is important to take note that frequent and regular changes of transmission fluid are one of the ways to prolong a car’s lifespan. Transmission fluid plays two important functions, which is to lubricate and clean. The fluid basically circulates through the parts of the transmission and gather the dirt and metal shavings that are produced over time due to the friction of the gears.

What is the frequency of transmission fluid change?

It is usually recommended that car owners perform transmission fluid changes for every 30,000 to 60,000 miles driven. Another determinant for the frequency of change would also depend on your driving conditions. At times, your car may require earlier service than the recommended parameter, depending on the severity of driving conditions and its impact on the transmission.

In order to determine how hard you are being on your gearbox, you can install a temperature gauge to help monitor the temperature changes. Other indicators would be to check your automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and a change would be required if the dipstick reveals dark or burnt-smelling fluid.

How much does it cost to change transmission fluid?

The average cost estimated for a normal transmission fluid change may amount to about $100. Other recorded rates may range from $80-$250 if you have you have the work done at a dealer, service center or independent mechanic. However, you can cut down on these costs if you choose to perform the change on your own.

It is basically very simple and easy to do if you follow the steps listed below. To perform the transmission fluid change, you will require filter, gasket, and most importantly the transmission oil. All these may cost you around $40 to $90, at most, minus the cost of the tools to facilitate in the work. If you choose to be hands-on with the repairs, it will be ideal to Invest in quality tools and you can use them for a long period of time.

Scroll to Continue

Types of equipment and tools required for transmission fluid change

  • Transmission fluid: The critical ingredient for this endeavor. You can determine the specific type of fluid and it’s a composition by referring to your vehicle owner’s manual. On the other hand, you may also consult the representative at the auto parts store when you are there to make the purchase for the parts.
  • Filter and gasket: Make sure to get the correct size and type that is suitable for your transmission. You may refer to your current filter and gasket or get the representative at the auto parts store to recommend the suitable one based on your car transmission type and model.
  • Torque wrench: If you do not possess one that fits the purpose, you may use an alternative, which is a normal socket wrench.
  • Large pan: Any pan large enough to contain the transmission fluid drained from the vehicle before you proceed to fill it with the new batch. Be sure to get a large one just in case, because there is a tendency for the fluid to leak from all sides.

Step-by-step Instruction to change transmission fluid

  1. The first thing you need to do is to elevate the front of the car. In order to prevent the car from rolling, you may then use either ramps, a block of brick, or a huge stone to block the rear wheels. Next, jack up the front part of the car using a jack stand.
  2. Place newspapers directly under the transmission pan and little more to cover your workspace area as well. This is to avoid spillage from dirtying the floor. You can identify the transmission pan by referring to your owner’s manual.
  3. Place the oil pan directly under the transmission pan.
  4. Proceed to remove the bolts from the transmission pan. Once the seal on the bolts is broken, fluid will automatically start to drain out. This will take some time and you must allow the fluid to completely drain.
  5. Once the fluid is completely drained, remove the pan and Inspect the debris. The reason for doing so allows you to determine whether the transmission is functioning properly by the traces of debris left from draining the transmission fluid. For the first change, there might be little to no debris and for the subsequent change, the fluid should have a clean look.
  6. Once you have drained the transmission pan completely, proceed to remove the filter. Do so cautiously as the filter may contain fluid as well.
  7. Once you have changed the gasket, apply a layer of RTV sealant to the pan’s flange. This serves the purpose of ensuring a nice tight and leak-proof seal.
  8. Next, check to see whether you need to replace the gasket. If the gasket shows signs of being worn out, replace it with a new one.
  9. Subsequently, replace the filter with a new one and tighten it according to specifications indicated in the owner’s manual. And screw back the bolts on the pan for the final finish.
  10. Lastly, pour in a fresh batch of transmission fluid to complete the process.
  11. Start your car and allow it to run for a few minutes. You will need to shift the gears a few times and eventually put it back to the parking position.
  12. In order to ensure that the level of the transmission fluid is just right, you can check the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it over a clean rag to clean off any preliminary traces of oil on the stick. Dip it back and pull it out again. Hold the dipstick at eye level to see where the level of oil is on the dipstick. It should be at the line saying full.

Once you have confirmed that the fluid is at the correct level, it means that your job is done. Release the jack and lower down your car. By following the above steps, you have successfully managed to complete a transmission fluid change on your own at home. You have learned something new and saved yourself a trip to the workshop.

This might just save you some money as well. Just a reminder, it is important to ensure that you dispose of the transmission fluid properly so as to not cause a mess and pollute the environment. You might want to enquire the nearest auto parts stores whether they have a proper place that you can dump the oil.

Can Changing your Transmission Fluid Cause Damage?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on August 30, 2019:

You are welcome Larry. And thank you for taking your time to read my article.

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on July 31, 2019:

You are welcome Larry

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on July 30, 2019:

Great article! Very informative! Thank you for sharing.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 07, 2019:

Having just booked a car in for a 10,000 mile service, I have read yoir article with great interest.

Related Articles