Transmission fluid - to flush or not to flush?


I have a 2001 Ford Focus wagon that has 104,000 miles on it. i will admit (please don’t flame me!) that I have been pretty lazy with the maintenance of this car. I have never had the transmission fluid flushed or replaced. SO I am now looking at my car and thinking I need to take better care of it, cause we need for it to last a few more years! I’ve been reading up on various maintenance items, and one item I’m wondering about is the transmission fluid flush. I read on some sites that if you have never flushed it you shouldn’t start, but rather to just replace it. SO what should I do? What would be the best course of action? Just like everyone out there we have a tight budget so I want to make the best choice both for my car, and for my pocketbook.



Hi Jewel.
I wish I had read that advice. I was driving an '81 Toyota Corolla hatchback borrowed from a friend a couple of years ago. Cute, spacious cargo area, gas sipping, dependable… what a great little car. I thought I was doing my friend a favor and when I brought the car in for an oil change and they checked the radiator and pointed out the sludge in there (it looked like if crisco could turn into rust) so I authorized a flush.
A couple days later I heard a funny engine sound. It was the empty radiator rattling around. But I didn’t know that. I kept trying to figure out what the sound was.
A couple days after that I was on the side of the freeway. The car never ran again. So sad.


That was an interesting story by Anonymous, a frequent contributor, but it has no relevance to your situation.

Yes, you need to take care of your transmission situation. Check the condition of your transmission fluid. If it seems unusually dark or if it smells burnt, then opt for a transmission flush. But if it seems normal then go with normal transmission service which consists of dropping the pan and replacing the filter. In fact, insist the transmission filter be changed no matter what.


In this opinion poll you’re taking, does it matter what your Owners Handbook recommends for the maintenance schedule? If you do look at it, it’s coming due for the THIRD time, isn’t it?


It is too late, leave it alone, you are just looking for trouble.


Change the fluid and filter, but do NOT flush the transmission. Drain and refill only. NO FLUSH. Flushing can really make a mess of a transmission, especially one that has been ignored.


I am with mcparadise on this one.

I will only add one thing. There is a lot of bad advice about this based on the not uncommon occurrence of a transmission failure shortly after a fluid replacement or flush.

The maintenance gets the blame when the real problem was that the owner failed to do the maintenance until they had symptoms of the problem and the failure was not avoidable.


Wait for Transman to respond to your post. she/he has real sound advice for transmission issues.


drain and fill is the same way to go, flush may be too radical, drain and fill and see what fluid looks like in a few thousand miles. I have never had a flush done on any vehicle, always a drain and fill, yes I know it only gets about 50% of the fluid out but like all things, depends how frequently you do one
never get one done at a quick lube or chain facility, dealer or independent only or a drain and fill you can do yourself, especially if it has a plug


I have read numerous responses to trans flush or drain&replace. What I would like to know is, specifically what are the problems that occur with a flush? I can’t imagine why flushing would hurt the system! It doesn’t over pressurize the system, and it does remove all of the bad/burnt/contaminated ATF.


As I understand it, most flushes do not drop the pan and clean it nor replace the filter. It has also been suggested that they can move gunk around from the pan to other parts where it can cause problems.

IMO the bigger problem are people who do no maintenance on it until they start having problems.