Should a transmission flush include a new filter?

When I had my oil changed they told me I needed my transmission flushed. I researched saw that filter should be changed. I asked them if price included a new filter. Told me my car didn’t have a filter. I called transmission place & they said my AWD required expensive filter ($135). Does a 2009 Pontiac Vibe (Toyota engine) need a new filter if transmission fluid is changed? Who do I believe!?

Your manual will have a service schedule and if you do not have one you can download one from the web for free. You can also use Auto Zone website to see what filter is needed at what price. Also a dealer that used to be a Pontiac dealer will give you an estimate.

I checked the most common drive train for your vehicle and found the filter and gasket to service the transmission for less than $20.

In my opinion it is much more beneficial to do a traditional filter (strainer) replacement service rather than the flush only service. The flush is much more profitable for the shop.


“I asked them if price included a new filter. Told me my car didn’t have a filter”

They are liars and/or misinformed

The reason that some shops flush a transmission is because it’s quicker and less messy than dropping the pan and replacing . . . the filter

Yes, it has a filter and the pan should be dropped and cleaned along with a filter replacement.

Another plus for dropping the pan is that it allows the bottom of the pan to be inspected during cleaning to see if there is an abnormal amount of friction material or metallic debris. It’s an early heads-up about any looming transmission problems; if they exist.

As db4690 stated; a flush only is faster and that translates to more $$$$. A number of flushes could be done in the same length of time involved in a pan drop and cleaning.

Transmission flush machines are profit generators. Shops love them.

As others have noted, find a mechanic you can trust who will drop and clean the pan, and replace the filter. I would skip the flush.

Thank you! I will find someone who will drop pan, clean & replace filter. Should I ask for old filter & gasket? Have NOT had good experience with mechanics…can you tell?

There’s nothing wrong with flushing (or fluid exchanging) the auto trans fluid system. The problem exists when a flush only is done without changing the filter and cleaning the pan before the flush.

Yes, you can ask for the old filter and gasket. Retaining old parts is a matter of policy for some shops and not so for others.
Any shop should gladly hold those things for your inspection but they won’t hold it long. The parts are messy and like cockroaches, old parts will overrun the place.


If you have had bad experiences . . . ask the shop to put the old filter and gasket in a ziploc bag, and put the bag in the trunk of the car

Are you worried that you’ll pay money, but the shop won’t actually do the job . . . ?

I don’t recommend flushing an automatic transmission. Most of the time…it’s either an incompetent technician, the wrong equipment or a combination of both. If done properly…there is no harm to the transmission but that’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s usually done to to minimize costs and to make money. A pan drop with a filter and fluid change is the right way to go.


When only the pan is dropped to change the transmission fluid, you’re not really changing the transmission fluid. You’re replacing SOME of the transmission fluid. And the fluid that is drained is only about 30% of the total fluid capacity. The rest is held in the valve body, torque converter, clutch packs, and in the cooler and lines.

So you’re not adding fresh fluid to the used up contaminated fluid, you’re contaminating the new fluid with the used up old transmission fluid.

What I do when I perform a transmission fluid exchange is, I remove the pan to replace the filter and check for any metal particulate. If any metal particulate is found, the pan is reinstalled, the drained fluid is replaced. Because there’s no reason to do the fluid exchange if there’s signs that the transmission is damaged.

If no particulate is found in the pan, then the exchange machine is hooked up to replace all the transmission fluid.

Then if you have the transmission fluid serviced every 30,000 miles, the pan is dropped every other fluid service.

I’ve been doing this to customer’s vehicles for years. And some of these vehicles have over 200,000 miles on the original automatic transmissions.

The way I look at it, if you came to my shop for any kind of fluid service, I would think you would expect me to replace 100% of the fluid. Not just 30% of the fluid.


When I was no longer able to perform my own oil/filter changes due to the very low front air dams preventing my cars from driving up on my ramps (1991 Mazda RX7, 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse, 2010 Kia Forte SX) I used a regional service named “Oil Can Henry’s”. They used a pit where you stayed in your vehicle and had video cameras in pit and under hood so you could visually monitor that they made no mistakes. They also audibly called out a checklist Plus had you start the engine and rev it to 2,000 RPM for 30 seconds while checking for leaks. They did push unnecessary flushes (AT, cooling system, and engine) plus more pour in elixirs than a snake oil salesman. I just said No, No, No… My last service by them was a local but different one. Everything seemed normal until they had no computer records of all my vehicles services. They explained they were a different franchise. What? 10 miles away from the last franchise I received service. RED FLAG. I had my Mitsubishi serviced 450 miles away in Boise, Idaho and they had complete computer records! The early 20s snake oil salesman went through the usual spiel with the addition of a factory printout of services due/overdue. He informed me the 12 month transmission drain and fill was way (3 years) overdue. I reminded him it was a manual transmission. He replied that’s for a manual transmission. BS!!! I paid my $43 and drove home where I read the printout. " 12 months. Automatic transaxle shift linkage. Inspect and lubricate as necessary." The charge at this particular Oil Can Henry’s for this every 12 months service was $120!!! My very small Kia dealer where I purchased the Forte in 2010 had no service department. Fortunately by the time I was due for my next service they had opened a new dealership with an unusually competent service department where my oil and filter change was $29.95. I don’t have too much experience with automatic transmissions as I prefer manuals but the only problem I have ever had with one was a deteriorated vacuum hose to a shift solenoid. $1 repair.

