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When to change transmission fluid and filter?

edited January 2012 in Repair and Maintenance
My owners manual states that I should change my transmission fluid and filter at 100,000 miles for a vehicle that experiences "normal" driving. My question is this- should I follow the owners manual on this or change out the fluid and filter at 75,000 miles? I just turned 70,000 miles and the fluid is not showing any signs of burnt material it it and it still looks and "smells" healthy. Oh, I would consider myself a "normal" driver as well. The vehicle is a 2004 Chevy Silverado 4x4 with the 5.3 L engine. Any thoughts?
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Comments

  • Change the fluid when it starts to look bad, that means way before you have "burnt material" in it, usually the fluid starts to look brownish first. Best way to tell is by spotting some on a white paper towel next to new fluid and comparing. Use this image for reference:

    http://www.magna-guard.com/Images/ATF1.jpg
  • @sjonnie - Change the fluid when it starts to look bad, that means way before you have "burnt material" in it, usually the fluid starts to look brownish first.

    Unfortunately many cars these days have sealed transmissions where there is no dip-stick to check the oil.

    My Toyota and wifes Lexus both have this type of tranny and both use the WS fluid and it's considered a life-time fluid. And with this life time fluid my 4runner has a little over 200k miles and I've changed the Life Time fluid 4 times. I do NOT like keeping the fluid in there for that long.
  • It should be changed every 30k miles and even more often if a lot of towing is done. You can't always tell about the fluid's condtion by eyeballing it and by the time you notice the fluid is brown, black, or smells funny this usually means it's too late and problems have already started.

    The phrase is closing the barn door after the horses done escaped; to butcher the language a bit.
  • After dropping hundreds and hundreds of transmission pans I have never seen one come off clean. There is always a layer of black sludge and some amount of iron dust in them. And more often than not the cooler is partially plugged with sludge. Like so many things in life it is much safer to err on the side of too much care.
  • That Silverado is overdue anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 miles in my book.
    I would do a pan drop and filter change now. Then another fluid change in a couple thousand miles.
  • Thanks for all of the suggestions. I really liked the visual from sjonnie... I will have to compare my fluid when I get a chance soon. Another question- what should I expect to pay for a fluid, filter, and gasket change? Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership? Thanks!
  • Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership?

    Both could do it, but Firestone typically pays low wages, and you will likely get an inexperienced mechanic. The dealer can certainly do it, and it will be the highest cost option. Ask friends and neighbors where they take their vehicles. You should hear a few names several times. Take it to one that gets good reports from a number of people and start a relationship with that garage.
  • edited January 2012
    When you change transmission fluid may be more use dependent then motor oil. This is one item I would err on the side of caution. Though many change their transmission fluids every 30 k, at least with cars I own, halving their rates to 50 k or a little less for vehicles with heavier use seams reasonable. Paying attention to characteristics between changes would be important too.
  • Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership?

    Neither...Take it to either a good independent or a place that specializes in transmissions. And NOT one of the transmission chain stores like AAMCO. I have mine done at a local tranny shop.
  • What type of driving do you consider 'normal'? Most people drive in a manner that the manual describes as 'severe', meaning a lot of stop-n-go driving, numerous short trips, periodic towing (especially with SUVs and Pick-ups), etc. I'm not trying to denigrate, just let you know that this particular topic has been brought up before. Your idea of 'normal' may not agree with the manufacturer's idea of 'normal'.

    That being said, oil is still relatively cheaper than a transmission. By using the 'severe' duty schedule or more frequent, as some posters have mentioned, certainly could not hurt. Waiting until the fluid 'looks' like it needs to be changed is generally too late to prevent accelerated wear and damage.
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