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Transmission fluid ripoff?

transman618, it sounds like you might be a professional transmission guy

Been building automatics for 29 years.

…if the OP’s shop is doing the right thing, as you suggest, is it really fair that they’re charging him $120 just to drain and fill the tranny?

Lets break it down. For one pan drop and refill (No filter) ATF: $40.00, Gasket $11.00 which will make the labor $69.00 Very fair. (I, personally charge $90.00hr for transmission work which is standard in my area.)
Now add a filter to that @ $30.00. That will make the labor $39.00
Now for the entire service which was recommended @ 3 times he will spend $120.00 in ATF, $33.00 in gaskets and $30.00 in a filter which leaves the shop $137.00 labor for 3 services.

Gouge??? No.


There’s no indication that the pan was actually removed. My guess is that it was a simple drain plug r&r with fluid refill. That doesn’t add up to $120.

I agree with cig…the OP said that the mechanic wanted to wait until the third visit to do the “service,” which I interpret to mean the mechanic was only going to do a drain/ fill the first two visits, THEN drop the pan, service the filter, etc.

This transmission has a drain plug.

Then why does this shop offer these $80 coupons?? Sounds like pure bait and switch to me…

Go to a good shop. They will have a full fluid replacement machine. They disconnect the cooler lines and flush the whole system and put in a new filter. The system works better than the silly three trip cost. But other folks posted good options too. It is all about moving stuff that may or may not be built up in the trans after so few oil changes.

Flushes are in general a bad idea. They tend to force contaminants into places contaminants should not be.

Fluid exchange machines don’t “flush.” They subject the transmission components to the same conditions/pressures they are under when they are run. The transmission pump itself pushes out the old fluid while the new is put in at the same rate. There is actually a DIY method for that though I wouldn’t suggest it.

So its possible to get all new fluid without any flushing activity (as in foreign cleaning chemicals/detergents, and pressures out of line with what the pump already does every day). The big question, as always, is whether or not the lackey at the controls has any idea what s/he is doing, including use of correct fluid.

The problem with the so-called “flush” machines is that they ignore the filter…If the filter was 60% plugged up when they started, it’s still 60% plugged up when they finish…

But IMO that’s a problem of the lackey at the controls…

Thats why the first and last out of the three services, he should remove the pan. Even with a drain plug, the first time drop the pan to examine the debris and know what you are getting into. If its full of metal or large clutch material or even remenants of bearings, sprags etc then just close it up and save your $320 towards a rebuild. If all is well, clean out the pan and schedule a second drain and fill then the complete service with a filter and all. And I still say. Ripoff??? NO…


I’m guessing that we’ll never know because the OP has not returned. Another surf-by posting.

BUT - there is no indication whatsoever that the pan was removed from the transmission. That is a $120 job.

However, if the drain plug was merely removed and then replaced, then it is absolutely NOT a $120 job.

Personally, the coupon seems a scam. Regardless how beneficial it might be to “thoroughly” clean and flush the system, if a coupon if offered that entitles the bearer to a $120 service the shop should provide that service at ZERO cost and thank the coupon customer, then recommend that further work be done. As stated, the shop seems more concerned with their bottom line than with the customer’s car. But then I have always avoided such deals and would never have considered offering one. The local paper approached me several times on coupon deals and I finally made myself clear, they took me off their list.

I have problems with the “you need three changes to get out all the old stuff” rationale, but that aside I want to point out that Angie’s List has had a lot of complaints about their “verification of services.” It appears that all a vendor need do is pay Angie and they’re list as “certified” by Angie. As you saw the coupon was nothing more than the bait in a classic bait, and switch. The “transmission guys” on here can say what they like, but how often of you even heard of a transmission problem in an automatic, really? If the fluid is there, and you drive without abusing the tranny, no problem. Toyota doesn’t even recommend a transmission service at any mileage. It’s a boat payment plan. You would do better to put a little money aside each year to buy a low mileage replacement transmission at a junk yard. I know this will bring howls, but in my experience it’s true: now that the case has been cracked open, and the filter diddled with you are more likely to have a problem later than had you left it alone. Anyway, put that transmission maintenance money aside each year, and when you do have to buy a new car it will be there to offset the cost of the automatic transmission option. Then leave it alone.

Sorry EllisF, but I have to respectfully and firmly disagree with all of the points you make. Transmission problems and failures are quite common and in the majority of cases are directly due to not servicing the transmission regularly.

Toyota’s recommendation about never changing the fluid is also bogus as can be and that’s right in line with other ill-advised recommendations about leaving spark plugs in for infinity, inspection of valve lash every millenium, etc.

You make the statement “how often any of you even heard of a transmission problem in an automatic, really?” so I would follow that up with the following question.
Have you ever worked as a mechanic in a shop?

I have serviced Ford transmissions in fleet vehicles and seen them run trouble free in excess of 300,000 miles. On the other hand I have replaced the transmissions in identical Ford vehicles with less than 150.000 miles when they failed that had never been serviced. Of course that is anecdotal. But the fleet owners seemed quite happy.

The “transmission guys” on here can say what they like, but how often of you even heard of a transmission problem in an automatic, really? If the fluid is there, and you drive without abusing the tranny, no problem.

Not by a long shot. I build literally hundreds of them every year. The number one problem I find with them is failure due to lack of and/or improper servicing. I’m with ok4450, have you actually ever been in an auto repair shop for any length of time??



Thanks for debunking these myths. I have driven automatic transmission cars since 1965 and have only ever had one REPAIR, on a C-4 unit in a 1971 Mercury Comet. That cost $186 to fix. I had pulled a trailer and had not installed a cooler.

However, my “good luck” is mainly due to REGULAR service, consisting of fluid and filter replacement, and having the operation checked by a professional transmission tech.

On the other hand, many of my relatives, friends and aquaintances have had “mysterious” transmission failures, often resulting in having to scrap the vehicle. The ones that come to mind are a Ford Windstar, Ford Escort, Pontiac, Honda Accord, Hyundai Tiburon, and others. In most cases, no regular service was performed, and the manufacturer’s “no drain” recommendations were followed.

To add to what transman said, I’ll mention that a long time friend of mine is a transmission only guy who has been at it for going on 40 years.

He was busy enough to justify putting up a new building over 20 years ago and which is about 5 times the size of the old one. He stays swamped in transmission work with several employees doing R & R work and the small stuff while he does the bench work. Some of the local new car dealers even send him jobs now and then.

Wow, I can just imagine how big his shop is being 5 times the size of his old one. I stay pretty busy all the time as well, usually anywhere from 5-7 days behind at any given time. I have two long benches each with two transmission hangers so I can comfortably have 4 transmissions disassembled at one time. This works out great when I am waiting on an authorization or parts delivery. I dont do any R&R’s. All of mine are either walk ins or from my county/city contracts which are mostly police cars, government trucks/cars, and vans. My dealer work usually comes from those small car lots or believe it or not, one of the major fast lube places when they happen to screw up someones transmission. (I know the owner). LOL… I have a couple of buddies at the local dealerships who sometimes call me if they get stumped on one and just need another set of eyes to come over and take a look at one. Cant complain though, the money is great and the customers are satisfied and happy. Thats all that counts.