Good comments for the OP above. OP, since you’ve had some difficulty w/mechanics prior, you could try out this website’s “mechanics files”, see if there’s a shop recommended near you. That’s one method. The best method in my opinion is to ask friends, relatives, co-workers, fellow church goers, anybody you have a trusted personal relationship with, who they use as their mechanic. Then interview from among the recommendations, trying to identify a shop that specializes in servicing your make (Toyota in this case). That gives you some important leverage with the mechanic, as they’ll understand that if they don’t do good by you, you’ll tell your friend that recommended them to you that you weren’t satisfied with the job they did for you, and the shop will likely lose no only your business, but the other customer’s business too.

Who did the oil change and recommended the trans service, dealer or quick lube place? If it was a quick lube place, completely forget everything they told you.

You are very unlikely to find a filter and gasket for $20 that fits. My daughter had a 2003 Corolla and I found many listings for filters and gaskets at various autoparts stores and NONE of them fit. The filter ran about $65 and the gasket about $15 at the dealer, but the filter is a stainless steel screen and is a special order. The dealer doesn’t stock them because they are very easy to clean out and they last forever.

But to clean one, you do have to drop the pan and remove the filter. If you go for a flush (fluid exchange), the mechanic must follow the procedures outlined by Tester, other wise you do not get all the old fluid out. Even a fluid exchange machine will not replace all the ATF if you don’t drop the pan first.

However, I do not agree that a complete fluid exchange is necessary. In the Toyota, a drain and fill replaces about 2/3 rds of the ATF. The transmission holds 6 qts total and a drop pan removes about 4.1 qts, just removing the drain plug removes 3.5 qts. If you do this often enough, you never really need to do a complete exchange.

I did a drop pan at about 75k miles when the ATF turned almost black and the transmission was shifting funny. It cleared up the shifting problem. At 90k, I drained only through the drain plug, pan on, and at 120k I dropped the pan again. Since then its been a drain only every 30k and the car now has over 200k. My sister in law has it now. No transmission problems at all.

Yours is an AWD so that does change things a little. The Corolla’s owners manual claimed the ATF was a lifetime fluid and never needed to be changed. I guess that wasn’t exactly true. Do check your manual anyway, but also check your dipstick, if it has one. If the ATF is red, its OK. Pink needs a basic service, brown or black needs a fluid exchange.

If it doesn’t have a dipstick for the ATF, then take the vehicle to your dealer if you have any doubts.


The idea of dropping a pan and not replacing the FILTER seems rather silly to me. With all due respect, I really don’t care if the guy at the Toyota parts counter tells me that none of their mechanics replace them, because they clean them. And they don’t have them in stock anyways, so why bother going there

I don’t appreciate it when parts counter guys give me lip. If the part is not in stock, simply tell me that. Tell me the price and offer to order it for me. But spare me the whole lecture. And I’ll probably get it elsewhere

Over the years, I’ve learned to avoid the toyota dealer if you want a trans filter. It’s much easier and less stressful to my ears to shop elsewhere. But I do buy coolant, atf and occasionally engine oil filters at the dealer. Their oil filters are slightly cheaper than wix

As for the coolant, I’d rather use the correct Toyota coolant, versus generic green Prestone, for example.

According to rockauto, this is the filter for the awd Vibe. Sure, it’s all metal and more expensive than the plastic filters, but doesn’t look very special to me

No offense meant. I just don’t agree 100% with you on this one, specifically about dropping the pan and reusing the filter

@db4690 would you call the circular wire mesh affair in the oil pan of the old VW Beetle a filter or a screen?


Spending $65 for a part that I can easily clean and when clean is exactly like the new part just doesn’t appeal to the yankee in me. Its just a screen like the one you see in a window, only made of stainless steel and a really fine mesh.

Maybe that filter works, maybe not. I tried three of them from three different parts stores and with each one, something didn’t fit. In most cases it was the reliefs in the filter that were supposed to provide clearance for the valve body mounting bolt heads that didn’t line up. In one case it was the shape. The gaskets didn’t fit the pans either so I got one from the dealer.

BTW, I don’t recommend cleaning on most vehicles, just the Toyota’s with this filter.


I don’t know, because I haven’t laid hands on one of those Beetles in a long time

I’m not really into classics

No offense to anybody that is

VW called those steel mesh units in the old air cools oil strainers.

For many years the automatic transmission filters were just fine mesh metal screen wire that most shops cleaned and re-installed.

Removing the dark scum and metal fragments that are stuck to the magnets in the pan seems to be the most significant part of servicing an automatic. If regular 30,000 mile service is done to an automatic I wouldn’t think that flushing would be needed.