Manual Transmission Fluid - Ford Focus '02

I’ve owned a manual 2002 Ford Focus ZX5 for 5 years. I bought it with 77,000 miles and it now has 112,400. I’ve been pretty good at having the oil changes and tune-ups at the right mileage. This last time I took it to a new service place, they suggested I looked into changing the Manual Transmission Fluid. I have never had it done, and I’m not really sure about the previous owner. What’s your take on this? I’ve done some research and opinions seem to differ quite a bit about at what mileage the transmission fluid should be changed. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

I change the oil in my manual transmission and in my rear differential every 30,000 miles in my pickup.

Oil is oil. And when it heats up and cools down it becomes oxidized . Be it in an engine or in a transmission.


Anytime you wish,just make sure you use the type specified in the owners manual,but my experience has been that these things basically have lifetime oil if not contaminated,the reason motor oil is so temporary,is what its exposed to-by products of combustion and whatever.
But that being said,I usually change the oil in the differentials and manual gearboxes sometime during the tenure of the vehicle(I’ve never noticed any improvement in gas mileage by going to synthetics)-Kevin


There is no such thing as lifetime fluid. The car companies that claim that only know the oil life will last past the warranty period. Classic example is VWs claim of lifetime fluid in their transmission. ZF, the transmission supplier of VW, Audi, and others, has clearly debunked their claims, and insist on 60K mile change intervals. Ford has also jumped on the bandwagon, deleting the transmission dipstick on all of their transmissions, as had Nissan on many of theirs. The oil is better today than years gone by, but they still face the same environment of heating, cooling, and oxidation. They still need periodic replenishment. Oil is still cheap compared to a replacement transmission.

For manual transmissions, I’d stick to a 60,000 mile change interval unless the manual calls for more frequent changes, like my Suzuki Sidekick 4WD that called for 30K mil changes in the transmission, transfer case, and both diffs.

The oil in a manual transmission just doesn’t get very hot and it is not subjected to much contamination. Its gets a little as the bearing surfaces and gear faces wear but that is about it.

You do need to check the level now and then because it can go down. I recently checked my 97 Nissan pickup with 180k on it and the transmission was bone dry so I filled it up. I don’t see any evidence of a leak and now 9k later, it is still full and no signs of a leak. My Saturn has 266k on it and the transmission is still full, I have not changed it either, but it is easier to check because it has a dip stick on it.

I say look at your owners manual or supplement maintenance schedule and see if it calls for a change. If it does, then follow the recommended interval.

@Keith,had a 99 Frontier 4wd once it had 4.60 gears the pumpkin housing was huge,but it and several others were leaking Nissans funky looking gear oil out,I drained and sealed it-so it brings to mind,wonder how long the trans was low on oil?
@BK,yessir I know you cant run ATF forever,I was just saying these cats around here never(as far as I know) never change thier gear oils unless being in water-Kevin

I would change mine around 100k just to feel better.

I have been driving 65 years, and have never changed the fluid in a differential or a manual tranny, and have never had one repaired either. However I have driven automatics 95% of my life.

My Hondas ('75, '81, '88) called for fluid changes every 30k miles.
My '06 Matrix doesn’t call for fluid changes, but the C59 5-speed has a history of early bearing failures, so I changed it at 21k just to see what’s what and the oil was dark with a metallic sheen.
So I feel better about it at least.
2000 miles later I went to a dealer for a recall and the service writer told me the trans fluid was dirty and I should get a flush(!).

Most manual transmissions use Gear oil. They typically can go 2-3 times longer then ATF in a automatic transmission.

Some older vehicles actually used just regular 10w-30 motor oil. And even some (mainly GM) used ATF (Dexron II) in their manual transmissions.

Thank you everyone who contributed to this posting! I’ve looked at a owner’s manual on-line, since I don’t actually have one and I didn’t find any specs on transmission fluid change on a manual/stick. I’ll ask my service place what they think is the best for my car. Thanks again! :slight_smile: