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Auto transmission fluid flush and change?

Hyunda 2003 sonata 6, mileage 9929 and mechanic said “Transmission fluid is starting to discolor, flush and replace cost $245.” Could this be correct? Drive only in town, Portland, OR.

Is that odometer mileage figure correct? If it is, that indicates that you drive the car less than 2,000 miles per year! Hopefully you are using the Severe Maintenance schedule provided by Hyundai, because less than 2,000 miles per year of strictly urban driving is the absolute worst type of service to which you can subject the car.

That being said, since the transmission fluid is now 6 years old, I agree that it should be changed. You might want to call a couple of other independent mechanics in your area to compare the price, but whatever you do, DO NOT take the car to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Mr. Transmission, Cottman, or any other chain operation.

That flush/fill should be about $100- $150. Most any shop can do it, so check around for a reputable independent and get it done there.

Agree that based on time elapsed, the fluid and filter should be changed. My 91 year old mother-in-law has the same driving pattern; her car gets serviced twice a year for oil & filter and every 4 years for transmission and cooling system.

The price quoted is rather high; I got this done on my Nissan last year for $85 at an independent shop.

As mentioned, I would get another independent quote.

Thank you for this information and recommendations. I reviewed the owner’s manual again, as I never looked at the Severe maintenance schedule, I was not using the recommended schedule, now I will. Thanks again!!!

Is the mileage you give correct?

If this car has less than 10k miles on it the fluid should not be discolored even at 6 years of age.
Either someone is leading you on and trying to sell you something you don’t need (and way overpriced to boot) or if the fluid really is discolored this means the transmission is on the way out. Possible at 99k miles; not likely at 9900.

I pulled a transmission myself at the salvage yard about 3 years ago (oddball transmission,odd to find) and this transmission had been sitting in that yard since the car’s engine exploded back in 1976. Both the fluid and the transmission itself were clean as a pin even after 30 years.

We did them at Kia in 2004 for $100.00.

I am with ok on this one. You can change the fluid, but something is making it overheat and cook the fluid. I would get it to a reputable transmission shop or dealer and have it checked out.

I guess someone must be leading me on as I bought this car new and only use it for grocery shopping and other short errands. I live in a city that has great bus service that I use for most transportation needs. I will have my son check the transmission fluid to see if it is discolored. Thanks.

I seriously doubt that the transmission fluid needs to be changed but it wouldn’t hurt. I would not flush, just drain and refill.

What I would be concerned about is your coolant. Have you had the cooling system serviced? If your coolant is 6 years old, it is overdue for a change. Again, I would only recommend a drain and refill, but in your case, be sure to have the block drained as well as the radiator and refill with a major brand longlife coolant and mix it a bit rich, like 2:1 with distilled water instead of the usual 50:50.

If your coolant has turned brown, or is very cloudy, then it should be flushed. This should be done with a flushing machine, do not use any chemical flushes. I believe the chemical flushes, even from respected brands do more damage than good.

Drain and refill. This trans should have a spin on filter along with an internal filter. Drain and refill and change the spin on filter.


Take care of your transmission
Oil-change shops push fluid changes that aren’t needed
May 1, 2007
The $14.99 oil change Linda Good wanted for her 2001 Dodge Voyager ended up costing her more than $100 and buying her a new set of worries.
A Madison Heights oil-change shop sold her a transmission fluid change that is almost never necessary, experts say.

