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Change transmission fluid

I had the oil changed at a quick lube place. One of the sales pitches was that my transmission fluid needed to be replaced because the color was a light beige color instead of light pink. he showed me a sample of my fluid and then a sample of new TF////I have a 2003 Hyundai Elantra with about 62000 miles. Never changed the TF. The cars runs good. Should I have the TF changed?

Yes… But beware of quick-lube joints who will use the term “flush” but will usually NOT be willing to drop the pan, clean it, and change the filter. They will try and tell you “That is no longer necessary” which is BS…Have a TRANSMISSION SHOP do the job THE RIGHT WAY…

Another vote for having it done, somewhere else. Then do it every 20-30k for the life of the car.

As noted - no flush and no quick lubes - best to avoid them even for the oil change. You need someone to drop the pan, inspect its contents, clean it & replace the filter. This doesn’t replace all of the fluid, but do it every 30K & you’ll be fine.

Most fleet managers that I have talked with regarding automatic transmission longevity agree that changing the fluid and filter at an interval consistent with, or more frequent than the manufacturer’s recommendations, is a best practice.

Yes, but not at a quick lube. I do pan drop and filter change every 30-40k miles on my vehicles. I have a good mechanic to take the vehicles to.

Ed B.

Transmission fluid that’s a beige color is not good. It means the transmission fluid is used up or oxidized. When this happens the additive package in the tranny fluid is used up where it can no longer provide the proper lubrication for the tranny, and the friction modifiers that allow the clutches to engage properly are no longer there. And this can damage the tranny in a short time.

A pan drop change only replaces about 30% of the total volume of the amount of transmission fluid in the tranny. The rest is still contained in the torque converter, valve body, tranny cooler/lines, and in the clutch packs. So adding a small amount of clean transmission fluid to a large amount of used up transmission fluid is just a waste of transmission fluid. This also doesn’t remove all the debris in the transmission from normal wear. And leaving this debris in the transmission just causes the transmission to wear out faster.

Take the vehicle to an independent garage to have a complete transmission service performed. They’ll drop the pan and clean it and clean/replace the filter. Once the pan is installed, they’ll connect a machine that will exchange all the old oxidized transmission fluid with new fluid. This is the best thing you can do if you want the transmission to last.


A co-worker took his 06 4runner to one of those quick-lube places to have an oil change…and they told him the same thing…Which is real funny…because there is no dip-stick to determine what the fluid looks like.

It’s a scam…always a scam.

I am with Tester. When torque converters had drain plugs, drain and refill worked pretty well. Now that most don’t, you can only drain, at best half the fluid from them. That is a pretty inefficient way to change the fluid.

Optimistically assume that you change 50% with a drop and drain compared to an exchange process (could be disconnecting the cooler lines and pumping the fluid out by running the engine) that changes 95%. In order to approach 95% with repeated drop and drain, you need to do it 4 times. For a 10-quart transmission, you waste about 10 quarts of fluid. If you want a relatively complete change every 20,000 miles it multiplies up to 100 quarts in 200K.

After you digest that, factor in the PIA of dropping the pan 4 times for pans with no plug, along with the chances of damaging the reusable gasket or buying a new one if not reusable. You could, however, have a drain plug welded into the pan if there is not a drain plug.

Take it to a real garage. Make sure they show you the fluid before it’s changed so that you know if the quick-lube place was trying to pull a fast one on you.

I believe in personal preferences, which to me is pretty much the same as personal liberty. So, if someone wants a complete fluid change every 20,000 miles, that is certainly a valid choice based on personal preference.

But, in all the years and all the discussions on transmission fluid changes and engine oil changes, I do not ever remember anyone saying most cars need a complete fluid change every 20,000 miles. Do you actually do it every 20,000 miles, beads? (I am assuming that, but still wanted to ask.)

On my 2002 Sienna with 165,000 miles, after the first time I paid someone to flush the system, I started dropping the drain plug, and then put in three new quarts to replace that drained. Maybe every 15,000 miles. And, at 165,000 miles, the fluid looks bright and clean.

Also, I changed to synthetic, the correct version for my car.

So, my personal preference is to drop and refill every so often.

If someone has a source, outside of personal preference, for complete transmission change every 20,000 miles, it would be a service for those trying to learn about car maintenance, to supply them with that source.

The very first thing you should do is to open your owners manual to the maintenance schedule and see how often the transmission fluid should be changed. Now if it says every 30,000 miles, you are overdue. If it is done on schedule, you do not need to flush it. You will be draining 30 to 50% of the old fluid out and replacing it with fresh.

While that may seem like adding good to bad, the old fluid still has plenty of life in it and the new fluid will refresh the additive package. In the end, you will extend the life of the transmission about as long as it can go anyway. Whether you do a full flush each time or just a drain and fill per the schedule, the transmission has parts that will still wear out just as fast. Over extending the interval of this service will reduce the life of the transmission though.

And as everyone else here as stated, go to a good reputable mechanic for this service. Don’t let the quick-lube touch it and avoid the “chain” transmission shops, unless your local franchise has a good reputation. If you find a good mechanic, have him do your regular oil changes as well, the small additional cost could end up saving you money in the long run.

Change your fluid at least. I do the filters too. fluid every 9K or so and filters every 30-60K. I just called the local Toyota in WS, NC to get a filter kit for the 2005 camry and they don’t even carry a filter nor gasket nor o ring. They just flush the fluid (I’m assuming a drop and change or changes). He said you don’t even need to change the filter. I can get one aftermarket and will do that. What sucks is there are like 5-6 transmissions for that year (4 speeds and 5 speeds). getting the gasket and filter to match up is a task. I did see online that the filters now have 3 holes in it (when I did this a couple of years ago, the filter had only two holes and in one kit, it didn’t match. I had to buy the 2006 year kit to get the filter and 2005 had the gasket.

My Saturn has started running pretty poorly in low gears (from stops, etc). I took it to a good garage and they say that the best fix would be to replace the transmission fluid and filter. The transmission itself is fine. I haven’t replaced the fluid in a while.
Will this actually fix the problem (rather jerky starts, etc)?

Many times, yes. Listen to the garage that doesn’t want to immediately leap to “rebuild trans”. This money is well spent.

The way I see it if the fluid is changed at a decent interval then the old fluid was still doing its job at the time of change. So I don’t see a problem leaving behind some old trans fluid or coolant. The additives get replenished and the contaminants get diluted.