“For customers, it’s basically throwing your money away,” said Daniel Black, Chrysler senior manager of automatic transmission engineering.
Despite that, many service stations – including leading national chains – offer the procedure. There’s no telling how many people pay for it every day.
After the oil change, the service attendant said the Voyager’s automatic transmission fluid looked dirty and should be changed. Good, who relies on the minivan for her housecleaning, Avon sales and home caregiver businesses, took his advice.
The rough, clunky shifts began before she got to the first traffic light. Good cleans my house and knows I drive cars for a living, so she called and asked me how much trouble she was in.
Potentially plenty, and it could happen to you.
“We don’t recommend a” transmission fluid “change in the life of the vehicle,” Black said. "The risks are leaks, putting the wrong fluid in, over-filling or under-filling."
A bungled fluid change can destroy an automatic transmission or void the manufacturer’s warranty on the delicate and expensive component.
“As a general rule of thumb, newer transmission designs are sealed for life,” said Tim Miskotten, who leads North American business for ZF AG, the German company that is the world’s largest independent transmission maker. ZF supplies gearboxes to Ford, Audi, BMW Jaguar and other leading automakers. “You don’t need to change the fluid in the normal life of a vehicle,” Miskotten said.
Chrysler makes its own transmissions, and its minivans routinely cover 150,000 miles in service as Las Vegas taxis without a transmission fluid change, Black said.
“They’re our toughest customers,” because of constant stop-and-go driving and 24-hour-a-day operation in the blazing desert heat, he said.
Black wouldn’t diagnose Good’s vehicle over the phone, but he said rough shifting after a fluid change could be caused by a refill with the wrong fluid.
While few vehicles ever need their transmission fluid changed, even national auto service chains like Jiffy Lube offer the service as routine maintenance.
On the rare occasions the fluid actually should be changed, it should be done only by a technician who’s certified to work on automatic transmissions and has access to specialized tools and the exact fluid the manufacturer specifies, ZF’s Miskotten said.
“You can’t just go to the service station and pick up a quart,” he said. Each transmission requires fluid produced precisely to formula, he said. “You absolutely have to have the fluid that’s specified. It’s no longer the case where” an oil shop "says ‘We have ATF.’ "
Using the wrong fluid can lead to rough shifts and noisy operation, he said.
“The correct fluid is most important for shift quality,” Black said.
It’s also vital to fill the transmission to precisely the right level, both experts said. Transmission fluid levels are much more exacting than engine oil, where you can miss the sweet spot by a pint or more with no consequences. “If a vehicle is under-filled and operated in cold weather, you could have a transmission failure,” Black said.
Even transmission specialists don’t do fluid changes very frequently, said Barry Bryan, owner of American Transmission in Troy.

There is no such thing as lifetime transmission fluid. Automatics should be serviced every 25-30k miles with a pan drop, fluid and filter change. That lifetime fluid is a marketing ploy used by manufacturers so they can advertise lower maintenance costs when selling their vehicles.


Agree with transman; there is no such thing as a permanent transmission fluid. Germans get rid of their cars before major things go wrong and the fluid gets too dirty.

We bought out first car with automatic in 1965. Since that time, all our automatics have been serviced every 30-40,000 miles. We towed light trailers with 7 cars, using transmission coolers.

I agree that the manufacturer must get sleepless nights about what various incompetents can do to their transmissions while they are still under warranty. At a technical conference in the 1990’s, the head of GM’s powertrain engineering told me they eliminated the transmission dipstick for that reason. He did not say what the owner should do if there was a slow leak and the fluid got too low without any warning.

From the manufacturer’s point of view this is a pure money risk game; a few transmisions burn out under warranty due to no fluid canges, compared to incorrect “maintenance” being applied by amateurs. The former is the least costly way to go, even if it means a very short life for the transmission’s next owner, the poor schmuck who buys the used car.

Since 1965, with regular service, we have had $185 of transmission repairs; on a C-4 unit in a 1971 Mercury Comet.

What goes missing here is the manufacturer wants to sell low maintenance cars, and the cars have low maintenance only till the end of the warranty period. And the flushers (tire stores, Mida, etc.) want to make a quick buck with their flushing machines.

The owner’s real needs here are ignored, as they are with those very thin motor oils and long drain intervals driven by CAFE standards penalties and long drain sales hype. So-called “permanent” engine coolant fits into the same category.

That Chrysler guy is nothing more than a corporate hack reciting a company marketing line. I’ve stated repeatedly these idiotic recommendations such as delayed trans fluid changes, no fuel filter changes, ignoring mechanical lifter valve lash, leaving spark plugs in for eternity is nothing more than an attempt by the car makers to make their cars appear to be more maintenance free in an effort ot promote sales.

If this guy is so confident in the fluid then let Chrysler warranty all of their transmissions for a minimum of 250k miles. Like that would happen.

Chrysler builds their own transmissions? One would think of all people the head of their auto trans division would be aware of Borg Warner, Aisin, Getrag, etc. as an example of transmissions being built by subcontractors for Chrysler.
The CVT transmission in my son’s '07 Dodge Caliber is a Jatco by Nissan unit. Guess this one slipped his mind also.

With today’s economy there are plenty of scams, which include excessive charges on routine maintenance work. A Toyota dealer tried to charge my wife with a transmission fluid flush that normally cost between 120-180 to $300+.